We are so excited to be covering the New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF) this year! NYMF brings together musical theater productions from all around the country and gives them a lovely stage home for a three-week festival. Many shows have moved on to perform their pieces Off-Broadway or further productions after NYMF. Broadway musicals Chaplin, Next to Normal, and [title of show] all were performed on a NYMF stage.

NYMF still has TWO MORE WEEKS of fantastic productions so catch them while they’re there! Tickets are only $25 (max) and there really is something for everyone!


I had a weekend of musicals based on famous women. The first was Mata Hari in 8 Bullets, a biopic/one-woman-show/cabaret/drama based on the life of Mata Hari, played an amazing oh-my-god-how-come-i’ve-never-known-about-her-before Onalea Gilbertson. As the nifty little monologue at the beginning informs us, Mata Hari was a Dutch wife and mother who left her abusive husband after the death of her son, moved to Paris in the early 1900’s, and became an exotic dancer, courtesan, and artistic muse. She became extremely popular in the years preceding World War I and traveled extensively around Western Europe. She was suspected of being a German double agent, was arrested in Paris, and executed by a firing squad in 1917.

All of this biographical information is presented in the first ten minutes of the play, allowing the rest of it to flow seamlessly with Mata Hari’s soliloquy-like songs. There a wide diversity of songs in this show– they range from emotional ballads to seductive cabaret acts. Written by Blake Brooker and David Rhymer (who also plays in the band), each song is full of honest and complex reflections made by Mata Hari on her status as a woman and sex symbol, her role in society, and the long-term effects of war. They’re just… really good.

I can definitely see this show becoming a full-length production. Even though the initial monologue presents much of the needed biographical information, I still would like to see Mata Hari’s songs in a bit more context. It would give the music the last bits of dramatic punch. Overall, I definitely recommend catching Mata Hari in 8 Bullets.

Onalea Gilbertson as Mata Hari


My excitement for this production might have had something to do with the fact that my high school mantra was, “What Would Jane Eyre Do?” But then I learned that Dizzy Miss Lizzie’s Roadside Revue is a D.C. theatrical troupe with literary inspirations. They’ve acquired quite a following– and I got to see some of them at Sunday evening’s performance (with the most enthusiastic theatre-goers I’ve ever seen.)

This one is again a bit of a genre-bender. Overtly, it’s a biographical account of the Bronte sisters (yup, Branwell’s there, too) and their literary works in rock-parody format. Except for the fact that there’s not much biography (WHERE’S MARIA!). Instead, these Brontes are more in favor of flipping each other off  and general angsty-ness. For those of you at all familiar with the Brontes or their works, punk rock is extremely appropriate for a re-telling of their lives.

There’s some weird subplot going around involving a gypsy and writer’s block. But it makes no sense and doesn’t follow through and it’s better if you kind of forget it’s there. One by one, each Bronte sibling is killed off (tuberculosis is a rotten bastard) but not without a short account of their accomplishments, personalities, and sibling rivalries. Of course, Anne and Branwell get the shortest sets, but they’re also the most heartbreaking. Amid all this misery and anxiety, there’s the reassurance that the Brontes’ deaths only signals the beginning of a long-life in literary culture, and this discovery is touching. It would have been more sincere, however, if the play dealt more directly with the Brontes’ lives and works instead of bothering with other subplots that felt like parody for parody’s sake. The songs are all exciting and catchy, though, and the ensemble’s energy and humor really propel the show’s crazy antics forward.

Get tickets for the revue here.

“The Brontes” cast hurriedly reads through the (Heath)Cliffnotes to “Wuthering Heights”

For our other posts about NYMF this year, check out our NYMF 2013 tag.