Dessa Rose (musical)

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Dessa Rose
Music Stephen Flaherty
Lyrics Lynn Ahrens
Book Lynn Ahrens
Basis novel by Sherley Anne Williams

2005 Off Broadway

2014 West End

Dessa Rose is a musical based on the book by Sherley Anne Williams with book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and music by Stephen Flaherty. It tells the story of a young black woman and a young white woman and their journey to acceptance in 1847 in the ante-bellum South, as they tell their story to their grandchildren.


Dessa Rose had a workshop in Summer 2003 with Donna Murphy and LaChanze.[1]

Dessa Rose premiered at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center, New York City, from February 17 in previews, officially March 21 to May 29, 2005. The director and choreograher was Graciela Daniele, with Set Design by Loy Arcenas, Costume Design by Toni-Leslie James, Lighting Design by Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer, and Orchestrations by William David Brohn and Christopher Jahnke. The cast featured LaChanze as Dessa Rose and Rachel York as Ruth.[2]

A regional production was staged by TheatreWorks, Palo Alto, California, October 7, 2006 through October 29. Linda Mugleston and Carly Hughes were featured.[3][4]

The New England Premiere was at New Repertory Theatre in 2008. It was directed by Rick Lombardo. Music direction was by Todd Gordon, choreography by Kelli Edwards, fight direction by Meron Langsner, sets by Peter Colao, costumes by Frances Nelson McSherry, and lights by Frank Messiner Jr. It starred Leigh Barret, Uzo Aduba, and Todd Allan Johnson.

The European premiere was at the Trafalgar Studios in London, 29th July to 30th August, 2014. The cast included Cynthia Erivo, Cassidy Janson, Sharon Benson and Miquel Brown.

A cast album was recorded on May 2, 2005 and released by Jay Productions.[5]

The music contains "American roots music — blues, folk, different hymns, early kinds of gospel, the idea of call-and-response, which was a coded way the slaves communicated so that the white people thought they were just singing."[6]

Original cast[edit]

Actor Role
LaChanze Dessa Rose (ages 16 and 80)
Rachel York Ruth (ages 20 and 84)
Tina Fabrique Rose, House Slave, Ada, Auntie Chole
Rebecca Eichenberger Ruth's mother, Mrs. Steele, Susannah
Kecia Lewis Dorcas, Field Hand, Gemina, Janet
Eric Jordan Young Kaine, Field Hand, Philip
David Hess Sheriff Hughes, Trader Wilson, Bertie Sutton, Parishioner, Auctioneer
Michael Hayden Adam Nehemiah
William Parry Robert Steele, Parishioner, Auctioneer, Mr. Oscar, Sheriff Pine
Norm Lewis Nathan
James Stovall Haker, Field Hand
Soara-Joye Ross Field Hand, Parishioner, House Slave, Annabel


Awards and nominations[edit]


  1. ^ Simonson, Robert."New Flaherty-Ahrens Musical, Dessa Rose, to Workshop in Summer 2003", December 6, 2002
  2. ^ Simonson, Robert."La Chanze and Rachel York Bloom in Antebellum Dessa Rose, Opening March 21", March 21, 2005
  3. ^ Hernandez, Ernio.Linda Mugleston Stars in Dessa Rose at Palo Alto's TheatreWorks Oct. 4", October 4, 2006
  4. ^ Connema, Richard.Review, Dessa Rose at TheatreWorks, October 25, 2006
  5. ^ Suskin, Steven."Flaherty and Ahrens’ Dessa Rose and Sandy Wilson’s The Buccaneer", January 8, 2006
  6. ^ Arnold, Monty."Dessacreation", March 21, 2005
  • Dessa Rose, cast album liner notes, Jay Productions CDJAY2 1392

External links[edit]