The New York Musical Theatre Festival, Dale Olson and Eugene Harbin will present Roller Derby, an original musical about the hard-hitting sports phenomenon, born in Chicago from the Dance Marathons and Walkathons of the Great Depression, which once dominated the early days of television and filled arenas around the nation for almost half a century from 1935 to 1973, whose rules were invented by legendary sports writer Damon Runyon. The musical will roll into New York City as an official selection of the 2007 New York Musical Theatre Festival. Performances will take place from September 20 through 28 at the Ailey Citigroup Theatre at 405 West 55th Street (at 9th Avenue).
With a book by Barry Arnold, lyrics by Mr. Arnold and John Braden, this sports inspired musical marks the return to the New York theater scene of legendary five-time Tony Award nominee and Outer Critics Circle Award winner Donald McKayle (Golden Boy, Raisin), who will direct and choreograph, and six-time Tony nominee and Drama Desk Award winner Harold Wheeler (Hairspray, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels), who has composed the score along with Mr. Braden. Mr. Wheeler has also created the orchestrations.
"The Roller Derby race begins when on the road in 1972 a brash young rookie from New York City's mean streets takes on the sport's beloved but aging star in a battle royal for the right to be crowned the reigning Roller Derby Queen. Promoted by the game's wheeler dealer manager, the pair tears up the track, rockin' and rollin' with the ten decidedly colorful gals and guys on their team, famous to TV fans across America as the world champion Bombers. Along the way, the rivals meet their match, discovering more than they ever dared to dream about life, love and how the game is played — all set to a lively pop/rock score," state press notes.
Composer/Lyricist John Braden created the scores for dozens of musicals, among them The Beard, Emily Post's Book of Etiquette, and the OBIE Award-winning Writer's Opera. Braden was a five-time ASCAP Award winner in the Pop and Theater categories. With three gold records to his credit, he wrote and produced children's albums for projects as wide ranging as Dungeons & Dragons, Tarzan, Barbie & Ken, and The Care Bears. Braden had a long association with La MaMa E.T.C. and Theatre for the New City, as well as numerous other important companies involved in the development of the Off-Off Broadway Theatre movement. John Braden's promising career was unfortunately cut short in the early days of the AIDS epidemic, to which he succumbed in his mid-thirties. This production is dedicated to his memory.
Book Writer/Lyricist Barry Arnold co-authored the musical Play on the Times at the Public Theater, and the musical Monday March Eleven at the Promenade. With Harold Wheeler, he was written the new musical Hot Nuts, to be directed and choreographed as well by Donald McKayle. He assisted director Joshua Logan on Broadway's Look to the Lilies and producer Harry Rigby on No, No, Nanette. In the late 90's, he designed Times Square's New Year's Eve Celebrations, and in 2002 he associate produced New York's Official 9/11 Commemorations, also providing designs in 2003. Mr. Arnold wrote the book for Another Star in the Sky, which opened the Bangkok Cultural Center, as well as The Pearl for Phuket Fantasea. As a lighting designer, among the original productions Arnold designed are Godspell, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Bubbling Brown Sugar, Diversions and Delights, and To Be Young, Gifted and Black.
The production team includes set design by Rod Foster, costume design by Susan Tsu, lighting design by Chenault Spence, sound design by Tom Morse, and video design by Kara Miller. The associate director/choreographer is Michelle M. Robinson, musical direction is by Jeff Waxman and vocal arrangements are by Michael Dansicker. Casting is by Stephanie Klapper and the skating coach is former Roller Derby star Larry Lewis. Rounding out the team will be Walt Harris, The Original Voice of Roller Derby, and Roller Derby Historian Gary Powers. Producers under the aegis of NYMF are Dale Olson and Eugene Harbin. Maria Di Dia is Executive Producer, joined by Associate Producers Patt Dale, Paul Leese, Leah Chiaverini, Michael Cook, and Jerry Seltzer. Robert E. Schneider is the General Manager.