7 New York Musical Festival Shows To See

By Tom Coppola

The beginning of summer ushers in lots of great theater festivals throughout the US. While there’s no lack of summer theatre festivals in NYC that focus the development of new work, the New York Musical Festival is the only one that exclusively shines the light on new musicals. See some of these new works for ridiculously low ticket prices before they move to Broadway for $139 a pop. Here are some NYMF shows that we're keeping our eyes on!


Photo: Michael Kushner

Photo: Michael Kushner

Matthew McConaughey vs. The Devil: An American Myth

Alright alright alright, the Academy Award winner has never appeared onstage in NYC, and he’s not in this. But this new musical about MM making a deal with Satan in order to win the Oscar stars Broadway A-listers Lesli Margherita and Max Crumm. You don't have to sell your souls to see THIS!

Runs July 10-16.


A Wall Apart 

No, this is not a political musical about “that” wall. It’s an original rock musical that unfolds a 30-year love story and tests the strength of a family divided during the era of the Berlin Wall. With music and lyrics by Lord Russell Graham of Air Supply (!), the story is equally timeless and topical. Check out the video to hear some of the songs.

Runs July 25-30.


Photo: Blue Fairy Photography

Photo: Blue Fairy Photography

Freedom Riders

Set during the 1960's Civil Rights era, Freedom Riders follows the true story of Civil Rights activists who defied the Jim Crow movement by riding buses through the South to effect change. The show boasts an ethnically diverse cast playing multiple roles, and a rich, hopeful score written by Richard Allen and Taran Gray.

Runs August 1-5.


Photo: Peter Wochniak

Photo: Peter Wochniak

Georama: An American Panorama Told on 3 Miles of Canvas

Chances are you’ve never heard of American artist John Banvard. Many haven’t. Now’s your opportunity to hear the story behind the first millionaire artist in this original musical, which previously appeared at St. Louis Rep. Oh—and it’s written and directed by West Hyler who just worked on Paramour on Broadway. NDB.

Runs August 2-6.


Ben, Virginia and Me

The “Me” in the title is budding pianist named Walter Valentino Liberace, who meets infamous gangster Ben Siegel and his girlfriend Virginia. The notorious duo give Liberace an incredible opportunity to showcase his amazing talent. However, the entertainer fears that his secret personal life could jeopardize his way to stardom. Check out one of the tunes here!

Runs August 2-6.


Backbeard: A New Musical

One of the shows in this festival that is great for the entire family, this musical is based on the popular children’s book series about the hairiest pirate who ever lived and his pursuit of finding acceptance. So, basically, it’s a musical about you. And me. And everyone. Except for maybe the hairiest part…

Runs July 31 - August 6.


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Camp Wanatachi: In Concert

If you want to see a musical in true development stage AND give your opinion about it, head out to see this work in progress billed as “a new electro-musical about sex, God and summer camp”. It’s presented under the NYMF concert series or “beta” musicals (musicals still in development), which means there will be a feedback form available for audiences. They want you to see it! 

Runs July 30 - August 1.