This week, stars of the stage and screen dazzled a full house at the Theatre at ACE Hotel during the first ever The 24 Hour Musicals: Los Angeles.
The event raised money for the Dramatists Legal Defense Fund, a nonprofit arm of the Dramatists Guild of America, which advocates for the freedom of expression on behalf of all who are confronting censorship on stages across America. Participants including Jamie-Lynn Sigler (The Sopranos), Retta (Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce), Wayne Brady (Kinky Boots, Whose Line Is It Anyway?), Michelle Visage (RuPaul’s Drag Race), and Jesse Eisenberg (The Spoils) offered audiences a special glimpse into their musical capabilities through four never-before-seen (and never to be seen again) original musicals.
“This was an unbelievable experience,” said Mark Armstrong, Executive Director of The 24 Hour Plays. “To see this group of artists come together and throw themselves into this challenge, both showcasing their incredible abilities and revealing new sides of their enormous talent was revelatory. Bringing The 24 Hour Musicals to Los Angeles has been a dream come true. We’ll be back.”
The evening kicked off with romantic comedy “Greek to Me” (book and lyrics written by Tasha Gordon-Solmon) that found Garrett Clayton (Hairspray Live!) and Amanda Seales (Insecure) at a crossroads in their relationship. With a little guidance from Wayne Brady (Kinky Boots, Whose Line Is it Anyway?) and Michelle Visage (RuPaul’s Drag Race), the “Geniuses of Pro and Con,” and a Greek-speaking stranger (Sam Tsui), the two worked things out with some fancy songs (by composer Rona Siddiqui) and dance moves along the way.
The next musical, titled “Wash Your Hands,” found Jonah Platt (Wicked) playing ill-fated President James A. Garfield. Alongside a portrait of his former wife Karen (Ashley Fink, Glee) and an equestrian nurse (Isabelle Fuhrman, Masters of Sex), Garfield succumbed injuries resulting from his extremely unsanitary surroundings. Maria Thayer (The Catch) played a comic newsboy, constantly charging the stage to announce the latest development in Garfield’s health, and composer/lyricist Nellie McKay pulled double duty, memorably taking the stage as a mysterious unicorn that comes to take Garfield away to the great unknown.
“’Napped!” found Jamie-Lynn Sigler (The Sopranos) as a reality TV star about to be robbed and kidnapped by three clumsy thieves played by Retta (Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce), Alicia Witt (The Walking Dead), and Greg Worswick (Groundlings). Grace Parra (The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore) rapped impressively, detailing her life as the assistant to Sigler’s character, all set to music and lyrics by Matt Schatz and a book by J. Holtham.
The evening concluded with a hilarious comedy with music and lyrics by Jesse Eisenberg (The Spoils) and written by Liz Meriwether (New Girl). “Shoshana and Her Lovers” featured “four lesbian sisters” who discover they are all dating the same girl (Shoshana Bean, Wicked). The sisters, played by Deborah Ann Woll (True Blood), Janina Gavankar (True Blood), Herizen Guardiola (The Get Down), and Andrew Leeds (Cristela) delivered Eisenberg’s clever lyrics with spunk, before yielding the floor to Bean’s showstopping number “Always the Bride.”
Directors Bart DeLorenzo, Jackson Gay, Kate Sullivan, Casey Stangl were aided by choreographers Ken Roht and Joseph Corella, music directors, designers and a live band led by Zac Zinger! Playwright Lydia R. Diamond (Stick Fly) was the featured speaker for the evening.
The 24 Hour Musicals: Los Angeles is an intensive theatrical endeavor where a team of over 100 (including artists from Broadway, film, television and music) came together to write, compose, rehearse and perform four original musicals within a 24 hour time span at the beautiful Theater at Ace. For 22 years, The 24 Hour Plays® have brought together extraordinary artists to create time-limited theater around the world, raising millions of dollars for charity.
The marathon process for The 24 Hour Musicals began at 9 p.m. the night before the performances. Writers, composers, directors, choreographers, actors, music directors, musicians and production staff — many of whom had never worked with or met each other before — gathered for an orientation where they were asked to share one costume piece, one prop, a special skill, and to reveal something that they have always wanted to do on stage, as well as some singing and dancing. At 11 p.m., the composers and writers got to work crafting 15-20 minute musicals overnight; at 9 a.m. on Monday morning, the actors received their roles and the directors, choreographers and musicians began rehearsals. Less than 12 hours later, they were ready to perform in front of a live audience.