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Original staging by Broadway director Stephen Brackett in his Olney Theatre Center debut; Phoenix Best (Dear Evan Hansen) and Ben Fankhauser (Disney’s Newsies) to star as teenaged Mary Magdalene and Jesus

Olney, MD — January 11, 2022 — Olney Theatre Center is proud to launch the world premiere of A.D. 16 (February 4 – March 6, 2022), a new musical from writers Cinco Paul (co-creator of Despicable Me and Schmigadoon!) and Bekah Brunstetter (producer and writer on This Is Us). Both heartwarming and hilarious, A.D. 16 follows the story of a teenaged Mary Magdalene as she falls in love with the carpenter’s son next door… who happens to be a kid named Jesus. The show features an original  score inspired by 90s R&B, hip hop, and pop, and is directed by award-winning Broadway veteran Stephen Brackett, who staged the first productions of Be More Chill, The Lightning Thief and next heads to NYC for the Broadway production of A Strange Loop. Phoenix Best, whose past roles include Alana Beck in Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway and Eponine in the Les Miserables National Tour, will star as the lovestruck Mary Magdalene. Best known for his role as Davey in Disney’s NewsiesBen Fankhauser will star opposite Best as the young and idealistic Jesus. Three-time Tony Award-winner Doug Besterman provides the orchestrations. The show was workshopped at Olney Theatre Center in 2019, and is now mounted in association with Sloane Productions, LLC which has provided enhancement funds with an eye towards a possible New York production.

The invited press performance is Thursday, February 10 at 8:00 pm. Interested critics may reserve two tickets by emailing sstraub@olneytheatre.orgTickets are available from $42 – $85 and can be purchased at olneytheatre.org or 301-924-3400.

Once in a very great while, a new musical comes along that promises to heal a fractured world,” said Artistic Director Jason Loewith. “I felt that four years ago, when I attended a showcase of musicals-in-process and heard excerpts from the show.  Four years later, after all we’ve been through, I believe it even more, in my bones. We are all in need of joy, and we are all in need of healing. And no matter your religious background, no matter your experience of musical theater, this show will delight the most intellectual brain and melt the most cynical heart as it calls each and every one of us to be our best selves, for the good of our community.”

Loewith continued, “As his hilarious AppleTV+ hit Schmigadoon proved, there’s no funnier songwriter than Cinco Paul, who is best known for the mega-hit franchise Despicable Me. And Bekah Brunstetter is that ever-rarer breed of playwright with real credibility as a person of faith and a top-tier writer. And at the helm we’re lucky to have director Stephen Brackett, whose track record mounting joyous new musicals is unparallelled. This is the team and this is the musical we’ve been waiting for.”  ”

A.D. 16 asks the question, what if your crush really was perfect? Both inspiring and delightfully witty, the musical comedy follows Mary Magdalene’s quest to impress the boy next door, Jesus. In the process, she fends off a trio of 1st-Century Mean Girls and a bunch of Beastie Boys-inspired wiseguys from the Sanhedrin. She learns that getting Jesus to love you back is both easier – and harder – than she ever imagined. With a lush R&B score and a riotous cast of characters, A.D. 16 achieves the rare feat of being both funny and sincere. A winner of the Edgerton Foundation New Play AwardA.D. 16 is a thrilling and fun musical for people of all faiths, or no faith at all.

Cinco Paul, along with his long-time writing partner Ken Daurio, has co-authored the screenplays for numerous animated feature films, including Despicable Me and its sequels, Dr. Suess’ The Lorax, and The Secret Life of Pets. Additionally, he is the creator, executive producer, and songwriter for the musical comedy series Schmigadoon! on Apple TV+, a parody of and homage to Golden Age musicals of the 1940s and 50s.

Bekah Brunstetter is a playwright and screenwriter, whose published plays include F*cking Art, The Cake, I Used to Write on Walls, Oohrah!,  Be a Good Little Widow, and the upcoming musical Notebook. Her television work includes writing for Maid, This Is Us, American Gods, Switched At Birth, and Underemployed. She is a co-founder of The Kilroys’ List, a gender parity initiative that releases an annual list of highly recommended contemporary plays by female and transgender authors.

Director Stephen Brackettstaged the original Broadway productions of Be More Chill and The Lightning Thief. He also directed the original production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical A Strange Loop, first at Playwrights Horizons and recently at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in D.C., for which he himself won a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Musical. A Strange Loop is expected to premiere on Broadway this year at the Lyceum Theatre. Brackett’s Off-Broadway directing credits include Buyer & Cellar (Rattlestick/Barrow Street/National Tour/Menier Chocolate Factory), The Mad Ones (Prospect Theater), Ultimate Beauty Bible (Page 73), Carnival Kids (Lesser America), After (Partial Comfort), Be A Good Little Widow (Ars Nova), and The Tenant (Woodshed Collective). His upcoming work includes To My Girls at Second Stage and Radiant Baby at Two River.

In addition to her role as Alana Beck in Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway, Phoenix Best has been seen in the Tony, Emmy, and Grammy Award-winning revival of The Color Purple. She portrayed Eponine in the National Tour of Les Miserables, and her screen credits include Ogechi in Love Life on HBO Max, and Mercy & Charity in Estella Scrooge on Broadway On Demand.

Ben Fankhauser originated the role of Davey in the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Newsies. He has also appeared in the first National Tours of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical and Spring Awakening. In addition to his work onstage, he co-authored the musical A Commercial Jingle for Regina Comet, currently playing at the Off-Broadway DR2 Theatre.

The world premiere of A.D. 16 will also feature Kelli Blackwell as Diana, Alan H. Green as Jacob, Jade Jones as Jessica, Jared Loftin as Nicholas, Calvin McCullough as Matthias, Adelina Mitchell as Ruth, Christian Montgomery as Bartimaeus, Da’Von Moody as Simeon, and Chani Wereley as Esther. The ensemble includes Alex De Bard, Sylvern Groomes, RJ Pavel, John Sygar, and Kanysha Williams; with Tiffany Lyn Royster and Chris Urquiaga as swings. The production showcases orchestrations and music supervision by Doug Besterman, music direction by Christopher Youstra, choreography by Katie Spelman, scenic design by Walt Spangler, costume design by Emilio Sosa, sound design by Matt Rowe, lighting design by Colin K. Bills and Wig Design by Anne NesmithKaren Currie serves as Production Stage Manager.

A.D. 16 was developed, in part, at SPACE on Ryder Farm, and at Rhinebeck Writers Retreat.


Masks and proof of COVID vaccination are required to attend for all patrons. Exemptions may be made for those who are not vaccinated, such as children under 5, people with certain medical conditions preventing vaccination, or those with closely held religious beliefs. These patrons must provide proof of a timely negative Covid-19 PCR test taken within 48 hours or a rapid antigen test taken within six hours of showtime.Visit OlneyTheatre.org/vax for more information.


A.D. 16

Book by Bekah Brunstetter

Music & Lyrics by Cinco Paul

Story by Cinco Paul

Directed by Stephen Brackett

Orchestrations/Music Supervision by Doug Besterman

Music Direction by Christopher Youstra

Choreography by Katie Spelman

February 4 – March 6, 2022

Tickets: $42-$85 available at olneytheatre.org/ad16 and 301-924-3400

Behind-the-Scenes Events

Cinco Paul And Bekah Brunstetter

In Conversation With Jason Loewith

Thursday, February 10th – 5:00 – 6:00 PM


Free For Members/$10 General Public

Prior to opening night Jason sits down with creators A.D.16., Cinco Paul (Lyrics and Music) and Bekah Brunstetter (Book) to talk about the process of creating their new musical.

Who Were the Women of the Gospels?

Saturday, February 19 at 5:00 pm

Free with RSVP

In addition to being the teenaged heroine of A.D. 16, Mary Magdalene is prominent among the few women mentioned in the Christian canonical Gospels and perhaps the most complex. She was present at the Crucifixion, and sent by Jesus to announce his resurrection to the Apostles. Her story provides vital clues about Jesus’ nameless female disciples, and the status of women two thousand years ago. Behind the Scenes brings together a powerhouse panel of Biblical scholars to discuss the intersection of gender, culture and faith through the portrayal of women in the Hebrew and Christian Bible.

Speakers: Reverend Diane Dixon-Proctor (Sharp Street United Methodist Church), Dr. Annalisa Buttici (Georgetown University), and Cantor Stepahnie Weishaar (Kol Nefresh).



Olney Theatre Center for the Arts produces and curates theatrical performance for the diverse audiences in our community, and educates, learns from, supports and inspires a more inclusive generation of theater-makers.


We strive to become an arts and culture powerhouse, redefining the American regional theater movement by cultivating and sharing the creativity of our community.


Founded in 1938 as a summer playhouse, Olney Theatre Center (OTC) now produces world and American premieres of plays and musicals, and reimaginings of familiar titles year-round; presents the work of leading companies and artists; tours nationally and locally; teaches students of all ages; and mentors a more inclusive generation of theatremakers. For more than 8 decades, OTC has brought impactful theater performance and education to our community, helping to grow the vibrancy and vitality of our home in the Washington, DC region.

Over the years, some of the biggest names in theater and film have appeared on our stages, including Tallulah Bankhead, Helen Hayes, Jessica Tandy, Hume Cronyn, Bob Fosse, Phillip Bosco, Eve Arden, Eva Gabor, Burl Ives, Jose Ferrer, Carol Channing, Olivia d’Havilland, Tony Randall, Paulette Goddard, Dorothy and Lillian Gish, Jane Seymour, Anne Revere, Frances Sternhagen, Arthur Treacher, James Broderick, Olympia Dukakis, Sir Ian McKellen, Marica Gay Harden, John Colicos, Uzo Aduba, Alan Cumming, Cheyenne Jackson, Robin de Jesus, Wilson Jermaine Heredia, among many, many others.

Olney Theatre is now the cultural anchor of a rapidly changing region and serves one of the most diverse, best educated, and wealthiest counties in the country. Situated on the unceded land of the Piscataway-Conoy people, the Olney area was once a rural farming community with a unique Quaker heritage. Now the area is occupied by every kind of family that makes up 21st Century America, along with major corporations, shopping districts, civic associations, non profit organizations and a diverse collection of houses of worship. Montgomery County’s 1 million residents play a dynamic role in the Baltimore-Washington corridor, and are a driving force behind the region’s creative economy.

Olney Theatre Center employs 40 full time staff, 20 part-time positions, 26 early career apprentices and players, and more than 400 professional artists annually. The Theatre intends to continue expanding to better meet the needs of our community.

For more information, please visit olneytheatre.org/history

Follow Olney Theatre Center on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok @olneytheatre and on Facebook at facebook.com/olneytheatre.


Hippodrome Theatre: Health and Safety Policy

The below policies are effective September 2, 2021 and will remain in place until further notice. We will regularly evaluate our policies and may update them based on public health guidance and applicable law. Updated policies will be shared with you prior to your performance. Thank you for your cooperation as we prioritize the safe return of our audiences, staff, volunteers and performers.

Vaccination Requirements

In Effect Until Further Notice

All guests ages 12 and older must be Fully Vaccinated against COVID-19 with an FDA or WHO authorized or approved vaccine and must show proof of vaccination at their time of entry into the theater with their ticket.

“Fully vaccinated” means the performance date must be at least 14 days after the second dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine, or at least 14 days after a single-dose COVID-19 vaccine.

Proof of vaccination can be in one of the following forms and should include name of person vaccinated, type of vaccine provided and date last dose administered:

  • Vaccination card;
  • A clear photo of the front and back of a vaccination card as a separate document (the entire card must be visible and legible);
  • A clear photo of the front and back of the attendee’s vaccine card stored on a phone or electronic device (the entire card must be visible and legible); or
  • Digital vaccination record (including those issued by your health provider, government or another third party provider such as CLEAR).

Self-reported vaccination records that are not verified by a health care provider cannot be accepted.

Exceptions to our vaccination requirements will only be made for:

  • Guests under the age of 12 (provided such guest is accompanied by an adult who meets our entry requirements); or
  • Guests who need a reasonable accommodation due to a medical condition or a sincerely held religious belief that prevents vaccination.

Guests 12 years of age and above who cannot be vaccinated due to a medical condition or a sincerely held religious belief must provide a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours prior to the performance start time or a negative COVID-19 antigen test taken within 24 hours prior to the performance start time, verified or administered by a third party –

The following are acceptable as proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR or antigen test results:

  • Printed document from the test provider or laboratory, or
  • An email or text message displayed on a phone or electronic device from the test provider or laboratory.

The information provided needs to include name of person tested, type of test performed and date of negative PCR test result (date must be within 72 hours prior to performance start time) or negative antigen test result (date must be within 24 hours prior to performance start time).

Self-reported negative COVID-19 test results that are not from a third party test provider,  laboratory or health care provider will not be accepted.

All guests age 18 and over are also required to provide a current government-issued photo ID (such as a driver’s license or passport) along with their proof of vaccination or negative test.

Entry will be denied and tickets may not be refunded for guests who do not provide the above required documentation on the day of their performance.

Mask Requirements

In Effect Until Further Notice

All patrons must wear a face mask when inside the venue, except while actively eating or drinking in designated areas.  Single-use disposable masks and cloth masks with at least two layers of tightly woven breathable fabric are acceptable. Gaiters, scarves, and bandanas are not considered acceptable face coverings. Masks must cover the nose and mouth and be secured under the chin. While the mask policy is in place, no food or drink may be consumed in the auditorium.


Guests with accessibility questions, or who require additional assistance related to the venue’s COVID-19 policies may contact us at access@BaltimoreHippodrome.comor call 443.703.2444.

Other Concerns

Please contact us at Service@BaltimoreHippodrome.com before your performance if you have questions about our policies or to understand your options if you cannot meet the above Vaccination and Mask Requirements.

Other COVID-19 related health protocols may be in effect at the time of performance.  We reserve the right to unilaterally make changes to health protocols according to updated public health guidance and applicable law. Future updates will be provided to ticket holders prior to the performance. Any ticket holder who does not comply with any COVID-19 related health protocol on-site at the venue may be required to leave the theater, and his/her ticket may not be refunded. Please note: Events are being planned at full capacity, subject to applicable law and governmental approval and there will not be separate sections for vaccinated and unvaccinated patrons. 

An inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any place where people gather. You assume all risks, hazards and dangers arising from or relating in any way to the risk of contracting COVID-19 or any other communicable disease or illness, or a bacteria, virus or other pathogen capable of causing a communicable disease or illness, whether occurring before, during or after the event, however caused or contracted, and voluntarily waive all claims and potential claims against the Venue’s owners and operators, the Venue, Event Organizers, the Presenter, the Producer, the Event and their respective affiliates, subsidiaries, sponsors, successors and assigns and their respective officers, employees, contractors and agents. 


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