BMI’s Musical Theatre Workshop Celebrates 40th Anniversary

Posted in News on March 18, 2002

In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop, the theatre world gathered on March 11 at the famed Manhattan Theatre Club for a spectacular showcase of new and developing works from the prestigious workshop. This special event was created by MTC's Associate Artistic Director Michael Bush and Patrick Cook, the BMI Workshop's Artistic Coordinator. It was the first time the two organizations have joined forces.

The cast and writers who participated in the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop 40th anniversary showcase gather onstage after the performances. photo: Gary Gershoff

The workshop, founded by and named in honor of late BMI composer/conductor Lehman Engel, began with casual meetings in the 1960s and has since welcomed hundreds of composers and lyricists to what Playbill On-Line calls "an important crucible of craft leading to the creative marriages of writers and the creation of new musicals."

Headed by Jean Banks, BMI's Senior Director of Musical Theatre & Jazz, the workshop boasts such notable "graduates" as the late Edward Kleban (A Chorus Line), Alan Menken (Beauty and the Beast, Little Shop of Horrors), Steven Flaherty & Lynn Ahrens (Ragtime), Michael John LaChiusa (Marie Christine, The Wild Party) and Carol Hall (The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas), as well as current workshop teacher Maury Yeston, Tony Award-winning writer of Titanic, Nine and Grand Hotel.

Featured songs and selections included the Sesame Street parody Avenue Q: Children's Television for Twentysomethings by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, winners of the 2000 Kleban Award and the 2000 BMI Foundation/Jerry Harrington Musical Theatre Award; Baby Case, a musical fantasia based on the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby, by composer/lyricist/librettist Michael Ogborn; The Night of the Meek, a Christmas musical by Frederick Freyer and 2001 Kleban Award winner Patrick Cook; and "I Won't Mind" from The Other Franklin with lyrics by Annie Kessler and Libby Saines and music by Jeff Blumenkrantz, who appeared in the Broadway production of A Class Act, the biographical musical about the life of Edward Kleban that takes place in the BMI Musical Theatre Workshop.

The showcase also featured performers including workshop writers Jenny Giering and Amanda Green, Randy Graff, Ann Harada, Pam Isaacs, Joseph Kolinski, Steven Skybell, Jim Stanek, Eric Stein and Sarah Uriarte-Berry.