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Meet the Amazing "M"s! FWD's Season 2 social media interns

Steve Multer

FWD Theatre Project continues to create buzz and make news in Chicago’s musical theatre scene. In September we kicked off our powerhouse second season with a sold-out concert reading of Boublil & Schönberg’s La Révolution Française at Thalia Hall. On February 8th we’ll present LaunchingFWD : Season 2, a celebration of new musical theatre and sneak peak at the five original works selected for this year’s staged reading series – can’t wait to see you all there!

We’re also excited to introduce you to the two newest FWD family members, Madison Kennedy and Megan O’Toole, our sensational social media interns - or as we call them, the Amazing "M"s. These enterprising and energetic Columbia students are helping to “move FWD” in amazing ways!

We asked Madison & Megan to tell us a little about themselves, their love for and dedication to musical theatre, and what made them want to join FWD Theatre Project.


MADISON KENNEDY is a sophomore Directing major at Columbia College Chicago. Last summer she directed a cabaret to donate money to the Alzheimer’s association and she’s currently assistant stage managing Women On the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown at Columbia.  Madison is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio.

What about musical theatre speaks to you?  I love straight plays but I have always been much more drawn to musicals. I think the reason for this is my love for music. Sometimes music can convey what words cannot.

Why did you choose Columbia College Chicago?  Columbia is a great school for networking. You realize early on that you have to constantly pursue opportunities because they are not handed to you there - you have to work for them.

What is your favorite thing about Chicago?  Chicago is such a great city for 20-somethings and for theatre. There are so many different types of theatre here, and you can see a new show every week. I don’t always love the winter weather, but it’s worth it!

What is your favorite musical?  Hedwig and the Angry Inch. It’s a beautiful story and the music is so much fun.

Why do we need new musical theatre?  We need new musical theatre, especially in Chicago, because there are so many stories to be told that have not been told yet. As the world evolves we cannot keep recycling and reviving old musicals. We also need to continue telling stories that modern audiences can relate to.

What are you looking forward to working with FWD?  I was so thrilled when I found FWD. I love new musical theatre works and I could not find any other companies in town who were completely devoted to them.


Hailing from Toledo, Ohio, MEGAN O'TOOLE is a senior Musical Theatre and Dance double major at Columbia College Chicago.  This fall she choreographed the New Student Showcase, Heart & Music, directed by Ashton Byrum. She was recently seen in Columbia’s productions of Oklahoma! (swing/dance captain) and Into the Woods (Milky White/dance captain) and has been showcased in numerous dance performances.

When were you first introduced to musical theatre?  The first musical I performed in was Cinderella; I was in second grade and part of the high school production’s chorus. But before this, my family and I went to see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat pretty much every time it came to town.

What about musical theatre speaks to you?  Musical theatre makes me happy. I think we all have an inclination to want to sing and dance, and that’s why musical theatre is so popular.  Theatre is a very community-based art form and I love dancing and performing live because each audience will get something different out of it. I love being able to share that experience.

What is your favorite thing about Chicago?  I love living in Chicago! One of my favorite things about the city is the lake; I love being by the water (even though it is generally too cold to want to get in.)

What is your favorite musical?  The Drowsy Chaperone. The writing is so smart, and I love that it makes fun of other over-the-top musicals. It acknowledges that musical theatre is sort of silly and allows us to laugh at ourselves, but also speaks to the importance of theatre and the impact it can have on people’s lives.

What is your favorite social media outlet?  Probably Instagram because I am a photo fanatic.

What are you looking forward to working with FWD?  I am looking forward to getting to know the Chicago theatre community more and being exposed to new theatre. Since FWD is a new organization, I’m excited to get in on the ground floor and see what I can do to help. However, FWD is also already a star-studded company so I’m excited to meet everyone and get to work with these Chicago legends.




Press Release - LaunchingFWD : Season 2

Steve Multer

FWD Theatre Project, Chicago’s celebrated new incubator for Musical Theatre development, kicks off its second season in style with

LaunchingFWD : Season 2

A one-of-a-kind concert featuring preview selections from five of the world’s best original musicals in process

February 8th at City Winery


CHICAGO (date) – When FWD Theatre Project introduced itself in 2014 (at City Winery Chicago,) audiences, actors, producers, and critics took notice. Something special had arrived for the city’s arts community and for the future of musical theatre in Chicago. A group of seasoned theatre professionals combined to create a Festival of Works in Development, part of an effort to build Chicago into a premiere destination for writers and creators to showcase their new musicals in process. One year later and FWD’s inaugural season of five staged readings - selected from the world’s best projects on offer - was a success, selling out many of its events at a variety of Chicago venues.

On Monday, February 8th the FWD team will present LaunchingFWD : Season 2, their second annual industry concert featuring a cast of Chicago favorites performing selections from five more new musicals, chosen from over 170 submissions this year. Last year’s event (with headliner and hometown superstar Jessie Mueller in her first Chicago appearance since winning the Best Actress Tony Award for Beautiful) sold out the 320 seat main room at City Winery and required overflow capacity seating; FWD hopes this year’s event will be even more anticipated and, therefore, see even higher demand.

Directed by Michael Gillis with Music Direction by Alex Newkirk, LaunchingFWD : Season 2 will feature favorite Chicago talents, a full band, and Chicago arts patrons, directors, and producers with an insider preview of selections from the original musicals FWD will offer in their second season of staged readings.

The season actually kicked off in September 2015 with a large concert performance of Boublil & Schönberg’s La Révolution Française at Thalia Hall, co-produced by American Music Theatre Project and directed by David H. Bell with music direction by Michael Mahler and Roberta Duchak (also written by Raymond Jeannot, Jean-Max Riviere, with English lyrics by Michael Mahler.) The multiple Tony Award-winning writers of Les Miserables and Miss Saigon joined FWD & AMTP in Chicago to prepare the showing of this work, not seen by audiences since the 1970s. The south side rock venue sold out to 450 attendees who experienced a very exclusive night of theatre.

Between February and June, FWD will offer four more staged readings of new works as part of their Festival of Works in Development : Season 2.

  • Neurosis by Allan Rice (book), Ben Green (music), & Greg Edwards (lyrics)

A modern  musical  comedy  with  a  psychiatric  twist,  Neurosis  is  the  story  of  two  best friends - Frank and his neurosis - who embark on a quest to find happiness. Along the way, Frank meets the girl of his dreams, but watch out; she’s got a neurosis of her own. Falling in love   means breaking down barriers, which threatens the neuroses’ existence. But can happiness be true if it means giving up part of yourself?

  • Coyote by Tim McCorry (music, lyrics) & Michael Aman (book)

Inspired by a true story, Coyote is a modern American tale of love and adventure.  Pedro and Bernadice are young lovers, determined to be re-united, who turn to a mysterious figure known only as Coyote to help them make a perilous crossing from Mexico into the United States. They have no idea that they have engaged the services of a magical, god-like creature who can change form, leap into their dreams and is bound by neither time nor space. He is a trickster. He is also their only hope in a struggle of love against fear. 

  • code name: CYNTHIA by Steve Multer (book, lyrics) & Karen Multer (music)

Betty Thorpe (code name: CYNTHIA) is a stunning beauty and master spy, blackmailed into seducing the enemy to save civilization from a ruthless dictator - and her own delicate world from falling to pieces. Based on the true story of an unsung American WWII patriot, Washington DC becomes a chessboard where honor, sex, and political ethics are as up for grabs as the fate of the free world.

  • Central Avenue Breakdown by Kevin Ray (book, lyrics, music), Andrea Lepcio & D.A. Taylor (book), with additional story by Suellen Vance

Central Avenue Breakdown opens at the height of the jazz scene in 1940’s Los Angeles, when swing is hot and bop is just around the corner. Two brothers, Bill and Jim Marcel, haunted by their father’s failure, play for success - older brother Bill on tenor sax digs the popular tunes  while Jim blows alto and aims for a new sound. A Hollywood starlet turns both their heads as brother betrays brother, in music and then in love. Can music save their family and their dreams?


Tickets are $40 with a limited number of $100 VIP tickets through the City Winery box office at 312-733-9463 or online at

More about FWD Theatre Project

FWD Theatre Project is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit company dedicated to the Discovery, Development, and Delivery of the new American musical, and to building a Festival of Works in Development for the future of original musicals and benefit of the City of Chicago. The company’s mission is to advance Chicago as a premiere destination for new musical theatre by presenting public staged readings and educational opportunities to Chicago audiences and producing entities for future full production consideration. 

For more information on FWD Theatre Project and its artists, please visit  For press questions or interviews please contact Michael Gillis at

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FWD Theatre Project

A PUBLIC STAGED READING of a new musical in development is an exciting intermediate phase between the initial writing and "table readings" (where a cast sits around a table to read through early drafts of a script in a private, controlled environment) and a full theatrical production.

The purpose of a staged reading is for the writers to present their completed show before an engaged, discerning audience, allowing them to gauge the effectiveness of the play's music, lyrics, dialogue, pacing, flow, and other dramatic elements that the playwright, composer, or director may wish to adjust for further improvements to the new work.

And that's where you come in; Audience feedback contributes to the process, helping to strengthen the musical and propel it to a bigger and brighter future. As an audience member at a FWD Theatre Project staged reading, you're given an "inside view" of the development process, a personal opportunity to connect with a new musical in its early stages and be the first to experience it before the general public sees the show in a full future production.

What can you expect when you attend a FWD Theatre Project staged reading? You're in for something very special! Expert actors and directors spend a week in preparation for the performance under a standard 29-hour Actor's Equity Association contract. Some of Chicago's finest talent collaborate with the best musical writers in the world to assure every presentation is a powerful, professional, exciting experience.

The actors read from scripts, at music stands, incorporating minimal stage movement, without sets or costumes - yet the performance feels like a complete production. A narrator may read stage directions and most presentations are followed by a talkback discussion with the writers and director, a great chance for audience members to meet the creators, offer comments, ask questions, and gain insight into the show's history, process, and detail.

As a form of public performance, the staged reading of a new musical in development is like experiencing a radio play before a live audience, with emphasis on the use of imagination, music, singing, and acting over sets, props, lighting, and effects. It's all about the play.

The goal of FWD Theatre Project's staged readings is to expose a new work to Chicago's audiences and producing theatres in an effort to launch the show on its journey toward full production for the benefit of the musical art form and national theatre-going community.

Join FWD for our next staged reading - you'll be glad you did!