With book, music and lyrics by Peter Mills and Cara Reichel, The Flood made its New York City debut in the spring of 2001 at the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center featuring future Tony Award nominee Gavin Creel (Thoroughly Modern Millie) in the original cast.
Subsequently, The Flood was selected by Stephen Schwartz for the 2001 ASCAP Musical Theater Workshop.
The show has its roots in a Princeton playwriting class Reichel took and an assignment to study and write about the 1993 Mississippi River flood. The musical version began taking form with Mills in 2000. Reichel and Mills are romantic and artistic partners who both attended Princeton University and founded Prospect with three other Princeton grads.
The Flood focuses on a town called Meyerville, hit by a devastating Mississippi River flood. The book musical follows three different storylines and the fortunes of varied but linked characters. The question of staying or returning to the threatened town is part of the tale.
This concert reading recognizes the 10th anniversary of the Mississippi River Flood of 1993, the largest and most devastating flood in U.S. history. Tickets range $25-$100 and may be purchased by mail at Prospect Theater Company, 520 Eighth Ave., third floor, Suite 307, New York, NY 10018, or by calling (212) 239 6200 or by visiting www.telecharge.com, or in person at the Lortel box office.
The Lortel is at 121 Christopher Street. A reception follows at Caffe ShaSha (510 Hudson Street).
Cara Reichel attended the MFA. program for directing at Brooklyn College, and has recently directed productions for Prospect Theater Company including The Alchemists, Dido (& Aeneas), The Taxi Cabaret, Danton's Death, Twelfth Night, The Flood and Illyria. Other recent credits include The Most Happy Fella for The Gallery Players, and The White Widow on Theatre Row. Reichel received the 2002 Lucille Lortel Award from the League of Professional Theatre Women in recognition of her work as an emerging director through Prospect Theater Company.
Mills holds an MFA in musical theatre writing from New York University's Tisch School for the Arts, and was the 2002 recipient of a major grant from the Jonathan Larson Performing Arts Foundation. He wrote book, music, and lyrics for The Taxi Cabaret, which was produced in the spring of 2000 at the Duplex Cabaret Theatre in New York City and subsequently featured in the Berkshire Theatre Festival's new musicals series. In May 2003 his new musical, The Alchemists, for which he wrote book, music and lyrics, completed a successful run at Theatre for the New City (earning a rave from The New York Times). He has also written book, music, and lyrics for Illyria, an adaptation of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.
For more information, visit www.prospecttheater.org.
Coincidentally, Georgia Stitt, the respected music director who worked on The Baker's Wife for Goodspeed Musicals in 2002 and whose pop songs have been popping up in Manhattan venues, is shopping around a Midwest-set, flood-related musical she wrote with collaborators Jeff Hylton and Tim Werenko.
The latest draft of The Water — a musical about people at risk emotionally and physically when a river floods a town — has been completed, composer Stitt told Playbill On-Line earlier this year. Werenko is co-librettist and Hylton is lyricist and co-librettist.
"Set in 1997, it's a completely original story about a small Missouri town that survives a flood," Stitt explained. "It's fiction, but bookwriter Tim Werenko lived through a flood and drew quite a bit from his personal experiences."
The three writers spent a year developing Watertown, as it was first known, in residence at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center. Following readings they "are just now beginning to submit it to theatres, producers and developmental festivals," Stitt said.
As recently as Jan. 20, a song from The Water was heard in an eclectic concert of show tunes and art songs at Symphony Space; George Dvorsky and Jill Geddes sang "River Like Life" in that evening. On Jan. 26, Stitt presented three songs from the show with Sally Wilfert, Keith Byron Kirk and Sean McCourt as part of the "New Sundays" series produced by Phil Geoffrey Bond at the Duplex in Greenwich Village.
The Water was Stitt's idea, she said. "I wanted to write about why people choose to live in places that are devastated by nature, and why people rebuild in those same places knowing they face the possibility of another disaster," she explained. "I wanted to write about the concept of community, particularly in middle America. This town is situated on the banks of a river that is a tributary to the Mississippi River. It has flooded before, even within memory of some of the older people in town. The river is as much a character in the show as any of the actors, and the idea of 'water' — its presence or its absence — is almost always in the music."
What's the musical nature of The Water?
"It's a book musical," Stitt said. "I write both folky music and groove-driven music. Some of it is very lyrical and some of it is more pop. I wouldn't call it 'rock,' but it's definitely a step outside the norms of traditional musical theatre. I grew up outside of Memphis as a classical pianist, so there are hints of the South in the music, alongside very pianistic accompaniments."
Among those who sang in previous readings of The Water were Danielle Ferland, Sally Wilfert, Andrea Burns, Jeff Edgerton, Corey Reynolds, Ed Romanoff, Brooks Ashmanskas and Sean McCourt. Jeff McCarthy (Urinetown, Side Man) and Donna Lynne Champlin (Hollywood Arms, My Life With Albertine) are the demo recording, along with McCourt, Burns and several others. Peter Flynn has been attached as director of the show.
Stitt said the title was changed from Watertown to The Water to avoid any comparison to Urinetown, the comic Broadway hit about a town devastated by drought.
"There are 12 actors in the show, and it is multi generational," Stitt said. "There are (among others) two men in their 60s, a single father in his late 40s, a love triangle involving a married couple in their 30s, sweethearts in their 20s getting engaged, and a 13 year old girl."
Stitt's work can be heard at www.georgiastitt.com.