It's July, which means that musical theater fans are eagerly anticipating the start of the New York Musical Festival. But with 51 different shows, concerts, and events planned, how do you choose what to see? We've highlighted five of the most promising shows at this year's festival. Here they are:


1. A Wall Apart
Set in Berlin circa 1961 (the year the wall was erected), this new musical traces the lives of three brothers whose dreams are as divided as the German city. Communism, love, and rock and roll factor into this epic tale as it unfolds over the next 30 years. The music is composed by Lord Graham Russell, who is not actually a lord, but a founding member of the Australian soft-rock band Air Supply (a résumé credit that likely makes him more qualified to compose for the musical theater than a peerage, depending on whom you ask).


2. The Goree All-Girl String Band
Bluegrass fans won't want to miss this toe-tapping new musical from composer Artie Sievers and lyricist Michael Bradley. Based on a true story, it's about six female prisoners in Texas who form a band and become a radio sensation. The show employs actor-musicians and features music direction by Max Gordon, winner of the 2016 NYMF Award for Best Orchestrations for Dust Can't Kill Me.


3. Freedom Riders: The Civil Rights Musical
In 1961, black and white civil rights activists rode side by side on interstate buses across the South to challenge segregation laws and practices that stubbornly persisted even after the Supreme Court ruled them unconstitutional. Richard Allen and Taran Gray set this story of civil rights heroes like Diane Nash and John Lewis to a stirring score performed by a cast of powerhouse vocalists. Freedom Riders was presented in a scaled-down BETA production in the 2016 festival, where it received NYMF's inaugural BETA Award.


4. Matthew McConaughey vs. The Devil: An American Myth
How the hell did Matthew McConaughey win an Oscar? How the hell, indeed. Emilie Landmann, Carrie Morgan, and Jonathan Quesenberry imagine McConaughey's 2013 Best Actor win for Dallas Buyers Club as the result of a Faustian bargain. How else could the star of Dazed and Confused snag America's top acting award? This one looks like silly fun, perfect for hot July evening or afternoon of playing hooky.


5. Miss Blanche Tells It All
It's 1969 and Miss Blanche is the hottest nightclub act in New Orleans, but she is nowhere to be found. In the spirit of "the show must go on," a young man named Lee takes the stage to sing and share stories from his childhood. This new solo musical by Matthew C. Pritchard and Jason Jacobs stars NYMF favorite Brian Charles Rooney, who stole the show as a Liberace-esque tyrant in last season's Ludo's Broken Bride. This year, it's all him.