The Festival

The Chicago Musical Theatre Festival, now in its fourth year, is a new works festival produced by Underscore Theatre Company. We believe there's a wealth of musical theatre creators in Chicago and around the country, but the high risks of producing new musicals means that few companies are willing to take a chance, especially with not-yet-established authors. CMTF is designed from the ground up to keep costs low by sharing resources, to return half of all ticket proceeds to producers, and to showcase emerging authors from Chicago and beyond.

This year's CMTF is hosted by the Greenhouse Theater Center, at 2257 N Lincoln Avenue in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood. The festival will run from February 6th-25th, 2018, coinciding with Chicago Theatre Week, a project of the League of Chicago Theatres designed to showcase Chicago's superlative theatre community.

Latest News

September 6th, 2017: This year's lineup has been announced! Scroll down to check out the shows being showcased this coming February. Still to come: tickets, upgraded festival website, and a slate of free readings to be announced in November! Stay up-to-date with the latest developments by signing up for our mailing list. We promise never to spam!

The Lineup

Book, Music & Lyrics by Vi Nhan H. Tran

Born in Vietnam and raised in southwestern Kansas, Vi Nhan H. Tran is torn between the mysterious secrets of his heritage and the waving wheat fields of his adopted home. A poignant and humorous folk musical memoir, THE BUTCHER'S SON chronicles the Tran family's escape from Vietnam, imprisonment by the Khmer Rouge, and resettlement in the cattle country of America. Tran weaves a thrilling refugee story and All-American tale of how family stories become family lore and where one family's search for a home ends.

Book, Music and Lyrics by Erik Ransom

Four gay men, seeking different types of connection, intersect to hilarious and calamitous results in this sung-through musical parody that puts the notorious gay hook-up app into the exaggerated world of opera. With musical styles ranging from contemporary pop to baroque, GRINDR The Opera is a daring, humorous look at the changing landscape of gay relationships, and the greatest catalyst for the shift: GRINDR.

Book and Lyrics by Bryan Adam and Matthew Kelly, Music by Bryan Adam

When submissive Lady Sterling encounters one of her sexologist husband Dr. Wood Sterling's newest patients, a demur man who wishes more than anything else to be a woman, she finds herself actively challenging the rigid roles prescribed by Victorian virtue. Within time, she meets all of Sterling's patients and encourages them to pursue their diverse sexual identities. What follows is a heartfelt and hilarious challenge to Victorian principles, with Lady impersonating an esteemed French doctor and organizing a bordello pairing patients with the wives of her husband's cheating colleagues, all in an effort to challenge the painful double standards of the time.

Book by Liz Falstreau, Lyrics by Liz Falstreau and Ashley Flanagan, Music by Ashley Flanagan

Set during the years following the American Civil War, Iron Irene tells the story of two sisters and their fight for family, equality and a better world. Upon the death of their parents, Cassie DeLanie is sent from her home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to live in southwestern Wyoming with her sister, Irene. Together, the sisters must learn to adjust to this new world while still attempting to maintain the beliefs and identities of their childhood. Their adventures will lead them to Wyoming's shining moment: being the first U.S. territory to grant women's suffrage.

Book & Lyrics by Eric C Jones, Music by Alex Winkler & Bradley Dean Whyte

A powerful rock musical about forgiveness, restoration, the power of friendship and what it means to be a family. This moving tale intersects and moves back and forth throughout 70 years and tells the story through the viewpoints of three unlikely men from different religious and ethnic backgrounds who are connected through a priceless family heirloom: a gold pocket watch. From the start of WWII to post-911 America, the lives of these characters will forever be changed during the historic liberation of Buchenwald and Dachau. Liberators encourages you to believe that even the most unlikely person can make a difference.

Music and Lyrics by Joey Katsiroubas, Book by Dan Hass

Theresa is a young, single couples' counselor in Chicago. While she's great (well, okay) at keeping couples together, she can't seem to lock down a guy for herself. And the fact that she tends to get attached (well, neurotic) after just one date doesn't help either. Cut to Mr. Wonderful moving into the office next door. Beautiful, bulgy-biceped Will. It's obsession at first sight, and no obstacle or girlfriend is going to keep Theresa from being with him. She'll ruin relationships, sabotage dates, push people out of the closet - mixing and matching her clients until it's just Wonderful and her. Forever. And ever.

Book by Brian Huther, Ben Auxier and Seth Macchi, Music and Lyrics by Ben Auxier and Brian Huther, Arrangements by Ryan McCall

Set in the 1920s during the decline of Vaudeville and the rise of Hollywood, The Ballad of Lefty & Crabbe tracks the journey of an ultra-sharp but down-on-their-luck comedy duo as they navigate the rapidly changing world of entertainment. With a cast of eight portraying nearly fifty characters, audiences will quickly lose themselves in this absurd and delightful comic world and leave with smiles on their faces.

Book, Music, and Lyrics by David Gosz and Leo Fotos

Through intricate characters and intimate music, TRU paints a picture of how hauntingly beautiful life can be. TRU explores the joys and challenges of the many relationships that are formed throughout one's life, testing the various forms of love - between a man and his father, between a granddaughter and her grandmother, between a woman and her art, between a student and his teacher, between a man and himself. Walking hand in hand with reality, TRU toes the line between what is unbelievable and what is true.

Contact Us

All press inquiries should be directed to David Rosenberg, our publicist, at david@drpublicrelations.com. Sponsorship inquiries should email Artistic Director Alex Higgin-Houser at alex@underscoretheatre.org. Other questions, ideas, or comments? Drop us a line any time at info@cmtf.org.