O, Pioneers!, Willa Cather's great novel of a Swedish immigrant's struggle on the American plains, must sing — there are two musical versions of the novel coming to New York City. The first O, Pioneers, a musical written and directed by Hull House Theater founder Robert Sickinger, arrives at the Producers' Club II April 19-May 6. The second, a traveling play-with-music version performed by the Acting Company, settles into Women's Project Theatre May 2-13.
Whichever O Pioneers! it is, the piece centers on Alexandra Bergson, a Swede who travels with her family out into 1890's Nebraska. There she faces the challenges of farming life as well as the frontier's disrespectful attitude towards women.
The Producers Club Pioneers features Jennifer Trimble (Alexandra), Lisa Neubauer (Marie Tovesky), Jim Glenn (Albert Tovesky & Father Duchesne), Lisa Rothauser (Mother Superior & Mrs. Torburg), Mateja Govich (Louis Bergson), Jerome Causse (Amadee Chevalier), Matthew Morse (Emil Bergson), Fred Rueck (Carl Linstrum), Oliver Burg (Frank Shabata), and John Rose (Oscar Bergson). Also in the cast are Gayle Allard, Laura Baker, Robert Beiderman, Lucianna Baregi, Jennifer Edwards, Amy Elkins, Michael Gillis, Keith Hallworth, Scott Hunter, Heather Jewels, Alexander Le Fevre, Jillian Louis, Femi Plimpton, Laurie Potter, Beth Renee and Nick Sattinger.
The Acting Company O Pioneers! (May 2-13) was written by Darrah Cloud with music by Kim D. Sherman. Sherman composed Leaving Queens,which premiered earlier in 2001 with Women's Project & Productions. Their version of O, Pioneers! was seen on PBS' American Playhouse with Mary McDonnell as Alexandra.
The Acting Company Pioneers! features Beth Bartley, Corey Behnke, Todd Cerveris, Elliot Dash, Joe Domencic, Michael Thomas Holmes, Matt Hoverman, Grace Hsu, Gregory Jackson, Royden Mills, Evan Robertson, Erika Rolfsrud, Michele Tauber and Jonathan Uffelman. Designing the Acting Company production are Broadway designer Loy Arcenas (sets), Murell Dean Horton (costumes), Dennis Parichy (lights) and David A. Arnold (sound). Kimberly Grigsby is the musical director.
For tickets ($15) to the Producer's Club Pioneers!, call (888) 590 9220. For tickets ($40) to the Women's Project Pioneers!, call (212) 239-6200. The Producers Club is located at 616 Ninth Avenue between 43rd and 44th Streets. Women's Project Theatre is at 424 West 55th Street.
— By Christine Ehren