Murder Ballad Musical Likely to Rock On in Downtown Remount

By Kenneth Jones
15 Mar 2013

Rebecca Naomi Jones in Murder Ballad in 2012.
Rebecca Naomi Jones in Murder Ballad in 2012.
Photo by Joan Marcus

Murder Ballad, the new rock musical about a New Yorker pulled between her uptown present and her downtown past, is expected to have a commercial life this summer.

A casting notice indicates that the sung-through show by Julia Jordan and Juliana Nash, which had its world premiere by Manhattan Theatre Club in late 2012, will begin previews in early May in an MTC production at a venue to be named. "We are exploring a future life for this exciting new musical," confirmed Manhattan Theatre Club's Lynne Meadow (artistic director), Barry Grove (executive producer) and Mandy Greenfield (artistic producer) on March 15.

There is talk in the community that the Trip Cullman-directed remount will play the Union Square Theatre, but no official announcement has been made.

As previously reported, a cast recording from Yellow Label Sound was recorded. It's expected to be released in tandem with the return run. The recording will feature the original Off-Broadway cast, including Tony Award nominee John Ellison Conlee (The Full Monty), Rebecca Naomi Jones (American Idiot, Passing Strange), Tony Award winner Karen Olivo (West Side Story, In the Heights) and Tony Award nominee Will Swenson (Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Hair). Those players are likely to return to the summer run.



Olivo played Sara, described as "an Upper West Side mom who can't quite leave her rock 'n' roll wild-child past behind. Vital, sexy, and a little tough. A warm and funny mother and wife; unfussy. But she has a reckless streak, and a yearning for the excitement of her youth."

Murder Ballad is conceived by Jonathan Larson Award winner and two-time Susan Smith Blackburn Prize finalist Jordan, with book and lyrics by Jordan and music and lyrics by indie rock singer/songwriter Nash. Drama Desk Award-nominated director Trip Cullman is known for Paul Weitz's Lonely, I'm Not and Adam Bock's A Small Fire, among many other works.

Conceptually, the musical is set in a working bar — with tables and chairs, a bandstand and a pool table — with scenes beyond the watering hole also playing out there.

Here's how the show is billed: "A love triangle gone wrong, Murder Ballad centers on Sara, an Upper West Sider who seems to have it all, but whose downtown past lingers enticingly and dangerously in front of her. This sexy, explosive new musical explores the complications of love, the compromises we make, and the betrayals that can ultimately undo us."

Justin Levine handles music direction, vocal arrangements and orchestrations.

Murder Ballad began Oct. 31, 2012, toward an opening on Nov. 15 at MTC's home at City Center Stage II. It launched the company's new Studio at Stage II Harold and Mimi Steinberg New Play Series.

Murder Ballad was originally presented by New York Stage and Film Company and The Powerhouse Theater at Vassar in July 2012.

Release date and purchase information for the album will be announced. Check here for pre-order information.

The extended but limited engagement of Murder Ballad played to Dec. 16 at MTC's Off-Broadway home at New York City Center Stage II. The show was part of The Studio at Stage II Harold and Mimi Steinberg New Play Series. Casting is by David Caparelliotis/Kelly Gillespie.

For more about the Broadway and Off-Broadway programming of Manhattan Theatre Club, which is committed to new works, visit manhattantheatreclub.com.

Watch highlights from the 2012 mounting: