Elaine Chelton

Elaine Chelton

God’s Country, the musical about a rich Englishman seeking his true parentage in America, gets two presentations in York Theatre Company’s Developmental Reading Series March 11 in Manhattan. This latest exposure for the Irish-kissed musical by composer Elaine Chelton and lyricist-librettist Erik Johnke will feature revisions made since its summer 2013 premiere in the New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF).

The NYMF troupers reunite, again under the direction of Craig J. George. Bryan L. Wade is the musical director. The company includes Nick Cartell, Lulu Lloyd, Chuck Bradley, Victoria Huston-Elem, Jody Cook, Rob Lorey, Megan Kane, Charlie Levy, JP Qualters and Kim Rachelle Harris. Stage management is by Raynelle Wright.

(This isn’t Chelton’s first reading at York. She and I wrote the musical Voice of the City, previously seen in York’s Developmental Reading Series. Karen Azenberg directed that presentation, and a later workshop at Human Race Theatre Company in Dayton, OH.)

Here’s how York bills God’s Country: “It’s 1871. Wealthy Englishman James Watson’s world is shattered by his mother’s death and the revelation that he is adopted and Irish. Discovering his birth mother lives in America, he travels there on an epic journey to find his true identity. Sweeping melodies with Irish flavor carry this dynamic tale.”


Nick Cartell, Lulu Lloyd and Chuck Bradley form a passionate triangle in “God’s Country.”

Writer Johnke told me, “After the feedback from the [NYMF] production, we had some pretty clear writing goals going into this reading. We wanted to clarify the opening, for two reasons.  There is a flashback, and we wanted to make sure that people could follow the sequence of events. We also wanted to clarify the motivation for James to go on this journey to find his mother, which we did by writing a new opening number. Our second goal was to raise the stakes in the confrontation with the villain McCreedy in the second act. That was done through work on the book. The third main goal was to introduce one of the major characters earlier in the show — I won’t say who — and we did that with some scene work and a new song.”

Read my July 2013 piece about God’s Country’s life at NYMF

God’s Country’s March 11 presentations at the York’s home are at 3 PM and 7 PM. Reservations can be made online at www.yorktheatre.org. A $5 suggested donation with each reservation is suggested. Check out the official website for God’s Country

(Also this week, the York Developmental Reading Series presents the new play Storm, written and directed by P.J. Barry, 7:30 PM March 10.)

York Theatre Company’s Developmental Reading Series “presents some 40 readings and workshops of new musicals by emerging and established authors throughout the year. The series serves as an incubator for shows to be considered for Mainstage productions, thus serving the York’s unique mission of taking new musicals through the complete development process to full production.”

York Theatre Company is under the leadership of James Morgan (producing artistic director) and Andrew Levine (executive director). York’s home is at The Theatre at Saint Peter’s on East 54th Street, just east of Lexington Avenue.


Starting April 15, the York presents the world premiere of the new musical Inventing Mary Martin, conceived, written and directed by Stephen Cole, with music supervision and arrangements by David Krane, music direction by Lawrence Goldberg, co-directed and choreographed by Bob Richard. The cast features Cameron Adams, Lynne Halliday, Jason Graae and Emily Skinner. 

For additional information, visit yorktheatre.org.