Saturday, February 21, 2015

"The Robber Bridegroom" Bluegrass Musical Returns

Greensboro College Theatre poster for current production - note the silhouettes in the design
Illustrations either side by Barry Moser for the 1987 edition of Eudora Welty's book

"... A charming bridegroom by day and a suave robber by night. Rosamund is the poor little rich girl who loves him. Salome is the wicked stepmother who tries, and largely fails, to throw a wrench (and even a poisoned apple) into the works... If this sounds like the makings of a fairy tale, that’s because it is: a Grimm fairy tale, no less, adapted into a Southern Gothic classic by Eudora Welty before being turned into a manic bluegrass musical comedy...  Greensboro College is staging the rarely-performed musical adaptation of "The Robber Bridegroom..."
I'm going to squeak notice of this show onto the blog late today, even though tomorrow (Sunday, February 22) is the last day it's showing, because just the fact that this exists and is back in performance circulation is good fairy tale news! (And you can keep an eye out for it in future too.)

Yes. The musical is based on the Bluebeard-related fairy tale The Robber Bridegroom (more specifically, on Eudora Weltey's Southern Gothic novel, which was based on the fairy tale - text is HERE), and is comic, a little bawdy and full of bluegrass music. In other words, it's probably not quite would you would expect if you're familiar with the tale. (I've included a number of different posters for the musical, along with the current one, to give you a better idea of the tone.)

In case you've never heard of the musical version you should know this is considered quite a unique, though oft-forgotten, masterful work, among musical theater folk. It helped launch the careers of Kevin Kline, Patty LuPone and Barry Bostwick (the latter earning a Tony that season for Leading Actor in a musical).

From some older productions here's a cobbling together of some different summaries to give you an idea of the show:

Set in eighteenth-century Mississippi, the show follows Jamie Lockhart, a rascally robber of the woods, as he courts Rosamund, the only daughter of the richest planter in the country. The proceedings go awry, however, thanks to a case of double-mistaken identity. Throw in an evil stepmother intent on Rosamund's demise, her pea-brained henchman, and a hostile talking head-in-a-trunk, and you have a rollicking country romp.It has one foot in the Southern Gothic tradition, the other in a fairy tale, and an arm gleefully waving about in comedy. 
The music is one of the only genuine bluegrass scores ever heard in a Broadway musical: challenging fiddle melodies that twist, turn, and gather velocity like a hare escaping a panther, only to slide back down into the warmth of a quiet Southern night. With its distinct sound, colorful cast, and unique form of storytelling, "The Robber Bridegroom" is a hidden gem!
In case you have this evening free and are in the area, here's the information on the tickets:you can get more information on the times and tickets HERE
From the Greensboro Theatre press release: 
"The Robber Bridegroom"'s book and lyrics were written by Alfred Uhury, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "Driving Miss Daisy," and were based on a 1942 novella by Eudora Welty. Music is by Robert Waldman. Opening on Broadway in 1975, this rousing, bawdy Southern fairytale has gone on to become a regional favorite. As Broadway historian Peter Filichia puts it, "This is a favorite show of many people who hate musicals, because it eschews the more obvious conventions and has no trouble being its unpretentious self."
The Robber Bridegroom, small illustration by Walter Crane from Household Stories by The Brothers Grimm

Sources: HERE, HERE & HERE.

Fairy Tale Bonus of the Day:
Here's a link to the full background and analysis of the musical The Robber Bridegroom, by Scott Miller. It's quite lengthy but very readable and extremely fascinating, asking all sorts of great questions about men and women, relationships and how we view sex. With regard to current pop culture fascinations, specifically, 50 Shades of Grey, and Bluebeard tendencies to continuously rear their head, no matter how modernized, liberated and equal opportunity we believe ourselves to be, this is a good article to reference. Why? Because this is exactly what the musical is all about. The manner of the telling, with a large dose of tongue in cheek and folklore flavor, actually makes the material easier to consider and discuss. So if you're interested in Bluebeard, check out the article. You won't be disappointed. 
You can click HERE to read it.

1 comment:

  1. Sorry to miss the show, but thanks for the post. I have never read Eudora Welty's novella, but, as I love Bluebeard stories, I guess I really should!