Broadway performer-author-acting coach Jodie Langel is about to add another role to her crowded résumé and life — executive director and founder of a new theater company.
This June, she launches the Boca Raton-based Off-Glades Theater Company, whose mission is “to promote and produce musical theater in South Florida for the cultural development of young people in the performing arts.”
Its inaugural show will be Jason Robert Brown’s 13: The Musical, about the growing pains and cultural adjustments of Evan, a New York teenager forced to move with his mother to the Midwest when his parents divorce. The show opened on Broadway in 2008, and while it only ran for 105 performances, that was enough to gain the attention of Netflix, which adapted it into a film that began streaming last year.
Langel is no stranger to Broadway, having appeared in featured roles in such shows as Les Misérables and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. She is also the youngest performer to ever play alley cat Grizabella in the New York production of Cats. She first appeared in South Florida at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre in 2009 in the title role of Evita and has since performed throughout the region in such shows as Next to Normal, Mamma Mia! and, as recently as this March, in Gypsy.
Although there is little that Langel has not done in the theater, she concedes that running a stage company will be a challenge for her.
“I’m finding out that you wear a lot of hats as executive director. Every day there’s a new duty,” she says with a nervous laugh. “Everything from casting the show to doing lights to doing sets. I’m renting a U-Haul to drive over to Naples, Florida, to get movie theater seats” that are needed onstage in the show. “Earlier today I was on my phone ordering jackets for the company. And I’m fitting shirts on the cast, shirts we bought at Walmart. It never stops. But I love that.”
13: The Musical was an easy choice to introduce the new company. Besides being populated with Langel’s target performer demographic of young teens, the show spoke personally to her, since she has a 13-year-old daughter.
As Langel says of the show, “I love the way it handles such difficult subjects. The bullying aspect really speaks to me, because my daughter has navigated through that so much. Dealing with mean girls.”
Still, Langel is quick to add, the show should appeal to theatergoers of all ages, even those far beyond their teen years.
“I think that’s what’s so wonderful about this show. Young people can relate to this journey that Evan goes through, but not just young people. We’ve all struggled with being accepted. Trying to be true to ourselves while trying to be popular, trying to be cool. So I think we all understand and resonate with these themes.”
She admits that these post-COVID days, when people are slow to return to the theater, is a risky time to start a theater company. “You can’t gauge when is a good time,” says Langel. “But I feel like South Florida needs this now and there couldn’t be any good time like the present to do this.
“I have a very successful vocal studio here in Florida. I see so many young people and they’re chomping at the bit to do something. I felt like I wanted to help them, to give them the space to perform in, to help them get onstage and live their dreams.”
Although her training studio gave Langel a ready pool of performers to choose from, she held open auditions for 13: The Musical. Sixty young hopefuls from throughout Palm Beach and Broward County showed up for the 20 roles and, ultimately, more than half of those she selected were new to her.
Langel is particularly high on Kane Quiles, who will be playing Evan. “He’s going to be great, even though he is new to musical theater,” she notes. “He has a terrific singing voice. A lot of choir credits, but not musicals.”
Even as Langel is launching Off-Glades, she is up for a couple of roles herself at other South Florida theaters next season. If she gets one of them, she will somehow fit it into her crowded schedule, though she is not sure how.
She expects most of her future theater work to focus on directing, “It was something I was always interested in, but never did until recently,” Langel says. “When I teach in my studio, as I’m teaching acting, I’m always directing. Now I’m actually getting to flex that muscle in a production.”
Asked what the biggest challenge she faces is, Langel has difficulty narrowing it to one. “Scheduling. Budgeting. And organizing,” she replies. “And then trying to organize your own life on top of all this stuff.” Mulling the question again, she says, “I think the budgeting is the most challenging.”
Off-Glades has a couple of private donors who have given her the seed money to get the company off the ground. Langel estimates this initial production will cost between $10,000 and $20,000. “We’re hoping to make it back on ticket sales,” she says.
The company got a deal that Langel describes as “pretty generous,” to perform at Olympic Heights High School in Boca Raton. Nevertheless, 13: The Musical will only run for two nights, June 23 and 24.
Why such a brief run? “That’s all we can afford for now,” says Langel. “The rights to these shows are so expensive.”
For the foreseeable future, she expects Off-Glades to produce one show per season. While Langel has not made a final decision on what that next show will be, she is leaning towards Joe DiPietro and Jimmy Roberts’ musical revue, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, in which she appeared for two years off-Broadway.
For the moment, though, she is optimistic about the reaction to 13: The Musical. “I think audiences will be blown away by the talent in this production,” concludes Langel. “I’d like them to leave the theater having been completely entertained and eager to come back to Off-Glades and see more of our work.”
13: THE MUSICAL runs Friday and Saturday, June 23-24, at Olympic Heights Community High School. 20101 Lyons Road, Boca Raton. Tickets: $50. Call 310-497-5964 for more information.