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24-Hour Musical Madness

It’s the ultimate one-night stand.

Beginning at 9:30 p.m., over 100 cast and crew members have just 24 hours to write, rehearse, tech and perform 4 musicals.  Each is 20 minutes long, and includes 2 songs and a dance number.

Oh, yeah — no one knows beforehand who they’ll work with.  Most have never met each other.

24 Hour Musicals” is masterminded by Ari Edelson.  The 1994 Staples grad — a self-described “theatre director/multiple hat-wearer” — organized the entire event last weekend, for the 2nd year in a row.  There’s a good reason:  The project is a fundraiser for the Orchard Project, an upstate New York incubator for cutting-edge theater (he’s the artistic director).

Ari Edelson giving direction (Photo by Kerry Long -

This year’s show was held at the Gramercy Theater, a 350-seat venue. Ari also scored the National Arts Club — Samuel Tilden’s Gilded Age mansion — for the overnight writing session, breakfast and after-party.

“That turned a low-cost event into something classy and special,” Ari says.

Special indeed:  Audience members and cast know they’ll never see these shows again.  Like Brigadoon, “24 Hour Musicals” exist for just 1 day.  Unlike Brigadoon, they never reappear.

At 9:30 p.m. the writer-composers (including Westporter Justin Paul) met.  They took actors’ photos into a room, and — like fantasy football —  drafted a team.  By 11, 4 casts were picked.  Writers worked through the night creating musicals from scratch.

At 6 a.m. computers transcribed their creations into scripts and mp3s. At 7 the directors and actors began rehearsals.  A few frantic hours later, the shows opened.  An hour and a half later, they were already closed.

The actors — who this year included Cheyenne Jackson, Rachel Dratch, Roger Bart and Richard Kind — were stunned.  “It’s normally 3 weeks before I memorize a song,” one said.  “Here I had 3 hours.”

Ari calls the exhausting, exhilarating event “an Ironman for the theater.”

And like an Ironman challenge, only the strong survive.

“Part of the fun is when people forget their lines,” Ari says.  “The audience loves seeing blood on the floor.”

Cast of "24 Hour Musical" (Photo by Kerry Long -

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