DATE: January 9, 2018
MRT PR CONTACT: Jeanne Williams, 978-654-7561,
KLEBAN PRIZE PR CONTACT: Brett Oberman and Logan Meridith Metzler at Keith Sherman & Associates 212-764-7900,
BOX OFFICE: 978-654-4678


“My 80-Year-Old Boyfriend” lyricist awarded $100,000 for the 2018 Kleban Prize for Musical Theatre

Lowell, MA – Merrimack Repertory Theatre (MRT) is pleased to share the news that The Kleban Foundation’s 28th Annual Kleban Prize for Musical Theatre for the most promising musical theatre librettist has been awarded to Christian Duhamel for his work on My 80-Year-Old Boyfriend, a musical that received its world premiere at MRT in Lowell in April 2017.

While the Kleban Prize typically goes to one lyricist and one librettist each year, this year there are three winners, each of whom will receive $100,000, payable over two years. Alan Schmuckler and Amanda Yesnowitz were given the lyricist prize, while Christian Duhamel is the recipient of this year’s librettist award.

“We couldn’t be prouder to have an artist, and the work they premiered at MRT, win one of theatre’s most prestigious national awards,” said MRT Artistic Director Sean Daniels. “I have no doubt this is only the beginning of Christian’s long and robust career. Also, it’s gratifying to see that the people of Lowell and MRT’s subscribers and donors get to see these new works before anyone else in the country—and that work is going on to be recognized as the best nationally.”

Under Artistic Director Sean Daniels, MRT has presented 11 world premieres in his first three years. Year one under Daniels’ direction featured the award-winning musical The Lion, year two featured the award-winning musical My 80-Year-Old Boyfriend, and the upcoming musical Little Orphan Danny written by and starring Dan Finnerty premieres in March 2018.

Christian Duhamel added, “It's such a tremendous honor to receive this award from the Kleban Foundation. I'm grateful to my collaborators, Ed Bell and Charissa Bertels, for always pushing me to write beyond my best. And I feel so lucky to have developed My 80-Year-Old Boyfriend under the watchful eyes of producer Peilin Chou and the vision of director Sean Daniels when we premiered the show at Merrimack Repertory Theatre.”


The 2018 prizes will be presented on Monday, February 5, 2018, in a private ceremony hosted by The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers and BMI at ASCAP. Since its inception, Kleban Prize winners have been selected by judging panels comprised of the theatre’s most respected artists and administrators. The judges making the final determination this year were Tony®-nominated actress Marin Mazzie (The King & I, Kiss Me Kate, Ragtime, Passion), Tony®-nominated composer and lyricist Dave Malloy (Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812), and author and professor Laurence Maslon (American Musicals; Broadway: The American Musical, Associate Chair/Arts Professor, New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts).

The Kleban Foundation was established in 1988 under the will of Edward L. Kleban, best known as the Tony and Pulitzer Prize winning lyricist of the musical A Chorus Line. For 28 years, The Kleban Prize, which has recognized and honored some of the American musical theatre’s brightest developing talents, is unique in that it is bestowed not just for an artist’s previous achievements, but for the promise of creativity to come. Over the past 28 years, the annual Kleban Prize for Musical Theatre has awarded approximately $5,000,000 to 63 artists who collectively have garnered four Tony Awards (with nearly 30 Tony nominations), 59 Emmy Awards, three Grammy Awards, 10 Drama Desk Awards, nine Outer Critic Circle Awards, four Obie Awards, two Olivier Awards, and two Pulitzer Prizes. The list of previous Kleban Prize winners includes Lisa Kron (Fun Home), Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez (Avenue Q), and Glenn Slater (The Little Mermaid). For more information about The Kleban Prize, visit:


Merrimack Repertory Theatre (MRT) presented the World Premiere of the musical My 80-Year-Old Boyfriend from April 26 to May 21, 2017. Written by Christian Duhamel and Edward Bell, conceived and performed by Charissa Bertels; and directed by Sean Daniels. In this delightful new musical, Charissa, a quirky, twenty-something actress, meets Milton, a quick-witted, eighty-something millionaire who loves Schubert, Shakespeare, and Dallas BBQ. From a chance encounter to the unlikeliest of friendships, Charissa discovers there's much she can learn from her surprising new companion. Based on the true story of performer Charissa Bertels, My 80-Year-Old Boyfriend reveals the thrill of chasing a dream, the power of living in the now, and all that can happen when we let ourselves say "yes." For more information on the musical, visit: Selected reviews:

“Charissa Bertels is nothing short of phenomenal. There is surely no one who wouldn’t enjoy this absolutely lovely story of a beautiful friendship, presented with humor, love and Broadway-level entertainment.” —Nashua Telegraph

"Within seconds of singing her final note in “What Counts” the audience leapt to their feet with robust applause and cheers giving Bertels a long-lasting standing ovation that was entirely well deserved. This touching and humorous musical is bound to not only tug at your heartstrings, but make you laugh and send you out of the theatre smiling. This new musical is a must see this May and Charissa Bertels’ performance is not to be missed!” —OnStage Blog

"My 80-Year-Old Boyfriend is a joyous delight, performed with skill and passion: an irresistible reminder that time flies.” —Arts Fuse


Christian Duhamel (2018 Kleban Prize winner, most promising musical theatre librettist) is a playwright, composer, actor and educator. In 2017, he served as a Songwriting Artist in Residence with Oriental DreamWorks. His newest musical, My 80-Year-Old Boyfriend, written with composer/lyricist Ed Bell, directed by Sean Daniels, and starring Charissa Bertels, received its world premiere at Merrimack Repertory Theatre, produced by Peilin Chou. His other works include The Girl Who Turned Into a Feather (Something Marvelous Festival); Miss Mayor (Puzzle Theatre Festival; B-Side Productions’ New American Musical Award finalist); Reinventing Romance (Kennedy Center ACTF awards for music, lyrics, playwriting and direction; David Mark Cohen National Playwriting Award finalist); Worlds Apart (Music Theatre Ventures’ Young Creators Award); X-Mas: A Merry Mutant Holiday Spectacular; Reeling; and Mary Walker Wears What She Wants. He has presented concert works at The Duplex, 54 Below, The Neon, Martin's Off Madison, New Voices, and The Battersea Barge, and has received commissions from theaters across the country, such as Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre, Seattle Shakespeare Company/Wooden-O, and The Human Race Theatre Company. As an actor, he has been seen onstage at the 5th Avenue Theatre, Village Theatre, and the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, among others. A native of Kellogg, Idaho who grew up in the Seattle suburbs, Christian is alumnus of DePaul University and Wright State University. He currently resides in New York City where he is an active member of the Dramatists Guild of America, the Off-Broadway Alliance, Actors’ Equity Association, and the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop.


Merrimack Repertory Theatre (MRT) has been Merrimack Valley’s professional theatre company since 1979 and is an integral part of Lowell’s identity as the cultural heart of the region. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Sean Daniels and Executive Director Bonnie J. Butkas, MRT’s mission is to share theatrical stories of human understanding that reflect and engage our community. A seven-show season runs from September through May in the intimate 279-seat Nancy L. Donahue Theatre. The company is known as a leader in producing new plays, especially world and regional premieres. MRT is one of 72 theatres nationwide (one of three in Massachusetts) with membership in LORT (the League of Resident Theatres).

MRT 2017-18 SEASON

The Royale by Marco Ramirez, Directed by Megan Sandberg-Zakian
September 13 – October 8, 2017

Silent Sky by Lauren Gunderson, Directed by Sean Daniels
October 18 – November 12, 2017

A Christmas Carol Adapted by Tony Brown, Directed by Megan Sandberg-Zakian
November 29 – December 24, 2017

KNYUM, Created and performed by Vichet Chum, Directed by KJ Sanchez
January 10 – February 4, 2018

Lost Laughs: The Slapstick Tragedy of Fatty Arbuckle by Andy Bayiates and Aaron Muñoz, Directed by Nathan Keepers
February 14 – March 11, 2018

Little Orphan Danny Originally Conceived by Dan Finnerty; Created by Sean Daniels and Dan Finnerty; Book, Music, and Lyrics by Dan Finnerty; Additional Music by Dan Lipton; Directed by Sean Daniels
March 21 – April 15, 2018

The Villains’ Supper Club by Lila Rose Kaplan, Directed by Sean Daniels
April 25 – May 20, 2018


Performance Space: The Nancy L. Donahue Theatre 
(In Liberty Hall, adjacent to Lowell Memorial Auditorium)
50 E. Merrimack Street
Lowell, MA 01852
Box Office: 978-654-4678


1. Visit the  My 80-Year-Old Boyfriend Photo Collection of Flickr (
2. Select a photo from the Photo Stream or the Albums
3. Click on the thumbnail and let the image load in your browser on the Flickr site.
4. Click the download button and select “View All Sizes.”
5. Select the size you wish to download from the choices listed across the top of the image.
6. Click the "Download the ___ size of this photo..." link at the top. The image will download to your computer.

You may also visit the MRT Photos page for this show, at

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