- David Zak
SO PROUDLY WE HAILED is thrilling work derived from the words of veterans.
On Veteran’s Day, New Musicals In hosted a very special online concert of their stellar musical works crafted from the recollections of veterans across the country. By first collecting these diverse stories – some harrowing, some humorous, all heartfelt – and then partnering the veterans with experienced composers, lyricists, dramaturgs and ultimately performers, New Musical Inc has created a format which hopefully will be seen on stages, community centers, and classrooms far and wide.
The concert featured three short musicals adapted from interviews with veterans. My favorite piece of those showcased that night is “Christmas in Afghanistan” based on the experiences of Army veteran Addison Blu, about a soldier stationed in Afghanistan who accidentally buys an entire truck full of bread on Christmas Eve. Book by Addison Blu, music by Michael Finke, and lyrics by Addison Blu and Michael Finke. Directed by Megan Rees, and featuring performer Tonoccus McClain, this mini-musical has much to say about cultural differences, and McClain’s performance- done only for the camera – is top notch.
The two other pieces – “Blood” and “The Messenger” had more daunting, highly emotional materials. “Blood” which features the true story of Billie Estes, a hospital Navy Corpsman. Lyrics and music by Angela Parrish. Directed by John Coppola Evelyn Halus handles the complex and deep material easily.
“The Messenger” is based on the experience of retired Portuguese Air Force Colonel Paulo Jorge Machado Dias Gonçalves, a United Nations Peacekeeper who learns his life’s mission through a chance conversation with a five-year-old Bosnian boy. Music and lyrics by Ryan Patrick Martin; and featuring performer Eduardo Enrikez, a wonderful singer and actor.
SO PROUDLY WE HAILED began in the summer of 2020 when NMI put out a call for submissions to veterans willing to share their stories. The selec
ted veterans then worked with their NMI team to create musically theatrical pieces of approximately 12-20 minutes. NMI’s Artistic Director Elise Dewsberry and Executive Director Scott Guy deserve a great credit for delivering a very watchable evening that has great promise for the future.
Founded in 2007, NMI’s mission is to develop new musicals via table readings, workshops, concerts, and productions. For additional information, visit www.nmi.org