The Ballad of Little Jo, the new Mike Reid-Sarah Schlesinger musical which opened the 2000-2001 mainstage season at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company on Sept. 24 (after previews on Sept. 15), will end its extended run Nov. 12. The show, Steppenwolf's first venture into the world of musical theatre, stars Judy Kuhn, who has belted her way through such Broadway shows as Chess and Les Miz, as the title character Jo.
Director-playwright Tina Landau helms The Ballad of Little Jo.
Though greeted with mixed reviews locally, the musical has attracted press from across the nation. John Lahr, writing in the New Yorker, praised the show at length and suggested it should come to New York for an Off Broadway run.
Asked about the show future, Kuhn told Playbill On-Line, "I know that the company has talked to Tina and Mike and Sarah and talked about how they very much want to bring the piece to New York. It's not going to happen right when it closes here. I think they want to develop it and produce it again. I think there's talk of putting together another production next summer and bring it in [to New York] next season. But I don't know the specific plans." *
As first reported when Playbill On-Line broke the story in November 1999, The Ballad of Little Jo is based on a real story and concerns a young woman living in the last century. Born to money in the East, her father banishes her to the West after she has a child out of wedlock. But on a train bound for San Francisco, Jo is robbed and thrown off in Idaho. There, through a series of odd occurrences, she comes to disguise herself as a man. Finally, she decides to live her entire life that way, going by the name Joe Manahan. Reid has spent the past 20 years as a Nashville songwriter, penning tunes for the likes of Bonnie Raitt. Another musical by Reid and Schlesinger, In This House, was recently given a reading at the McCarter Theatre.
Landau is an ensemble member at Steppenwolf, where she directed her own play, Space, which traveled to the Public Theater in New York. Her other credits include Floyd Collins.
Kuhn played Cosette in the original Broadway run of Les Miz and Florence in the original New York production of Chess. Other credits include Michel in King David, Bella Cohen in Rags, Amalia Balash in She Loves Me and various roles in the Drama Dept.'s As Thousands Cheer.
Also in the cast are Steppenwolf ensemble member Rondi Reed (Side Man), Jose Llana (Saturn Returns) as Tin Man Wong, David New (Valparaiso) as Jordan Ellis, Jessica Boevers (Beauty and the Beast) as Sara Stewart Ellis, D.C. Anderson, Daniel Bogart, Sandy Borglum, Chris Jones, Iris Lieverman, James Moye, Kyle Paek, Ron Rains, John Reeger, Andrew Rothenberg, Paul Scrofano, Paul Slade Smith and Kate Staiger.
--By Robert Simonson