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They say the neon lights are bright—in Forestburgh?

By Jonathan Fox
May 19, 2011

FORESTBURGH, NY — This June, when asked for directions from Monticello to the Forestburgh Playhouse (FBP), I’ll be more specific than usual: “Take Route 42 South to the blinker, make a hard right, then a quick left. Next stop: ‘Idaho!’”

Yes, “Idaho!,” the “homage to the golden age of classic musicals” will make its pre-Broadway debut in Forestburgh to work out some of the inevitable last-minute changes that always take place when mounting a new production heading for the Great White Way.

For 65 years, the Forestburgh Playhouse (FBP) has been delighting audiences with a wide array of shows. Although there have been some straight plays, a few serious pieces, and some world-famous blockbusters, what the playhouse is possibly best known for is it’s presentations of popular musicals. And for the past 20 years, managing director Norman Duttweiler has been bringing Broadway to the Catskills, so it seems fitting that he is now instrumental in bringing the Catskills to Broadway. I sat down with Duttweiler last week to discuss this impending venture and his enthusiasm was infectious. “I’m so excited to see the Forestburgh Theatre Arts Center [FBTAC] taking off in a whole new direction” he told me. “To kick off my 20th year at the FBP with an original musical is thrilling.”

The road trip from “Idaho!” to New York has been a long one. No new musical simply lands in Times Square. Often, there are years of writing, scoring, casting and sometimes, starting all over again. (Can you say “Spiderman?”) I took a peek at the website created just for this show (www.idahomusical.com) and scanned the authors’ notes. Composer and co-lyricist Buddy Sheffield’s musings on how the show came into being were moving. “I think my love of theatre, especially musicals, is what really shines through in ‘Idaho!’ he writes. “It’s really a love letter to the great classics of the Broadway stage.”

That road began in 2008, when the newly written show got its start with its first full-blown production at the New York Musical Theatre Festival ( www.nymf.org ), an organization with a mission: “To provide a launching pad for the next generation of musicals (and their creators) to ensure the continued vitality of America’s greatest art form… we discover, nurture and promote promising musical theatre artists and producers at all stages of development, in order to inspire a diverse audience through vibrant, accessible new work.”