The Robber Bridegroom (musical)

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The Robber Bridegroom
original Broadway poster art
Music Robert Waldman
Lyrics Alfred Uhry
Book Alfred Uhry
Productions 1975 Broadway
1976 Broadway

The Robber Bridegroom is a musical with a book and lyrics by Alfred Uhry and music by Robert Waldman. The story is based on the 1942 novella by Eudora Welty of the same name, with a Robin Hood-like hero; the adaptation placed it in a late 18th-century American setting. The musical ran on Broadway in 1975 and again in 1976.

Production history[edit]

The show started with an early 1970s production at St Clements Theatre in producer Stuart Ostrow's Musical Theatre Lab, which invented the concept of the "workshop" development process for musicals. Raul Julia starred as Lockhart.. Other cast members included Steve Vinovich (Clemment Musgrove), Rhonda Coullet (Rosamund), John Getz (Little Harp), Ernie Sabella (Big Harp), Trip Plymale (Goat), Dana Kyle (Airie), Susan Berger (Salome), John Houseman bought the show for his group, The Acting Company and took it to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs, New York with Kevin Kline replacing Julia, Patti LuPone as Rosamund, and Mary Lou Rosato as Salome. It then was staged at the Ravinia Festival in Chicago in the summer of 1975.[1]

The first Broadway production, with the same Ravinia cast directed by Gerald Freedman and choreographed by Donald Saddler, opened in a limited engagement on October 7, 1975 at the Harkness Theatre, where it ran for 14 performances and 1 preview before setting out on a one-year US national tour. Its success on the road convinced the producers to mount a revamped Broadway production with an extended book and expanded, heavily bluegrass-tinged score.

The music was arranged for guitar, fiddle, mandolin, bass and banjo, deemed "country and Southern" by Clive Barnes.[2]

The second Broadway production opened on October 9, 1976 at the Biltmore Theatre, where it ran for 145 performances and 12 previews. The show was directed by Freedman, choreographed by Saddler, scenery Douglas W. Schmidt, costumes Jeanne Button, lighting David F. Segal, associate producer Porter Van Zandt, production stage manager Mary Porter Hall, stage manager Bethe Ward, and press by Sandra Manley and The Merlin Group, Ltd. The band, or the "McVourie River Volunteers", consisted of Bob Jones (guitar, fiddle), Alan Kaufman (fiddle, mandolin), Steve Mandell (guitar, banjo), Roger Mason (acoustic and electric bass), Evan Stover (fiddle), and Tony Trischka (banjo, bandleader). The cast included Barry Bostwick (Lockhart), Steve Vinovich (Clemment Musgrove), Rhonda Coullet (Rosamund), Lawrence John Moss (Little Harp), Ernie Sabella (Big Harp), Trip Plymale (Goat), Susan Berger (Goat's Mother), Jana Schneider (Airie), Carolyn McCurry (Raven), and Barbara Lang (Salome). The residents of Rodney included George DeLoy (Kyle Nunnery), Gary Epp (Harmon Harper), B.J. Hardin (Norman Ogelsby), Mary Murray (Queenie Brenner), Melinda Tanner (Rose Otto), Dennis Warning (Gerry G. Summers), and Tom Westerman (K.K. Pone).

An original cast recording of the 1976 production was released by CBS.[3]

Since its inception, the show has been staged regularly by regional theatres throughout the country.

Synopsis[edit]

In modern times, Jamie and the other people involved tell of their ancestors, and the time dissolves to 18th-century Mississippi.

Robin Hood-like Jamie Lockhart, a legendary character in Mississippi folklore, rescues Clemment Musgrove, who is the wealthiest plantation owner in Natchez Trace from the Harp gang and attempts to woo and win his daughter Rosamond. Standing in his way is her stepmother Salome, whose romantic designs on the gentleman robber lead her to plot the girl's murder. Her scheme falls apart when the clueless henchman she hires to do the deed mistakenly kidnaps Salome instead. What ensues is a series of escapades worthy of a Grimm fairy tale.

Characters[edit]

  • Jamie Lockhart/the Bandit of the Wood - A "gent and a robber all in one," Jamie Lockhart/the Bandit of the Wood is the show's main character. His true identity, Jamie, is an honest, law-abiding man who ends up engaged to Clement Musgrove's daughter Rosamund (though she is in disguise); while his alter-ego, the Bandit, is a swindling robber who comes across the undisguised Rosamund in the wood and becomes her lover.
  • Rosamund - Clement Musgrove's beautiful, naive, doted-upon daughter by his first wife. She meets the Bandit of the Wood and falls in love with him; she disguises herself and makes herself undesirably dim-witted when Jamie Lockhart comes to visit, unaware that he and the Bandit are the same person (and he is unaware Rosamund is the girl he met in the wood).
  • Salome - Clement's second wife. Older and ugly, she calls herself the "prickly pear" to the "lily bud" that was Rosamund's late mother, who was just as beautiful as Rosamund. However, she is quite a bit more intelligent than her husband and stepdaughter; detesting Rosamund, she puts her intelligence to use and spends the duration of the show thinking up schemes to kill Rosamund, enlisting the help of the "village idiot," Goat.
  • Clement Musgrove - Rosamund's father, Clement is the richest planter on the Natchez Trace. Clement still harbours longings for his first wife (often he compares his daughter to his first wife, though it always accidentally is in a sexual manner), and this makes Salome, his second wife, incredibly jealous. Clement vows to marry Rosamund off to Jamie, who he doesn't realise is the Bandit of the Wood.
  • Little Harp - The most gruesome bandit in the history of the Trace, Little Harp is a horny, dirty man. He is violent and seems to only fear the Bandit of the Wood. He spends the show looking for money to steal and women to rape - particularly helpless girls who are tied up - but through this, he becomes intricately involved in the show's mayhem. He is the brute half of the Harp brothers duo. However, he does prove to have some of his brother's intelligence, as he comes up with several ingenious schemes (though they all fail in the end and cause his death).
  • Goat - The dumb boy with a brain the size of a scuppernong seed, Goat is enlisted by Salome to carry out her plans to kill Rosamund in exchange for a suckling pig, though Goat's many attempts to do as she asks go awry. In the end, he strikes a better deal with Little Harp. His sister is Airie.
  • Big Harp - A "cut off head in a trunk," Big Harp was Little Harp's elder brother and the brain half of the duo. He was put to death for thieving, but his brother rescued his severed head and carries it around in a trunk. However, Little Harp makes a deal with Goat and exchanges his brother's head for "Rosamund" (who in reality is Airie, Goat's sister).
  • Raven - The Harp brothers' talking raven. Accompanying the brothers initially in the show, Raven is stolen by Jamie and appears throughout the show advising the characters to "turn back, my bonny." Little Harp eventually kills Raven.
  • Airie - Goat's sister. Just as dumb as her brother, Airie has no lines, but plays a pivotal part when Goat decides to trick Little Harp and put Airie in a sack and claim it's Rosamund. Airie escapes while Jamie/the Bandit knocks Little Harp out.
  • Goat & Airie's mother - Only moderately more intelligent than her children, Goat's mother all but forces Goat to make a deal with Salome.

Song list[edit]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Original Broadway production[edit]

Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
1975 Tony Award Best Book of a Musical Alfred Uhry Nominated
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical Patti LuPone Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Musical Nominated
Outstanding Book of a Musical Alfred Uhry Nominated
Outstanding Actress in a Musical Patti LuPone Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical Mary Lou Rosato Nominated
Outstanding Choreography Donald Saddler Nominated
Outstanding Director of a Musical Gerald Freedman Nominated
Unique Theatrical Experience Nominated

1976 Broadway revival[edit]

Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
1976 Tony Award Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical Barry Bostwick Won
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Musical Nominated
Outstanding Actor in a Musical Barry Bostwick Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical Barbara Lang Nominated
Outstanding Choreography Donald Saddler Nominated
Outstanding Director of a Musical Gerald Freedman Nominated
Outstanding Lyrics Alfred Uhry Nominated
Outstanding Music Robert Waldman Nominated
Outstanding Set Design Douglas W. Schmidt Nominated

References[edit]

  1. ^ Miller, Scott."Inside the Robber Bridegroom, An Analysis" newlinetheatre.com, (Excerpt from Scott Miller's upcoming, untitled book on musical theatre, 2005), retrieved February 25, 2010
  2. ^ Barnes, Clive. "Play: 'Robber Bridegroom' at Harkness", The New York Times, October 8, 1975, p. 27
  3. ^ "The Robber Bridegroom Original Cast Recording listing" amazon.com, retrieved February 25, 2010

External links[edit]