The New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF) was born in 2004 and for some reason we’ve never been to any of its offerings. We have, however, enjoyed the fruits of the festival. Some of our favorite shows got their start at NYMF–[title of show], Next to Normal (called Feeling Electric during its festival days), and Yank!

This year we are finally taking in some of the 30 shows all vying for a bit of the festival spotlight (“changing the world, 30 musicals at a time” is the festival’s motto). We’re seeing two of the 30, one is a known work and the other something we’ve  never heard of.

Without You is a solo show based on Anthony Rapp’s biography of the same name. The show centers on two events in Rapp’s young life–the development of Rent as it started at the New York Theatre Workshop along with its whirlwind move to Broadway and his mother’s illness and death. The show mixes original music along with songs from R.E.M. and, of course, Rent composer Jonathan Larson. I read the book when it was published in 2006 and was moved by the powerful story. I’m looking forward to see how it’s transitioned to the stage.

The show that’s new to us is POPart: The Musical. With book and lyrics by Daryl Lisa Fazio and music by Aaron McAllister, POPart focuses on 18-year-old klutzy outcast Kitty Katz who leaves her suburban gated community for the Ghetto Art School. Here she finds art’s underbelly to be both seamy and spectacular. With her new friends–an ultra-cool street artist and a kind-hearted boy-genius–Kitty forges through the school’s cutthroat and preposterous melée, yearning to be a true artist. The description was intriguing and we decided to go for it (it’s hard to make a choice when all you really have is a paragraph about all the shows).

We see both shows in October on successive Saturday afternoons. Perhaps we’ll see one of NYMF’s 2010 success stories.