Theater Latté Da announces slate of new works for NEXT Festival 2017


June 28, 2017

Contact: Andrew Leshovsky
612-767-5646 office

Theater Latté Da continues its commitment to new musical theater, announcing a slate of three new works as part of the 2017 NEXT Festival.

Three dynamic, engaging new works from Michael Thurber, Jocelyn Bioh, Saheem Ali & Mkhululi Z. Mabija, Harrison David Rivers, Ethan D. Pakchar, Douglas Lyons, Glen Berger, and Frank London that stretch the boundaries of musical theater will receive workshops culminating in five public readings.

Readings begin July 22 at the Ritz Theater in Minneapolis.

$30 three-show passes and $13 single tickets go on sale on June 28 at  or 612-339-3003.

(Minneapolis/St. Paul) Theater Latté Da (TLD) announced the slate of artists and projects for this year’s NEXT Festival. Three dynamic new works from Michael Thurber, Jocelyn Bioh, Saheem Ali & Mkhululi Z. Mabija, Harrison David Rivers, Ethan D. Pakchar, Douglas Lyons, Glen Berger, and Frank London will each receive workshops and public readings beginning Saturday, July 22. TLD launched NEXT 20/20 in 2015, a robust new work initiative aimed at developing 20 new musicals or plays with music by 2020, shepherding many of them to full production.

The first piece in the festival is Goddess with music by Michael Thurber, book by Jocelyn Bioh, lyrics by Mkhululi Z. Mabija, Michael Thurber, Jocelyn Bioh & Saheem Ali, in a musical conceived by Saheem Ali & Mkhululi Z Mabija. Goddess is a contemporary spin on an ancient folk tale about Marimba, the deity of music. Set in the East African port of Mombasa, at the steamy jazz club Moto Moto, it tells the story of Nadira, the club’s beautiful headliner and the fate of the men drawn to her siren song. With a score that draws from jazz, afrobeat and taarab, Goddess is a story about love, destiny and the confluence of traditional beliefs with the modern world.

On Goddess, director Saheem Ali say, “I grew up in Nairobi, Kenya, where part of the required high school reading was African folk stories. I recall being especially moved by one particular story of Marimba, the goddess of music, destined never to find love. Even in high school, my theatrical neurons were firing as I began envisioning a musical that would someday tell this moving story of love, fate and the gods. Our common artistic goal is to create a story that straddles the modern and the ancient, within the structure of a traditional musical, but possessing a fresh and novel sound unlike any other in the American musical cannon.”

Goddess will be directed by Saheem Ali with music direction by Sanford Moore.

Performances of Goddess are Saturday, July 22 at 7:30 pm and Monday, July 24 at
7:30 pm at the Ritz Theater.

The second piece in the festival is FIVE POINTS with a book by Harrison David Rivers, with music by Ethan D. Pakchar and Douglas Lyons and lyrics by Douglas Lyons. Five Points is set in New York City in 1863 amidst the tumult of the Civil War. It chronicles the journeys of two men, Willie Lane, a young black performer at the famed Almack’s Dance Hall, and John Diamond, an Irish immigrant and former jig champion, as they risk everything in pursuit of the American Dream. Inspired by real events, this world premiere musical is about what happens when cultures collide. Yes, there is often chaos, but every once in a while, something extraordinary happens.

Five Points will be directed by Peter Rothstein with Denise Prosek as music director.

Five Points will go on to receive its world premiere with Theater Latte Da opening spring 2018. “Five Points will be our most ambitious world premiere to date,” says Artistic Director Peter Rothstein. “This story is a prime example of our commitment to bring to light a diversity of narratives that prompts greater understanding of our common humanity,” Public Readings of FIVE POINTS are Thursday, July 27 at 7:30 pm; Saturday, July 29 at 7:30 pm at the Ritz Theater.

The final piece in the festival is Underneath the Lintel by Glen Berger. Glen Berger’s celebrated play has had tremendous success since it premiered in 2002. Upon invitation from Peter Rothstein, Mr. Berger will reimagine his play as a play with music.

A Dutch librarian embarks on a quest to find out who anonymously returned a library book; a travel guide that is 113 years overdue. A clue scribbled in the margin of the book and an unclaimed dry-cleaning ticket then take her on a mysterious adventure that spans the globe and the ages. The librarian, who has never left her native town of Hoofdrop, grows determined to track down the offender. As she travels around the world on her obsessive search, she finds herself on a journey that not only unlocks ancient mysteries, but also moves her to new revelations about her place in the universe.

Underneath the Lintel will be directed by Peter Rothstein with music direction by Dan Chouinard.

Underneath the Lintel is a piece originally inspired by music, and now composer Frank London and I are going to work original music into it–weave it into the fabric of the play, to bring out the mystery and spirituality at the heart of the story,” says playwright Glen Berger on the opportunity to re-imagine the play with Theater Latté Da.

Underneath the Lintel will go on to conclude Theater Latté Da’s 2017-2018 season when it opens on the Ritz Theater stage on May 30, 2018.

There will be one public performance of Underneath the Lintel are Monday, August 7 at 7:30 at The Playwrights’ Center.

Theater Latté Da is an award-winning Twin Cities musical theater company that combines music and story to illuminate the breadth and depth of the human experience. The company seeks to create new connections between story, music, artists and audience by exploring and expanding the art of musical theater.

Festival Dates: July 22-August 7

Venues: Ritz Theater and The Playwrights’ Center

Performance Dates, Venues and Times:


Saturday, July 22 at 7:30 pm
Monday, July 24 at 7:30 pm

Ritz Theater, 345 13th Ave. NE, Minneapolis, MN


Thursday, July 27 at 7:30 pm
Saturday, July 29 at 7:30 pm

Ritz Theater, 345 13th Ave. NE, Minneapolis, MN


Monday, August 7 at 7:30 pm
The Playwrights’ Center, 2301 E. Franklin Ave., Minneapolis, MN