The Accomplished Singer and Actress is Also Co-Creator of “Overture: The Musical,” Which Wowed Audiences at Last Summer’s New York Music Festival
A Kansas City creation performed by a Kansas City cast won the “Best of Fest: Production” award at this year’s New York Musical Festival.
“Overture, the Musical,” co-written by Krista Eyler and Barb Nichols, made its debut at the 2018 Kansas City Fringe Festival. This year, the piece enjoyed a five-performance run in July at the Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre (part of the Signature Theatre on 42nd Street), where it was seen by roughly 600 theatergoers. Audience votes deemed it the best of the entire New York festival.
“We were floored and honored!” Eyler said.
“Overture, the Musical” tells the story of the rescue of the KC Philharmonic (predecessor to the KC Symphony) in 1953, when it was in danger of going under due to budget failings. After the show was well-received at KC Fringe, (where it debuted only its first half), Eyler and Nichols decided to submit it to the New York Musical Festival. In January 2019, they learned “Overture: The Musical” was a Top 10 Grand Jury Selection. A general management team in New York was assigned to the production, and the show received a monetary grant from the Anna Sosenko Assist Trust.
With Eyler in the lead role, the entire Kansas City cast performed in New York. Although this was far from the norm for festival productions, Eyler was adamant about using the original cast.
Eyler and Nichols are now marketing the show to colleges around the Midwest, while pursuing other opportunities in Kansas City. The weeks in New York provided wondrous memories, Eyler said, but the bustling city life is not for her.
Instead, she has pursued a kind of fame on her terms.
Fifteen years ago, Eyler created “Funky Mama, a fun, rock-and-roll interactive extravaganza” geared to children ages 3 to 8. Funky Mama Music has produced several CDs, and Eyler continues to perform for schools, churches, community centers and libraries. She claims her love for children is at least as strong as her love of theater and song. In 2007 she sang at the White House Easter Egg Roll.
Eyler has always lived in the greater Kansas City area. She comes from a musical family (although both parents are scientists by profession), and at an early age she sang in church choirs and played piano. She mastered the MIDI keyboard, allowing her to greatly expand sounds and instrumental variations, which furthered her songwriting and composing capacity.
After earning her undergraduate degree in radio and TV production at Texas Christian University, she received a master’s in journalism at KU. She was an on-air reporter for TV Channel 9 News.
But a desire to perform was always present. Eyler took roles at Theatre in the Park and began to work regularly at The Barn Players, playing Velma Kelly in “Chicago” in March of this year. At Chestnut Fine Arts Center in Olathe, she headlined “Always . . . Patsy Cline” several times. She has sung with “Musical Mondays” at MTH Theater.
Last year, Joe Fox, vice president of production at New Theatre Company, contracted her as the understudy for a five-minute role in “Biloxi Blues.” When the original actress had to miss 13 shows due to illness, Eyler made the most of her five minutes per show, catching the eye of artistic director and local theater heavyweight, Dennis Hennessy, who cast her as Myrtle in the KC Actors Theatre production of “Morning’s at Seven,” which he directed in June. Theater critic Robert Trussell praised the “delicate balance” of her performance.
Through December, Eyler can be seen in “The Taffetas” at Chestnut Fine Arts Center. She is hopeful that her first foray into the upper echelon of professional theatre in Kansas City with KC Actors Theatre will open new doors for her.
But “she’s driven,” as everyone who knows her remarks, and she admits to “always thinking forward — maybe two years.” Along with Nichols, she is planning a new musical, “The Sparkletones,” based on her mother’s experiences with an a cappella girls’ group in the 1960s. The play will be divided in two parts — act one introducing the young women and act two following them in their 60s and 70s.
Eyler considers herself a singer first, but, like Lily in “Overture,” who is dedicated to music while facing approaching deafness, she is not wasting an opportunity or a moment.
See Krista Eyler in “The Taffetas” at the Chestnut Fine Arts Center, 234 N. Chestnut St., Olathe, through Dec. 15. For tickets, 913.764.2121 or www.chestnutfinearts.com.