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BROADWAY WORLD: New Musical ‘LOVE IN HATE NATION’ Rocks the House at Two River Theater

By Marina Kennedy

The world premiere of the original rock musical, Love in Hate Nation is thrilling its audiences at Two River Theater. It features a book, music and lyrics by Tony Award nominee, Joe Iconis. The show is directed by John Simpkins with music direction and vocal arrangements by Annastasia Victory, music supervision and orchestrations by Charlie Rosen, and choreography by Mayte Natalio. The production is exhilarating with a meaningful and important message at its core about love and acceptance. And the cast is a total dream team as they bring the vibrant musical to life on the Red Bank Stage. We attended the opening night performance when the enthusiastic audience gave the show a standing ovation.

The story is set in the 1960’s in a juvie hall. It tells about a group of girls who are housed at the National Reformatory for Girls dubbed “Nation.” The teenagers are supervised by a cruel, controlling, and politically conservative woman named Miss Asp who is obsessed with the opportunity of being interviewed by LIFE Magazine. The newest resident in the Reformatory is Susannah Son, a musically inclined sixteen year-old, who is in need of guidance and supervision. A young man, a social activist who attends Columbia University, who is wooing her, complicates her life. But when Susannah meets a rebellious teen, Sheila Nail and the other six girls at Nation, she begins to develop her own sense of identity. Change is in the air as all of the young women strive to express themselves and revolt against an unfair system. There’s tension, humor, and romance in this exciting show that will appeal to a broad audience of theatergoers.

The remarkable cast of Love in Hate Nation includes Kelly McIntyre as Sheila Nail; Amina Faye as Susannah Son; Sydney Farley as Ya Ya; Jasmine Forsberg as Rat; Lauren Marcus as Ms. Asp; Lena Skeele as Dorothy; Emerson Mae Smith as Kitty; Ryan Vona as The Guy playing multiple roles; and Tatiana Wechsler as Judith. The energy of these talented individuals makes the fast-moving scenes totally enthralling.

Rock, punk rock, and moving melodies are included in the score, songs that will echo in your memory. The music and choreographies perfectly complement the story, a must for a great musical. Some of our favorites include “Life in Hate Nation” by The Girls; “Doc Shock Theme Song” by Doc Shock; “Miss Asp’s Song” by Miss Asp; “The Other One” by Sheila and Susannah; “Jezebel” by Ya-Ya; “Masochist” by Kitty, Susannah and The Girls; and “Revolution Song” by The Girls.

The creativity of the design team makes the show pop with scenic design by Meredith Ries; costume design by Karen Perry; lighting design by Isabella Byrd; and sound design by Palmer Hefferan. The hair & wig designer is J. Jared Janas and the fight director & intimacy consultant is Rocío Mendez. The casting is by Telsey + Casting, Rachel Hoffman, CSA and Lily Schneider. The assistant stage manager is Nicole Kuker and the production stage manager is Amanda Michaels.

Ticket prices for Love in Hate Nation range from $40 to $70, with discounts available for groups, seniors, and U.S. military personnel, their families, and veterans. A limited number of $25 tickets are available for every performance; $25 tickets may be partial view. Tickets for patrons under 30 are $25 and include the best available seats at every performance. Tickets are available from or 732.345.1400. The theatre is located at 21 Bridge Avenue, Red Bank, NJ 07701.