Q&A with Howard Alter, Producer of RELAPSE: A New Musical

Q&A with Howard Alter Photo by Thomas Mundell

“RELAPSE: A New Musical” had its world premiere at Theatre Row on September 2nd, and you can still catch it before it closes after September 23rd! To learn more about this affecting new musical, including the show’s themes, performances, music, and more, Beauty News NYC got in touch with producer Howard Alter.

1. How does “RELAPSE: A New Musical” handle the sensitive themes of the complexities of mental health and its impact on individuals’ lives while providing a captivating and entertaining experience for the audience?

We start with respect for the mental health patients in the show and view them as full human beings. They are more than just their illnesses; they have hopes, dreams, warmth, and humor expressed both in dialogue and in soaring musical numbers. And we’ve transformed the inner thoughts that bedevil them, into actual characters called The Intrusives. They’re a wild mix of a Greek and Broadway Chorus, expressing many of the patients’ struggles in song and dance numbers. The music is an exciting, innovative Rock score that gives the show an upbeat balance of emotional power and pure entertainment.

2. Can you tell us more about the emotional conflicts and transformations the characters Adam, Bryan, Melinda, and Kendra, undergo during the course of the story?

Each is struggling with the insecurities, conflicts, and pressures that so many young people are experiencing today. And each is turning to a form of self-medication. Bryan and Adam are two talented, creative young men, cracking under the pressure to succeed. Bryan, struggling with bulimia, and Adam, with alcoholism, long to understand what it truly means to be a man. Kendra, whose father has sexually abused her for much of her life, uses her sharp wit against anyone trying to get close, and Melinda, who loved to dance, is schizophrenic and longing to be herself again. As they interact with one another, and the doctor and nurse running the group therapy sessions, they begin to peel away layers of protection and begin to understand that they have the power to take back control of their lives. Throughout, The Intrusives, carry their stories forward in a light, exciting way that gives insight into their struggles and their potential.

Q&A with Howard Alter Photo by Thomas Mundell

3. In today’s world, where mental health awareness is gaining more attention, how does “RELAPSE” contribute to the ongoing conversation and help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues?

I firmly believe that by bringing these issues to the theatrical stage, where audiences can see into these characters’ souls, we can encourage the understanding that mental illness is not something to fear, it’s not something to stigmatize, but is a health issue that deserves our attention and compassion. Theater is the place where an audience can emotionally connect; it can act as an agent of transformation. RELAPSE casts light on the crisis of mental health, making it less threatening, less mysterious, and less stigmatized.

4. J. Giachetti, the book writer and lyricist of the musical, has shared that real-life experiences directly inspired the characters and story. How does this personal touch add depth and authenticity to the narrative?

The author was deeply moved by the experiences they were a witness to. That personal connection, combined with their imagination and artistry, gave them access to a depth of understanding of what the characters experienced and what they felt. They saw how they sought refuge in addiction or anger and how they sought redemption and healing. J. Giachetti was able to give power to each character’s journey because they knew it intimately.

5. The musical features the music of Louis Josephson, an award-winning composer. How does his music enhance the emotional impact of the story and resonate with the audience?

If done right, music enhances a theatrical performance because it reflects and intensifies whatever emotion the characters are experiencing. And Josephson has done it right. He has created a score that reflects the emotions the characters are feeling throughout the show. This has a tremendous effect on the audience, taking them on the story’s journey both through the dialogue and the visceral, emotional reactions the music evokes.

6. As the director of “RELAPSE: A New Musical,” Tony-award nominee Joey Mckneely brings the characters’ struggles to life on stage. How does his direction contribute to the storytelling and create a memorable experience for the audience?

McKneely’s vision was to create a surprising and wonderful counterpoint between the patients’ deeply moving, outwardly expressed stories and their hidden inner thoughts, revealed by a fast-paced, action-filled chorus. As these unexpected thoughts suddenly burst into the character’s minds and simultaneously onto the stage, it keeps the audience feeling compassion for the characters while pumped up by the music and chorus.

Q&A with Howard Alter Photo by Thomas Mundell


Theatre Row – Theatre 5, 410 West 42nd Street, NY NY 10036

September 2nd, – September 23rd

Tickets between the $27.50-$57.50 range are now available online at https://bfany.org/theatre-row/shows/relapse/.

Check out other Q&As published by Beauty News NYC HERE.

Gemma Lolos

Social Media Manager + Staff Writer

Gemma Lolos is a fiercely proud native New Yorker who is devoted to the arts in all its many forms. She loves to sing and listen to music, read great literature, experience inspiring theatre and film, and stream addictive television. She works full-time as a Marketing professional in New York City and does freelance writing on the side. In her free time, Gemma tries to immerse herself in the NYC Arts scene as much as possible, eat great food, and travel whenever she is able.

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