‘A Casual Gathering’ Traces Intimate Reunion of High School Friends

“A Casual Gathering” is a musical written by Daniel Schwartzman (book, music, lyrics) and directed by James Martinelli that explores the evolution of human relationships and the desire we all have to relive the past and use our memories to rewrite the present.

Its American premiere will be presented by Theater for the New City’s Dream Up Festival September 12 to 20, 2015. The musical traces the intimate reunion of six high school friends in a Manhattan bar who have not seen each other for decades.

After the initial joy at seeing each other again, the realities of their lives and what they have failed to achieve come to the surface.

“A Casual Gathering” is about ordinary life and ordinary people. The reunion forces the characters to confront being in their fifties, failed relationships, unrequited loves and unfulfilling jobs.

A snowstorm serves as the backdrop for the reunion and is the force that keeps them encased in a bar in Greenwich Village for a few hours. Isolated from the rest of the world, they exist in a dreamlike state between past and present in which they begin to revel in their high school memories and the endless possibilities of that time of life, eventually coming to the realization, “if only I could change the past.”

The meeting allows old relationships to resurface and new ones to develop and this foray into the past renews each character, enabling them to look at their lives with greater clarity.

The musical first premiered in Tel Aviv under a different title, with book, music and lyrics all written by Daniel Schwartzman. The music is in the “Broadway” style with songs that are playful and poignant, often accompanied by dance numbers or taking place while the action on stage is frozen so audiences receive added insight into a character’s thoughts.

Schwartzman is a native New Yorker. He graduated from Music and Art High School and Purchase College Conservatory of Music. He holds an M.A. in conducting from Tel Aviv University. Since then, he has been directing shows from Broadway in Hebrew translations at theaters throughout Israel.

His recent musical direction and orchestra conducting of “The Sound of Music” received rave reviews in the local press and a letter of high recommendation from the Rogers and Hammerstein Organization. Presently he is working on the Israeli production of “The King and I” in the same capacity. Schwartzman has had eight of his own original musicals produced. “A Casual Gathering” will be his first musical to be performed in New York City.

Director James Martinelli will helm “Mame” and “The Women” in the Heights Players’ 2016 season. He has also directed “Mentor” by John Green. Favorite roles include Bob in “Beyond Therapy,” Tulsa in “Gypsy” and directing John Green’s “Mentor.”

The actors are Terry Ellison, Angela Shultz, Kevin Bain, Meg Dooley, Wendy Lazarus, Betsy Marra, Raffael Pacitti, Valerie O’Hara, Kerry Wolf, Devra Seidel and Juan Luis Sanchez. Set and costume design are by James Martinelli. Lighting design is by Alan Sporing. Music Director is Erica Kaplan. Choreographer is James Martinelli.

The sixth Dream Up Festival (www.Dreamupfestival.Org) will be presented by Theater for the New City (TNC) from August 30 to September 20, 2015, offering a lineup of wide-ranging and original theatrical visions embracing drama, musicals, improv, aerial and more. This year, owing to growing popularity, the festival has expanded beyond its primary venue. Previously, all productions were presented at Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave. This year, 19 productions will be presented at TNC and seven will be presented at an outside venue, The Producers Club Theaters at 358 West 44th Street.

The festival is dedicated to new works. TNC feels this festival is especially needed now in a time of declining donations to the arts, when grants are not being awarded due to market conditions and arts funding is being cut across the country and abroad. The festival aims to push ideas to the forefront through imaginative presentations so as to challenge audience expectations and make us question our understanding of the way art illuminates the world around us.

The show is presented by Theater for the New City (Crystal Field, Artistic Director) as part of the Dream Up Festival 2015 from September 12 to September 20. Performances are September 12 at 2:00 PM, September 16 at 9:00 PM, September 17 at 6:30 PM, September 19 at 8:00 PM and September 20 at 8:00 PM at Theater for the New City (Community Theater), 155 First Ave. Tickets are $15. Box office is (212) 254-1109. You can find more information and purchase tickets at www.dreamupfestival.org.