Twelve Angry Men – Asolo Rep’s Sizzling New Musical

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By Susan Short

Run, don’t walk to the Asolo Repertory Theatre’s production of the classic, Twelve Angry Men. The cast is tremendous, with Sasha AndreevCurtis BannisterCharlie ClarkJames Michael DetmarMatthew GriffinCooper GrodinBrian Kim McCormickRiley McNuttMatt RiehleMarc Cedrick SmithAlexander Swift, and Adán Varela all starring in the Theater Latté Da World Premiere Production of Twelve Angry Men: A New Musical at Asolo Repertory Theatre. Thirteen of the eighteen company members are making their Asolo Rep debut. 

Peter Rothstein, Asolo’s Producing Artistic Director, directs this powerful new musical, with a book by David Simpatico and music and lyrics by Michael Holland, based on the play by Reginald Rose. Twelve Angry Men: A New Musical runs May 11 through June 9, 2024, with previews May 8 – 10, in the Mertz Theatre, located in the FSU Center for the Performing Arts.  

The entire play takes place in a shabby jury room on a hot day. The New York City skyline is transformed into a stunning set with the juror’s table that rotates and gives the notion of multiple perspectives. As the play begins, the room is empty, and a judge can be heard offstage giving instructions to the jury on how to deliberate on the case before them. The twelve men are to determine the fate of a 16-year-old boy accused of murdering his father. If they have reasonable doubt, they are to acquit the boy.  If the boy is convicted, he will face the death penalty.  

The jurors, who are known only by their juror numbers, file into the room. They discuss the heat that permeates the room and how it’s the hottest day of the year. The 3rd Juror thinks that it’s an open-and-shut case and is staunchly convinced of the boy’s guilt. The 7th Juror is also impatient for the proceedings to wrap up because he has a ballgame that he’s eager to attend. The men take their seats in order around the jury table and decide to cast their first vote on the verdict of the trial. Eleven of the men vote guilty and the 8th Juror is the lone standout. He believes that they should give the boy some of their time and discuss the ins and outs of the case. The jurors go around the room in order and discuss why they think the boy is guilty.  

Rothstein began to work on the development of this show with Simpatico and Holland five years ago, while Artistic Director at Theater Latté Da in Minneapolis. After dedicated workshops, robust development, and several public readings, Twelve Angry Men: A New Musical received its World Premiere Production in June of 2022.  

Rothstein says, “Twelve Angry Men is an important work in the history of American drama, and I believe this musical adaptation speaks profoundly to this moment in our nation,” said Rothstein. “It is a profound exploration of this country’s potential to unite, to exercise justice, and to instigate systemic change.” 

Against the backdrop of a jazz-infused score, twelve men debate the fate of a young defendant charged with murdering his father.  The Star Tribune in Minneapolis called this show a “must-see musical”. Talkin’ Broadway stated, “A serious story given more depth and made more compelling with the infusion of song.”

90 minutes with no intermission, this searing drama explodes with tension, somewhat subdued by song, yet no less compelling. Written over 60 years ago, the themes are no less current begging the question of how slowly ideology often moves before change. A must see for and a real treat for this exceptional theater program.

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