By Kenneth Jones
21 Jan 2009
As previously reported on Playbill.com, Abe — a traditional musical rooted in the Rodgers and Hammerstein tradition — will have its world premiere Feb. 20 by the Muddy River Opera Company, the troupe that performs operas and musicals in Quincy, IL. Quincy was the site of one of the famous 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates in which Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas, candidates for the Illinois seat in the U.S. Senate, spoke on the day's issues.
Sam Hepler will play Lincoln for Muddy River. Greg Anthony (Signature Theatre's Ace) penned orchestrations.
Anderson and Goldsmith wrote the scores to the musicals Shine (book by Richard Seff), Quality Street and Ladykiller (book by Chuck Blasius), and the Carbonell Award-winning Chaplin (book by Ernest Kinoy), which was recently seen in a U.K. workshop production.
Here's how Samuel French bills the show: "Abe is a new musical about the early life of Abraham Lincoln. The show explores his youth as a flatboat pilot on the Mississippi, his early love for Ann Rutledge, his troubled marriage to the difficult and mentally fragile Mary Todd, and his attempt to be a good father to his sons. The story follows Abe from his earliest attempts at self-improvement through the 1860 election which made him the 16th president of an already fracturing United States." Although the book and lyrics for Abe were originally written by Goldsmith in the 1970s, the project lay dormant until Muddy River Opera Company's artistic director, Avril-Marie Bernzen, requested its completion for the 2009 season.
In 2008 Goldsmith's longtime collaborator Anderson began work on the now-completed score, "which uses bold, melodic and traditional musical theatre styles that embrace the story's period and Americana roots," composer Anderson said.
For information about Abe, visit samuelfrench.com or abethemusical.com.
As previously reported, Abe has been picked up for a second 2009 production — at the Illinois historic site where much of the show is set. Kari Catton, executive director of Theatre in the Park, the resident non-Equity company at Lincoln's New Salem State Historic Site near Petersburg, IL, previously told Playbill.com that the musical by lyricist-librettist Lee Goldsmith and composer Roger Anderson will be one of a handful of summer 2009 shows at the 535-seat outdoor amphitheatre there.
New Salem State Historic Site, a reconstruction of the village where Abraham Lincoln spent his early adulthood (around 1834-39), is two miles south of Petersburg and about 20 miles northwest of Springfield, IL.
The New Salem State Historic Site is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the state of Illinois.