The award-winning Off-Broadway musical A Letter to Harvey Milk, based on the eponymous short story by Lesléa Newman and adapted for the musical stage by Jerry James, Laura I. Kramer, Ellen M. Schwartz, and Cheryl Stern, opened to critical acclaim at Theatre Row on March 6, 2018. As an online benefit for the Actors Fund and HIAS (an international Jewish humanitarian organization providing vital services to refugees and asylum-seekers in sixteen countries), members of the original cast have reunited for a virtual production, streaming on demand now through Sunday, April 25, 11:59 pm.
Directed by Evan Pappas, the story deals with issues of friendship and loss, the grip of the past, and hard-won acceptance. It’s San Francisco, 1986, and the widowed Harry, a retired kosher butcher, is taking a writing class at the local senior center with the young lesbian teacher Barbara. In fulfillment of his assignment to compose a letter to a deceased person from his past, he surprisingly chooses not to write to his late wife, but to Harvey Milk – the first openly gay political leader in California – triggering unforeseen life-changing revelations, in a score that soars and lyrics that are both funny and profound.
Starring Adam Heller (Caroline or Change), Julia Knitel (Beautiful), and Cheryl Stern (La Cage Aux Folles), supported by Michael Bartoli, Jeremy Greenbaum, Aury Krebs, and Ravi Roth, the production features music direction by Jeffrey Lodin, orchestrations by Ned Ginsburg, set design/virtual background by David Arsenault, and video editing by Seth Walters. A Letter to Harvey Milk plays through Sunday, April 25, 2021, on Stellar. For tickets, priced at $10-50, click here.
The next installment in NewYorkRep’s CivilWrights short play series, presented in association with Rashad V. Chambers and Five Ohm Productions in response to the national crisis on systemic racism, is the multi-award winning musical Don’t Stay Safe by Cheryl L. Davis (book and lyrics) and Douglas J. Cohen (music). Originally commissioned and produced as part of Prospect Theater Company’s VISION Series of new musical theater on film, the timely piece made its debut on December 30, 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Set in New York City in the Spring of 2020, the 20-minute three-hander explores the Black reality of the current socio-political climate, reflecting on the critical ongoing issues of racial equality and civil rights. When Franki, a Black lawyer in lockdown with her estranged girlfriend Taylor, learns that her younger brother Eddie has arrived to take part in the Black Lives Matter demonstration, she examines the risks of protest, and of staying safe, in a struggle to save everyone, including her relationship. The cast of Iris Beaumier, Latoya Edwards, Nygel D. Robinson is directed by Christina Franklin, with music direction by John Bronston and cinematography by Lesley Steele.
The show begins streaming on Sunday, April 25, at 6 pm, and will be available for playback through Sunday, May 2, at FiveOhm.TV. The April 25th presentation will be followed by a Town-Hall style talk-back and panel discussion with creators Davis and Cohen, T. Oliver Reid (Black Theater Coalition) and Miranda Gohh (Theatre Producers of Color), to foster conversation about equality and to create more inclusive American theater. Viewing is free; to register, go online.