Kris Stewart is a multidiscipline and multigenre performing arts producer and director whose work has been seen through the US, Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

He has had great success both heading events of significant cultural footprint for festivals, non-profit and commercial institutions, and acting as an independent artist.

He was the founding director of the New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF), the world’s largest annual musical theatre event, and was the inaugural Artistic Director of The Sydney Fringe, NSW’s key major event for the alternative and independent arts sector.

Currently, he is the Director of the Festival of Voices, Tasmania’s largest winter cultural event and the Director of New Musicals Australia, a state funded body charged with the development of new Australian musicals.  He was one the Broadway producers of [title of show] and the feature film Red Hook, and worked as Resident Director of the musical Wicked in Australia for the Gordon/Frost Organization.

For Kris Stewart’s full biography, click HERE.

This is his website, and you can click the links to explore. Hang a while and check it out.


GUYSIn 2004, following on from the success of the first New York Musical Theatre Festival, Kris returned to Australia to direct the classic musical Guys and Dolls.

It seemed a very unique opportunity: at Australia’s very north is the tropical city of Darwin, and their Entertainment Centre, State Theatre Company, Chorale and Orchestra had decided to produce a large, classic musical. They brought Kris across from NYC and a designer from the UK, and created a show that was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.


MADISONKris’ friend Geoff Cohen was on the board of the National Music Theater Network while Kris was working as their executive director. In addition to being the NMTN treasurer, Geoff had been Executive Producer for Radio City Entertainment for a number of years.

Mr. Cohen was producing A Christmas Carol, which was written by Lynn Ahrens and Alan Menken and directed by Susan Stroman. It has a cast of 80+, and Cohen asked Kris to come in and produce a series of performances that were in the “style” of what Stroman was doing in the show, and these performances would happen in the auditorium or the foyer or suites, etc.

Radio City Entertainment hired more than 20 performers in total, and Kris developed a range of small spontaneous acts that could happen in a number of different environment. It was a bit of silliness, and fun to put together with a whole range of “specialty performers”.


LYGONBefore he left Melbourne, Kris spent 2000 and 2001 as the Producer of the Lygon Street Festa, which is Australia’s largest street event.

Celebrating the rich diversity of Italo-Australian culture, the Festa would take place over eight city blocks, with all traffic diverted and stages at each intersection and in the garden. It is a serious party atmosphere, with over 400,000 attendees, 1500 staff and artists, eight stages, and loads of activity. An enjoyable nightmare to budget, schedule, market, program and produce.



In a thrilling combination of circus and theatre, Anthony Costanzo and Peter Fitzpatrick’s Life’s A Circus is about contemporary love and timeless betrayal. It is about truth, dangerous decisions and points of no return. Kris directed the presentation of Life’s a Circus in November 2008 as part of the OzMade Musicals series for Magnormos Musical Theatre, and then directed the mainstage production in 2009 at Theatreworks.

Life’s A Circus tells a story about three performers in a touring circus show caught in a web of love, lies and deceit, but this is much more than your conventional love-triangle. It is about how love, and the need to find it, can enrich our lives but also, in a single moment, can drive us to depths of despair we never thought possible. It is a story about points of decision in individual lives, and points of no return in relationships.



“Compact, super-charged and tightly-packaged direction … the privilege of being present at this rare and special performance of a piece that, with more work and development, should shed its skin to become a serious contender for that constantly elusive creation: The Australian Musical.” Stage Whispers

“From its A-List musical theatre cast (Chelsea Plumley, Glenn Hogstrom and Cameron McDonald) to the elements and mystery of circus, all is performed flawlessly.” ArtsHub




JOURNEYGThe Journey Girl was first presented to Kris while he was working at the Jacobsen Group, and while it was clearly not going to happen there, he decided it was going to be the first thing staged by the production company he was founding in Melbourne with Sam Schwarz.

The production featured Amanda Harrison, who Kris worked with again in 2010 in Wicked, where she plays the lead role of Elphaba.

The story is a relatively common one in Australia – a young girl goes backpacking overseas as a way to see the world. Of course, what was pretty uncommon was the opportunity to launch a new Australian musical. This coming of age story played for two months at the Atheneum, a lovely mid-sized house in central Melbourne.

Most recently, in 2012 Kris returned to direct this show again for the Tasmanian Theatre Company in Hobart, in a revival headed by Nicole Simms.  Rare that an Australian musical get more than one production, so this was a lovely opportunity.  Photos below.



“Last Saturday night a star was born … makes the audience want to break out in spontaneous applause … unflagging energy, warmth and audience rapport … The Journey Girl has got what’s needed to take off anywhere in the world.” DINA ROSS (April 12, 1999), The Age.

“… sassy tour-de-force … under the skilful direction of Kris Stewart, Amanda Harrison take absolute ownership of her role and has a lot of fun with it – and that sense of excitement suffuses the theatre all the way to the back rafters and never falters for an instant.” PETER KOHN (April 14, 1999) The Jewish News

“Prodigious talents involved in launching this one woman show … great performance, and backed throughout by a first-rate team.” PALZ VAUGHAN (April 12, 1999), The Herald Sun



LATIMESSome compare it to Sundance. That’s high praise for the New York Musical Theatre Festival — considering it’s only 4.

By Julia Klein, Special to The Times.  September 15, 2007

NEW YORK — Starting a musical theater festival from scratch with 31 shows was a “maverick act, a leap of faith,” says Kris Stewart, founder and executive director of the New York Musical Theatre Festival. “There seemed to be so many writers and directors who were crying out for this opportunity, and such a gap we were stepping into.”

At the time, Stewart had been in New York just 18 months, as executive director of the National Music Theatre Network, which sponsored readings of new works. More experienced hands were urging him to go slow, to launch with two or three shows. “It was kind of high stakes,” says Stewart, 32, who was abetted by Isaac Robert Hurwitz, 29, now the festival’s executive producer. “But it was something I could always walk away from. As an Australian, if it [fails], I could always go home.”

Stewart, awaiting his English muffin at a local diner, chortles at the memory. That was three years ago, and on Sept. 17, the New York Musical Theatre Festival opens its fourth season with its 100th show, a two-hander titled “The Angle of the Sun,” about a woman artist’s life and loves.

The show’s composer, Larry Pressgrove, is one of the festival’s success stories: He was the musical director and arranger of “[title of show],” a musical about, well, writing a musical. It premiered at the festival in 2004 and is slated for a Broadway run, as is another festival alum, “Nerds://?A Musical Software Satire.” The irreverent “Altar Boyz,” still playing off-Broadway, also premiered at NYMF (pronounced “nymph”).

“The festival itself in four years is very quickly becoming like Sundance,” says Jana Robbins, a New York-based actress, cabaret singer and theatrical producer. “And it’s getting such exposure that people at a very, very high level are submitting their shows.”

At this year’s festival, Robbins is “mentoring” the Richard Rodgers Award-winning “Unlock’d,” a loose adaptation of Alexander Pope’s 18th century mock epic poem, “The Rape of the Lock,” with music by Derek Gregor and book and lyrics by Sam Carner.

Robbins, who produced the Broadway musical “Little Women” and lobbied for two years to get “Unlock’d” invited to NYMF, would like to take her pet project to Broadway too, possibly after a regional theater production. “This show is ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ meets ‘Wicked,’ ” she says hopefully.

The festival is a field of similar dreams. In three weeks, NYMF, which bills itself as the largest musical theater event in the country, will present 34 fully staged musicals, along with readings, concerts, panels, parties and other special events.

Sixteen of the shows — including three (“The Beastly Bombing,” “Roller Derby” and “The Brain From Planet X”) from Los Angeles — were invited by the festival. The other 18, including another local production, “Little Egypt,” were selected in a blind submission process from a pool of about 400.

“I think we worried in the first year or two that we’d run out of musicals, and I think we’ve learned there’s no actual end to that bucket,” says Stewart.

“We’ve always said that we don’t have an in-house style,” says Hurwitz. “We’re looking for variety. But we’re also looking for things that are contemporary and perhaps that innovate the form.”

The influences of Stephen Sondheim and pop-rock idioms are pervasive, but swing, country, blues, gospel, zydeco, operetta — nearly every imaginable musical style — all seem to be represented.

Gregor says his score for “Unlock’d” blends classical and baroque music, appropriate to the time period, with a contemporary pop-rock sound. An earlier collaboration fused klezmer with a contemporary sound. “That’s a formula that works for Sam and me,” says Gregor, 30, who met Carner, 28, at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, a major source of festival talent.

The storylines of this year’s shows, which range from tragic romance to pure camp, are impossible to pigeonhole. “Musical theater is a very big-tent kind of art form,” says Stewart. “There probably really isn’t any subject matter that can’t be treated” — from the courtship tangles of Jane Austen (“Emma” and “Austentatious”) to psychological impairment (“The Yellow Wood” and “The Boy in the Bathroom”).

Tony Award-winning actor B.D. Wong (“M. Butterfly”) is producing and directing “The Yellow Wood,” an impressionistic chronicle about a biracial Korean American boy with attention-deficit disorder that takes place on the day he decides to forgo his Ritalin. The work, with book and lyrics by Michelle Elliott and music and lyrics by Danny Larsen (again, Tisch alums), has won both Richard Rodgers and Daryl Roth Awards.

“It was the only piece that I’d read in a long time that was truly, completely imaginative, not based on an adaptation of anything,” says Wong, who describes the music as “sophisticated contemporary.” “It theatricalizes the state of a teenage boy’s distracted, anxious brain. It breaks a lot of rules. At the same time, it’s completely not alienating.”

Then there’s the taboo-shattering “The Beastly Bombing: A Terrible Tale of Terrorists Tamed by the Tangles of True Love,” which completed its Los Angeles run in June and was named best musical of the year by L.A. Weekly. Julien Nitzberg, the show’s director and librettist, describes himself as a “punk guitarist turned documentarian turned TV writer.” Nitzberg says that he had been mulling a “buddy comedy” about terrorists since the mid-1990s but found no takers among his Hollywood friends.

About five years ago, he saw a London production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance” and decided to turn his idea into an operetta. With composer Roger Neill, he penned a political satire about two white supremacists and two Al Qaeda terrorists distracted from plotting by love and Ecstasy (the drug).

Although terrorists are frightening, “when you combine them with 19th century music, it automatically becomes comical because the two contrast so weirdly,” says Nitzberg. “We thought it was this incredibly edgy show. But some nights we had everyone in their 60s — and we had two blind people with seeing-eye dogs.”

Nitzberg says he is hoping for a New York run in the spring, most likely off-Broadway. But for other festival shows, a commercial afterlife remains a distant, wistful aspiration.

“There’s always the pipe dream — that we get picked and we go, I suppose, off-Broadway — wouldn’t that be nice,” says Joshua William Gelb, the 24-year-old Tisch grad who wrote the nonlinear book for “Tully (In No Particular Order),” based on the erotic poetry of Catullus. “But I think more than anything it’s about getting the work exposed and having people hear what you do, what you have to say.”

Gelb and his collaborator Stephanie Johnstone (music and lyrics) may be helped by a casting gimmick: Austin Miller and Kate Rockwell, both finalists from the reality television show “Grease: You’re the One That I Want,” have featured parts.

Miller, who says he’s seeking to reshape his doo-wop image, says that his character, Claude Beautée, is “not a vapid pretty-boy sweetie, and that was what was exciting about it.” He describes Johnstone’s music as “difficult” and “Sondheim-y.”

“It’s dark and esoteric and all those things, but it’s quick and punchy, and I think that we have an opportunity, Kate and I, to impart a little spectacle in the show,” says Miller, who lost to Max Crumm for the lead in the Broadway revival of “Grease.” “And maybe the marriage of art and spectacle will, you know. . . . ”

We do.


INTERVIEWKris has worked on a number of other developmental projects across his career. This included spending eighteen months as executive director of the National Music Theatre Network, before launching NYMF.

Since 1984, NMTN has presented several hundred public concerts intended to promote new works, including The NMTN Annual Concert, the NMTN Songbook Series, The Broadway Dozen and the BroadwayUSA! program, which presents new musicals throughout the United States.

While at the National Music Theater Network, Kris was in charge of overseeing its new works program and two seasons of NMTN developmental productions, as well as its gala benefit, with the cast of Baz Luhrmann’s Broadway production of La Boheme.

Kris also spent a year as the consulting director for the Theatre for the American Musical, a NYC based foundation that funded writer support for creators of new music theatre, and there Kris headed their grant and commissioning program.

Through his career, Kris has commissioned the creation of a number of new musicals, including Common Grounds and Platforms (two new dance musicals), Wrong Number (a musical created through improvisation, in collaboration with the Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theater), the Guerilla Musicals Project (spontaneous musicals that would interrupt events across NYC), Web Site Story (a user generated musical, created through online collaboration) and Innovative Leisure (a musical on the rise and fall of Atari, in collaboration with the Ensemble Studio Theatre).  He has directed the workshops of The Jackyl and Carved in Air, and has overseen the development of a number of new works programs, including projects with the Victorian Art Centre and the City of Stonnington.

“The work that NMTN has done has been thrilling, surprising, and necessary. Its energy never flags. This terrific program continues to ignite the creativity of some of our best musical theater artists.” — John Lithgow, actor

“Tim Jerome, Kris Stewart and NMTN have engineered a totally unique program that has helped dozens of new works move from the page to the stage” — Brian Stokes Mitchell, actor


NMAKris Stewart is the founding director of New Musicals Australia, an initiative dedicated to the production of original music theatre in Australia. NMA aims to provide support for emerging musical theatre creators by presenting a number of workshopping opportunities to assist in the development of original work.

The program focuses on providing writers and composers with the opportunity to have their scripts and songs workshopped by professionals and presented to high level industry peers, creative industry leaders and general audience members. New Musicals Australia also supports a variety of other initiatives targeted at developing new works, establishing networks and providing support for independent writers.

Century Venues in collaboration with the Australia Council have founded this initiative and headhunted Kris to lead the organization, to help build the foundations of the shows that audiences will one day see on the Australian stages of tomorrow.

You can learn more about New Musicals Australia by visiting their website, www.newmusicals.com.au.

New Musicals Australia has three key workshop initiatives suitable for new musical theatre works in different stages of development.  They are –

The Musical Snapshot.  A 20-40 minute extract of the musical will be presented in concert alongside other new works.  A panel of industry professionals will offer immediate feedback on structural and creative strengths and weaknesses. This opportunity is open to three to six new works in early stages of development and enables creative teams to receive professional feedback and gauge a general audience response.

The Developmental Reading.  A new work will be rehearsed and performed in concert.  The process will include a five day rehearsal period that culminates in a presentation of the work on the sixth day.  There will be the opportunity for two developmental readings per year for musicals in an intermediate stage of development.

The Workshop Presentation.  A musical will be rehearsed and performed book-down with staging and limited production elements.  This initiative will include a ten day workshop with professional performers and the collaboration of a director, choreographer and musical director, and will be presented to an audience of industry leaders, music theatre creative professionals and the general public.


New Musicals Australia Launched to Foster Original Works

Panel announced to advise New Musicals Australia


ONEANDONLYSo, this was a great, fun production that Kris directed in the summer of 2004 in Florida. The Broward Stage produced it, and we had a young cast brought up from NYC. A real classic, My One and Only was a Tommy Tune and Twiggy vehicle that opened on Broadway in the 80’s, and isn’t often produced, due to the challenging demands it places on its cast (and, well, the book is a pretty weak, too).

The staging intention with this was just to create something that was fast and fun and really enjoyable for the cast and audience. Everyone loves tap, and this is a real showcase for some incredible talents.


“Gerswin comes alive … swinging, tapping, cooin’ and singing – the staging is a real highlight … fabulous and seductively cool one minute, a toe-tapping fury the next.” KEVIN JOHNSON, Talkin’ Broadway