New York Musical Theatre Festival

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New York Musical Festival
LocationNew York City
Type of play(s)Musical

The New York Musical Festival (NYMF) was an annual three-week summer festival which presented more than thirty new musicals at venues in New York City's midtown theater district. More than half of these productions are chosen by leading theater artists and producers through an open-submission, double-blind evaluation process; the remaining shows are invited to participate by the Festival's artistic staff. There were sixteen iterations of NYMF in total, one every year from 2004 to 2019.

The festival premiered over 447 musicals, which have featured the work of over 8,000 artists and have been attended by 300,000 theatergoers. Over 100 NYMF shows have gone on to further productions, with NYMF alumni productions having been produced in all fifty U.S. states and in 27 countries worldwide, having been seen by approximately four million people.[1] Over twenty NYMF shows have had cast albums recorded.


NYMF was a fixture of the New York theatre scene for fifteen years. It featured a broad spectrum of contemporary musical styles in its shows. Increasingly as time went on, well-known Broadway actors would participate in NYMF productions.

In addition to full productions, NYMF presents a wide range of special events, readings and concerts of new music, educational seminars, explorations of musicals in TV and film, and unusual collaborations with other New York-based arts organizations. In 2011, The Festival introduced NYMF meets NYMIF, partnering with the New York Musical Improv Festival in a weekly series in which NYMF performers were paired with performers from the Magnet Theater to create completely improvised musicals.[2] In 2005, the Festival featured a series of co-productions with the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater exploring the nexus of improvisation and musical theater.[1] NYMF has also partnered with The Paley Center each season to present special screenings of Musicals on Television.[3]

Also in 2005, the New York Musical Theatre Festival received the 21st Jujamcyn Theaters Award, a $100,000 prize given to a not-for-profit institution that has made an "outstanding contribution to the development of creative talent for the theatre."[4]

NYMF also featured a Dance Series, celebrating the fusion of musical theatre and dance. Each series included one new musical commissioned by the Festival: Common Grounds (2006), Platforms (2007), Wild About Harry (2008), and Andy Warhol Was Right (2009).[1]

During the off season, NYMF produced a number of concerts, from large star-studded evenings like "The Unauthorized Musicology of Ben Folds", to intimate events like a salon with composer Duncan Sheik. It also operated a year-round writer service program, The Next Link Project, which provided dramaturgical, professional, entrepreneurial and financial support to help writers bring their musicals to fruition as fully staged productions. The Next Link Project culminated with twelve writing teams each year receiving subsidized productions in NYMF's fall Festival.[5]

On July 17, 2008, the musical title of show became the first show to transfer from the New York Musical Theatre Festival to a commercial Broadway production when it opened at the Lyceum Theatre. The show closed October 12, 2008 after playing 13 previews and 102 performances. It was produced by Kevin McCollum, the producer of Rent and Avenue Q, as well as Roy Miller, producer of Drowsy Chaperone, the Vineyard Theatre, Laura Camien and Kris Stewart, founder emeritus of the New York Musical Theatre Festival.[6]

In 2009, Next To Normal became the second show to transfer from the New York Musical Theatre Festival to a commercial Broadway production. It became a smash hit at the Booth Theatre, winning 3 Tony Awards including Best Score and Best Leading Actress In A Musical.[7] "Next To Normal" went on to win the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, only the ninth musical to be so honored in the history of that award.[8] It was far and away the biggest success to emerge from NYMF, catapulting its cast and creative team to stardom. It played 21 previews and 733 regular performances before it closed on January 16, 2011.

Also in 2009, NYMF began a partnership with the Daegu International Musical Theatre Festival (DIMF), which shares its dedication to new musicals and new artists. The partnership includes a production exchange, which began with the hit Korean production of My Scary Girl at NYMF, and continued in the Summer of 2010 with the 2009 NYMF musical Academy at DIMF. NYMF's Korean production of Academy received awards for Best Musical and Best Supporting Actor at the annual Daegu Musical Theater Awards.[9]

On September 10, 2012, Chaplin became the third musical to transfer from NYMF to the commercial Broadway stage when it opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theater. It closed on January 6, 2013, after 24 previews and 136 performances. Rob McClure received a Tony nomination for Best Leading Actor in a Musical.

In 2013, NYMF won a Special Drama Desk Award "for a decade of creating and nurturing new musical theater, ensuring the future of this essential art form."[10]

Nerds: A Musical Software Satire, from NYMF 2005, was meant to be the fourth Broadway transfer of a NYMF show when it opened at the Longacre Theatre in 2016. However, it lost a major investor a month before its scheduled opening, when the cast was already in rehearsal, and the opening was cancelled.[11] The show already had successful runs in Philadelphia, where it won Barrymore Awards, but has yet to be seen in New York City since NYMF.

In Transit became the fourth NYMF show to open on Broadway, when it opened at the Circle in the Square Theatre on November 10, 2016. The show was part of NYMF's inaugural year in 2004; it was titled Along the Way. The show closed after 145 performances on April 16, 2017.

On January 2, 2020, NYMF abruptly announced that it was shutting down, ceasing operations immediately.[12] In a statement, the company cited "the reality of the arts funding crisis in the United States" as the reason. Many people within the theatre industry expressed dismay on social media, noting the important connections fostered by the festival and the opportunities it presented for artists who were not yet established.

Notable alumni productions[edit]


  • title of show (NYMF '04) The Lyceum Theatre, 2008
  • Next to Normal (NYMF '05 as Feeling Electric) The Booth Theatre, 2009-2011
  • Chaplin (NYMF '06) Ethel Barrymore Theatre, 2012
  • In Transit (NYMF '04) Circle in the Square, 2016


Organized by year the show was in NYMF.



  • The Big Voice: God or Merman? - Actors Temple Theater, 2006-2007
  • Rooms: A Rock Romance - New World Stages, 2009
  • The Shaggs: Philosophy of the World - Playwrights Horizons, 2011



  • My Vaudeville Man - The York Theatre Company, 2008-2009
  • With Glee - Kirk Theater, 2010
  • Unlock'd - The Duke on 42nd Street, 2013


  • Play It Cool - Acorn Theater, 2011
  • Bedbugs!!! - ArcLight Theater, 2014


  • Cross That River - 59E59, 2017
  • Fat Camp - American Theater of Actors, 2012; Theatre Row, 2015
  • The Last Smoker in America - Westside Theater, 2012
  • F#@king Up Everything - Elektra Theater, 2013
  • Liberty - Theatre 80 St. Mark's, 2014
  • R.R.R.E.D. A Secret Musical - DR2 Theater, 2018


  • The Other Josh Cohen - SoHo Playhouse, 2012; Westside Theater, 2018-2019
  • Vote for Me: A Musical Debate - Roy Arias Studios & Theatres, 2014
  • Jay Alan Zimmerman's Incredibly Deaf Musical - Marjorie S. Deane Little Theatre, 2012


  • Balls...The Musical? - Lion Theater, 2011
  • Cyclops: A Rock Opera - Ars Nova, 2014
  • The Kid Who Would Be Pope - Ars Nova, 2014



  • Marry Harry - York Theatre, 2017



  • Frankenstein (Day of Wrath) - St. Luke's Theater, 2017-present
  • Real Men: The Musical - New World Stages, 2015


  • Emojiland - Duke on 42nd Street, 2020

NYMF Awards for Excellence[edit]

At the end of every festival starting in 2006, a jury of Broadway professionals gave out awards for excellence to the deserving productions in that year's festival. There is also a "Best of Fest" award that the public votes for. 2013 was the only year where the public and the jury agreed on a best musical (Volleygirls).

The NYMF Awards do not serve as a good barometer for future success. Only one musical that won "Most Promising New Musical" has had an off-Broadway production: A Letter to Harvey Milk (NYMF '12). Two "Best of Fest" winners have been seen Off-Broadway: Unlock'd (NYMF '07) and Fat Camp (NYMF '09).

Year "Best of Fest" Audience Prize Most Promising New Musical Theater for the American Musical Prize Excellence in Writing (Music) Excellence in Writing (Lyrics) Excellence in Writing (Book) Excellence in Direction Excellence in Choreography Excellence in Overall Design Outstanding Orchestrations Outstanding Ensemble Performance
2019[13] Show: Overture

Concert: The Oldenburg Suite

Reading: Mississippi

Leaving Eden Buried Leaving Eden Buried Till Flying Lessons Leaving Eden Flying Lessons
2018[14] Show: An American Hero

Concert: Fatty Fatty No Friends

Reading: Legacy

Between the Sea and Sky Between the Sea and Sky Interstate Peter, Who? Between the Sea and Sky Emojiland Between the Sea and Sky Sonata 1962 Between the Sea and Sky AND Emojiland
2017[15] Show: Errol and Fidel

Concert: Dorian Gray

Generation Me Freedom Riders Georama Generation Me Georama Errol and Fidel Georama Errol and Fidel Generation Me
2016[16] Show: Children of Salt

Concert: Illa! A Hip Hop Musical

Newton's Cradle Dust Can't Kill Me Newton's Cradle Eh Dah? Questions for my Father Newton's Cradle Nickel Mines A Scythe of Time Dust Can't Kill Me Dust Can't Kill Me
2015[17] The Calico Buffalo Songs for the Fallen The Cobalteans The Cobalteans The Cobalteans Claudio Quest What Do Critics Know? Claudio Quest Acappella Acappella
2014[18] Cloned! Academia Nuts The Gig The Gig Bayonets of Angst Academia Nuts Propaganda! The Musical AND The Mapmaker's Opera (tie) The Snow Queen The Gig Bayonets of Angst
2013[19] Volleygirls Volleygirls Crossing Swords Julian Po Gary Goldfarb: Master Escapist Crossing Swords Crossing Swords Castle Walk The Awakening of Angel DeLuna The Awakening of Angel DeLuna Volleygirls
2012[20] Baby Case A Letter to Harvey Milk Stuck Baby Case Baby Case AND A Letter to Harvey Milk (tie) A Letter to Harvey Milk Baby Case Prison Dancer Le Cabaret Grimm Foreverman Prison Dancer
2011[21] Crazy, Just Like Me Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice Kiki Baby Central Avenue Breakdown Date of a Lifetime Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice Central Avenue Breakdown Pride and Prejudice Central Avenue Breakdown This One Girl's Story
2010[22] Things As They Are My Mother's Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding I Got Fired Trails Frog Kiss My Mother's Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding My Mother's Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding Petrouchka Shine! Without You[note 1] Fellowship! AND The Most Ridiculous Thing You Ever Hoid (tie)
2009[23] Fat Camp My Scary Girl Under Fire Academy Judas & Me Fucking Up Everything Hurricane Fat Camp Hurricane Academy
2008[24] Idaho! Bonnie & Clyde: A Folktale The Jerusalem Syndrome Bonnie & Clyde College: The Musical Love Jerry Idaho! Ward 9 Idaho! Love Jerry
2007[25] Unlock'd The Boy in the Bathroom Sherlock Holmes (The Early Years) The Yellow Wood Such Good Friends The Boy in the Bathroom Such Good Friends Platforms The Boy in the Bathroom Going Down Swingin'
2006[26] Smoking Bloomberg Kingdom River's End Have a Nice Life Three Sides Desperate Measures AND Gutenberg! The Musical! (tie) Common Grounds[note 2] Journey to the West Have a Nice Life

In 2016, the Best Musical category was split by types of production.

From 2013 to 2015, another category was added for Outstanding Musical Direction. It was won by Crossing Swords in 2013. In 2014, the award went to The Gig. In 2015, it was awarded to Acappella.

At least eight awards for Outstanding Individual Performance are also given out every year. Notable past winners include Michelle Federer, Andrea McArdle, Andy Mientus, Anthony Rapp, Linda Hart, J. Robert Spencer, Tony Sheldon, and Max von Essen. Starting in 2015, awards were also given out for performances in categories such as "Outstanding Performance in a Leading Role" and "Outstanding Performance in a Supporting Role." It is unclear how a performance gets entered in one of those categories as opposed to Outstanding Individual Performance.


  1. ^ a b c [1], The Official Site of The New York Musical Theatre Festival.
  2. ^ Desk, BWW News. "CYCLOPS, BIG BANK, et al. Set for 2011 NYMF; Full Line-Up Announced!". Retrieved 2016-06-01.
  3. ^ [2], The Paley Center's Musicals on Television Series.
  4. ^ [3], Playbill Article on the 22nd Jujamcyn Award referencing prior winners.
  5. ^ [5], The Internet Broadway Database entry for Title of Show's Broadway production.
  6. ^ [6], Internet Broadway Database page for Next to Normal.
  7. ^ [7], The Pulitzer Committee's announcement of the 2010 Prize for Drama.
  8. ^ [8], Theatermania article on the Daegu production of Academy.
  9. ^ [9] NYMF News Announcement About the Special Drama Desk Award]]
  10. ^ Cox, Gordon (2016-03-08). "Steve Jobs-Bill Gates Musical 'Nerds' Nixes Broadway Run". Variety. Retrieved 2016-06-16.
  11. ^ Desk, BWW News. "NYMF To Shut Down After Fifteen Seasons". Retrieved 2020-01-03.
  12. ^ Hetrick, Adam (2019-08-06). "Leaving Eden Wins 2019 NYMF Award for Best Musical". Playbill. Retrieved 2020-01-03.
  13. ^ McPhee, Ryan (2018-08-06). "New York Musical Festival Names 2018 Award for Excellence Winners". Playbill. Retrieved 2020-01-03.
  15. ^ Rickwald, Bethany (August 8, 2016). "Lesli Margherita, Victoria Clark, and More Win 2016 New York Musical Festival Awards". Theatermania. Retrieved August 9, 2016.
  16. ^ [10] 2015 Awards
  17. ^ [11] 2014 Awards
  18. ^ [12] 2013 Awards
  19. ^ [13] 2012 Awards
  20. ^ [14] 2011 Awards
  21. ^ [15] 2010 Awards
  22. ^ [16] 2009 Awards
  23. ^ [17] 2008 Awards
  24. ^ [18] 2007 Awards
  25. ^ [19] 2006 Awards


  1. ^ 2010 was the first year to give an award for Outstanding Orchestrations.
  2. ^ In 2006, there was one award given for Excellence in Direction and Choreography.

External links[edit]