- Last Updated: 11:22 AM, July 9, 2012
- Posted: 10:25 PM, July 8, 2012
Just when you thought it was safe to head into the water, here comes the New York Musical Theatre Festival.
What used to be one of the best bets of the fall is now playing the hot days of summer. The folks who brought us “Next to Normal,” “Altar Boyz,” “The Shaggs” and other shows will kick off their ninth annual showcase tonight, with 21 productions, plus readings, concerts and special events through July 29.
Blame it on theater availability.
“We were competing with every off-Broadway company who were starting their own seasons,” gripes Robert Hurwitz, the fest’s executive director. “In order to get nice theaters, we were spreading ourselves too wide geographically.”
But while the timing’s changed, ticket prices haven’t: They’re still $25 or less. And now there’s even a central box office: the NYMF Hub, next to the Port Authority Bus Terminal at 330 W. 42nd St. Open daily from noon to 8 p.m., it will also be a place for concerts and postperformance talkbacks.
This year’s fest should give theatergoers lots to talk about, thanks to shows about a chocolate-frosted pastry (“Arnie the Doughnut”); the Lindbergh kidnapping (“Baby Case”) and Filipino maximum-security prison inmates whose dance video goes viral (“Prison Dancer: The Musical”).
And then there’s “Re-Animator: The Musical,” starring George Wendt, better known as Norm on “Cheers.” Director Stuart Gordon’s show, based on his grisly cult film of the same name, comes to us from Los Angeles, where fans lined up for seats in the “Splash Zone” blood-splatter section.
“They frequently wore white,” Wendt tells The Post. “Like they wanted to have a red badge of courage for the rest of the evening.”
Wendt’s been in four of Gordon’s films, as well as Broadway’s “Hairspray” and “Elf” — he played Santa in that one — but says he really gets to stretch his acting muscles in this stage piece.
“I’m a zombie, and then a lobotomized zombie, and then I wind up being the good zombie who kills the bad guy,” he explains. “And my first appearance is as a female Swiss doctor.
“I don’t sing and I don’t dance,” he adds, wondering why he keeps getting cast in musicals. “But I will, however, do what I’m told.”
The show has drawn raves for its deliciously cheesy special effects.
“Part of the fun is how do-it-yourself the project feels,” Wendt says. “Half of the effects are absolute genius, and the other half are bubble gum and coat hangers.”
This year’s festival also features turns by Broadway and off-Broadway veterans Sheryl Lee Ralph (“Dreamgirls”), Leslie Kritzer (”A Catered Affair”) and Anika Larsen (“Xanadu”). And there are some well-known faces behind the music as well, including Peter Cincotti, the singer-songwriter whose 2003 self-titled debut album hit No. 1 on the Billboard jazz charts.
Cincotti’s written the score for “How Deep Is the Ocean?,” a romantic comedy about a small-town pool technician trying to save the polluted beaches of the Jersey Shore.
Although he’s never written for the theater before, Cincotti embraced the challenge, especially since the show’s book was written by his sister, Pia.
“We would have had a familial problem had she asked someone else,” he says, laughing.
“Because she’s my sister, we end up finishing each other’s sentences,” he continues, about the ease of working with a sibling. “But ask me in a month . . . maybe we’ll wind up hating each other.”
Cincotti says that at least she knew better than to ask him to star in the show as well.
“I would only screw it up,” he insists. “And it’s such a pleasure to write music and not have to sing it.”
Tickets and other information about the 2012 New York Musical Theatre Festival: 212-352-3101 and nymf.org