Composer-writer Wildhorn and collaborators Jack Murphy (writer) and Gregory Boyd (writer-director) have re-attacked their musical to create a theatrical experience that producers hope will be an annual seasonal event at the recently refurbished 850-seat Majestic Theater in Gettysburg, near the famed battlefield where soldiers from both North and South drenched the soil with blood.
Producer Vincent Marini, who brought the idea to the Majestic's founding executive director Jeffrey W. Gabel, said 1.2 million history-hungry visitors come to Gettysburg each summer, and For the Glory seeks to enhance their experience.
Performances begin June 14 at the Majestic, for an engagement to Sept. 3.
The company will include veterans of the Broadway production of The Civil War as well as newcomers and theatre favorites — like Jekyll & Hyde veteran Rob Evan.
Don't expect ornate costumes and ambitious battle scenes, Marini told Playbill.com. Under Boyd's direction, For the Glory will feel more like the early Alley Theatre version of The Civil War than its more bombastic, brief 1999 Broadway run, which was under the direction of Jerry Zaks. The production earned a handful of Tony Award nominations. The announced cast of For the Glory includes Michael Lanning, Keith Byron Kirk, Bart Shatto, Erin Mosher, Byonah Parham, Troy Scarborough, Bryan Guffey, Tad Wilson, Michael McKinsey, Steve Barcus, Phillip Drennon, Ryan Dunn, Aaron Lavigne and Dustin Braylay. More casting will be announced.
The idea of For the Glory came to Marini — the young artistic director of New Jersey's Lenape Regional Performing Arts Center — two years ago when he gave the recording of The Civil War a second listen and wondered how and where it might be reinvented. It was too good to stay on the shelf, he thought. Maybe it could live in an outdoor concert at Gettysburg?
A few phone calls later he made a pitch to Jeffrey Gabel of the indoor Majestic, which was undergoing a major multi-million dollar renovation. Gabel listened to the music and jumped at the idea, Marini said.
The new show is more than a concert and less than a theatrical spectacle, Marini explained.
"Our mantra is, 'no guns, no costumes,'" Marini said. "Instead of trying to form a traditional narrative we're creating an emotional tapestry — it explores the lives of people who lived it and makes it relevant to today's audience."
For the Glory has two new songs, and a fresh structure. Projections will enhance the experience.
"We looked at it from scratch," Marini said, adding that the frame of the show is Gettysburg — the show "culminates" in Gettysburg.
Gregory Boyd explained in production notes, "It is an attempt to create a new music-theatre event that tries to express a sense of the time, the character and the emotional landscape of an America that is struggling to define itself during a time of terrible and profound change."
Marini's producing partners are Roy Miller (The Drowsy Chaperone) and Pete Herber (The Molly Maguires, The Water Coolers).
Musical director is Galen Butler. Choreographer is Sharon Halley. Vocal director is Dave Clemmons. The design team includes scenic designer Kevin Rigdon, lighting designer Howell Binkley, costume designer Tina Heinze, projection designer Michael Clark and sound designer Nick Kourtides.
Casting is by Dave Clemmons Casting and general management is by NETworks Presentations.
According to production notes at www.fortheglorythemusical.com, "The project began in 1995 when Frank Wildhorn and Gregory Boyd began thinking about creating a theatre piece to commemorate the Alley Theatre's Fiftieth Anniversary. They had just put together the national tour of Jekyll & Hyde which premiered at the Alley years before its Broadway run. With this new project they wanted to create an untraditional 'thematic' musical event with a distinctively American voice and with an emphasis on traditional story-telling. Jack Murphy signed on to collaborate, and the unusual structure of For the Glory was born — a musical event borrowing techniques from rock music, concert performance, oratorios and song-cycles that wasn't structured as conventional narrative but rather an emotional landscape grounded in universal feelings as expressed by the people who lived this extraordinary event. The writers were inspired by the words of Walt Whitman, Frederick Douglass, and Abraham Lincoln as well as the live (as documented through letters, photographs, and journals) of the real Hannah Ropes, Mary Chestnut, 2nd Virginia Infantryman Henry Kyd Douglas, and Henry H. Pearson of the 6th New Hampshire company.
"For the Glory (which played on Broadway as The Civil War) was nominated for two 1999 Tony Awards: Best Musical and Best Score."
Prior to the Broadway run of The Civil War, Wildhorn produced a star-studded concept album called "Civil War: The Complete Work" which featured Hootie and the Blowfish, Blues Traveler, Travis Tritt, Dr. John and Betty Buckley among others, as well as a single album titled "The Nashville Sessions."
In For the Glory, "the Union and Confederate armies sing of their excitement as they prepare to go into war and defend their respective causes. The enslaved sing of their pain and misery as they are sold as property. A soldier and his wife try to ease their separation by writing frequent letters. An abolitionist (in certain scenes identified as Frederick Douglas) lobbies his cause, and expresses his frustration with both the injustice that his people suffer and the reluctance of President Lincoln and the Union to address it. A nurse reflects on the work that she is trying to do. Captains from the two armies grapple with the decisions that they must make, not only for themselves but for the soldiers who follow them. The enslaved join in rousing gospel numbers, keeping their hopes and their spirits alive despite everything that they endure. The soldiers of both armies, gradually realizing the horrors of war, face despair, death and defeat. This intense work delves into one of our nation's most defining times, and is packed with feeling and messages, expressed directly through the wide variety of musical numbers performed. The war may be past, but the struggle continues today..."
For more information, visit www.gettysburgmajestic.org.