Coming soon: York New Musical Festival

The original cast of Rob Winlow's new musical Armada
19 May 2013 @ 10.36 pm
| Entertainment

The original cast of Rob Winlow's new musical Armada
The original cast of Rob Winlow’s new musical Armada
jim-welsman-headshotYork New Musical Festival launches this summer. Jim Welsman explains how this exciting new event came about, and what to expect

This July the York New Musical Festival will host seven days of new musicals at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre. It is the first festival of its kind in the UK and is committed to presenting the best of unsigned new musicals.

The idea began when I was chairman of York Musical Theatre Company, and one of the company’s members was Rob Winlow.

I had received numerous requests from composers to premiere their work but the company felt unable to take the financial risk that this would entail. Rob had written a musical, Armada, and asked me if the company would stage it. After lengthy discussions, appeals for funding, aborted start dates, the musical was finally premiered in July 2011 and Rob was thrilled to see his musical go from page to stage.

Rob and I realised that it was very difficult for new composers to get their work performed and thus the idea of a festival was born. Next on the scene was Keith Humphrey who had recently had his musical Boiling Frog premiered in Harrogate. He was also keen to help other aspiring composers and the association was founded in February 2012.

I had already decided a year ago to stand down as chairman of York Musical Theatre Company and agreed to take on the job of festival director.

We have followed a similar model to the Edinburgh Fringe, but in our first year have decided to operate from one venue – the Joseph Rowntree Theatre. We hope the festival will become an annual event and expand to numerous venues around the City in the coming years.

With the support of York’s festivals and events coordinator and the magnificent help and cooperation of the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, the first festival will take place from Tuesday, July 23 to Monday, July 29 2013.

With the dedicated support of the voluntary staff this makes the theatre a very affordable venue, whilst having first class facilities to stage musicals.

Following the announcement of the festival in January the response was phenomenal. Requests to perform at the festival were received every day.

Applications to perform are available via our web site. Applications will close on 31 March after which a programme will be agreed and an announcement on the shows coming to the Festival will be made on a rolling basis during April.

We were also delighted to receive a letter of support from Willy Russell, writer of Blood Brothers. “I was delighted to learn of the York New Musical Festival and wish it every success in encouraging and developing new work for the musical stage,” he wrote.

“By providing a showcase for new musicals and works-in-progress, the festival will be an invaluable stimulus and encouragement to all those who, against the odds, grapple with this most demanding, but highly rewarding form of theatre. I hope that the Festival and all those who participate in it go from strength to strength.”

The Musicals

Here are the musicals being staged as part of the York New Musical Festival.

Lady Luck

Tuesday, July 23, 7.30pm

Written and Composed by Antony Irwin

Xander Jackson is a self-assured, occasionally cocky, 27 year old working in the city. Whilst living with his girlfriend, Zoe, he lusts after a more exciting lifestyle. Promiscuous workmate, Madison, and demure school friend, Paige, weave their own stimulation into Xander’s life.

With pulses racing 3 modern women compete for the love of one luck guy. Let the games begin…



Wednesday, July 23 to Friday, July 26

Written and composed by Elaine Pechacek and Katie Hammond

Seasons is an original musical which delves into the lives of two relationships that are suddenly changed forever. Former classmates – Helen and Peter reconnect with one another at a high school reunion, which leads to an unexpected pregnancy, whilst mother and daughter – Hope and Mrs. Jones are trying to grapple with an unwelcome diagnosis, which tears their lives apart.


Francesca’s Passenger

Saturday, July 27, 2.30pm

Written and composed by Becky Callaghan

The story follows a shy, quiet young woman called Francesca, who is trying to escape her troubled upbringing, which continues to haunt her. Uprooting to a new town, she begins to slowly rebuild her life as she starts her new job working as a governess.

However, once she realises this household is full of its own secrets, she finds she cannot help but be changed by what is happening around her, and in turn change them. However, it is not her that causes this affect, but rather what she brings with her…


Austen The Musical

Saturday, July 27, 3.45pm

Written and composed by Rob Winlow

BBC Radio 2 Golden Oldie Nominee Rob Winlow is delighted to present a reading of his new musical adaptation of the life of Jane Austen. Austen The Musical explores Jane’s struggle to have her work published in a male dominated environment, her failed romances, her vow to reject a woman’s conventional lifestyle in Georgian England.

A stunning story following Jane Austen’s transition from a country parson’s daughter to one of the most widely read writers in English Literature. Austen The Musical is full of stunning songs with moments of joy, despair and heart-wrenching sadness.


Girl With A Torch

Saturday, July 27, 5.30pm; Sunday, July 28, 2.30pm

Written and composed by Judit Catan

After a quarrel between her father and mother, a young girl called Julie is left all alone with only her teddy bear for comfort.

With Big Ted’s support and gifts from Martha the Fairy, Julie sets out to search for something that’s lost; a secret treasure, a long lost desire; something she cannot remember. However, with the arrival of Sally the evil Witch and her Creatures of the Night, who are equipped with magical powers which are used to kidnap abandoned Street Children, things are not going to be as easy as it initially seems.

Will Julie be snatched up like the other street children? Or will she rise up to the challenge and manage to reach her Grandma’s shack in time for Christmas? And will she finally find that mysterious thing she has been looking for?


Cindy Weller

Saturday, July 27, 7.30pm; Sunday, July 28, 8.30pm

Written and composed by Mike Rogerson

Cindy Weller, by York’s Mike Rogerson, is a reworking of the well known story of Cinderella, but with a twist! Cindy Weller a beautiful young girl from a golfing family, is stuck at home looking after her dad and her horrible twin brothers, who force her to cook, clean and slave for them on a daily basis.

Banned from playing golf by her widowed father, she eventually gets the chance to play with the help of the Ladies Captain and falls hopelessly in love with a handsome and charming golf pro, but it’s not all what it seems…



Sunday, July 28, 4.30pm; Monday, July 29, 7.30pm


Written and composed by Rob Winlow

It’s 1588 and Queen Elizabeth’s England is on the verge of being invaded by the Spanish Armada.

Dr John Dee (bogus Philosopher, Scientist, Magician and Astrologer to the throne) manipulates the Queen into stationing his young supernatural apprentice Sarah on board Sir Francis Drake’s ship to help defeat the invasion.

Onboard ship, Sarah falls hopelessly in love with Thomas. She takes the conflict into her own hands leaving her life hanging in the balance.

What will become of Sarah? Will she be reunited with Thomas, remain Dr John Dee’s puppet or even lose her life in the process of fighting for Queen and Country?


Confessions Of A Rabbi’s Daughter

Sunday, July 28, 6.30pm

Composed by Emily Rose Simons

Rachel Wiseman has always dreamed of making her father, Rabbi Wiseman, proud by becoming a Rabbitzen (a Rabbi’s wife). On the brink of making their dreams come true, Rachel’s friendship with Sarah blossoms into love. See her choose between her heart and her dreams through charming and emotive songs.

Written and composed by newcomer Emily Rose Simons, Confessions Of A Rabbi’s Daughter is a one-woman musical filled with quirky, funny and charming dialogue and lyrics, which challenges tradition vs modernity and stability vs excitement.