It's being called the "other" Civil War show in New York City.
Off-Broadway's Reunion: A Civil War Musical Epic in Miniature opens a limited run April 5 at Theatre Row Theatre, 424 W. 42nd Street, a couple blocks down from the Broadway musical, The Civil War: Our Story in Song, now in previews.
Conceived and written by Jack Kyrieleison, Reunion, presented by AMAS Musical Theatre in association with Eugene Kallman and Stephen Hollis, shows the North-and-South struggle through the antics of a rag tag 19th-century touring company lead by actor-manager Harry Hawks.
The conceit of the show, first presented at the Goodspeed Opera House as The Battle Cry of Freedom, has the 1890 troupe earning their stay in a backwater town by presenting the history of the Civil War, from Lincoln's election to his assassination.
(The fictional Hawks, as a young man, witnessed the murder of Lincoln at Ford's Theatre.) Previews for the "epic in miniature" began March 26.
The staging is directed by Ron Holgate, known for his acting role as Richard Henry Lee in the original 1776 and for his performance as Col. Buffalo Bill in the current Annie Get Your Gun revival. He also shares "story" credit with book writer Jack Kyrieleison.
Six actors play freed slaves, a nurse, a seamstress, a temperance advocate, soldiers, Lincoln's secretary, John Wilkes Booth and others. Reunion exploits the conventions of 19th-century theatre, using magic lantern slides, elements of music hall, melodrama, minstrel show and patriotic pageant.
Robert Lamont musical directs a five-piece band that plays period music that includes folk, spirituals and hymns, marches and more, including "The Battle Cry of Freedom," "John Brown's Body," "Weeping Sad and Lonely," Stephen Foster's "Hard Times Come Again No More" and others. Arrangements for the traditional music are by Michael O'Flaherty.
The acting company includes Joe Barrett, Don Burroughs, Donna Lynne Champlin, Harriett D. Foy, Jonathan Hadley and Michael A. Shepperd.
AMAS Musical Theatre (producing director Donna Trinkoff) was founded by Rosetta LeNoire in 1969 to promote and create multiracial new musicals. Rollin' on the T.O.B.A. was the company's most recent presentation.
Designers for Reunion are Doug Huszti (set), Jan Finnell (costume), Stephen Petrilli (lighting). Musical staging is by Karen Azenberg.
Tickets are $15. Theatre Row Theatre is at 424 W. 42nd St. For information, call (212) 279-4200.
The Reunion website can be found at www.civilwarmusical.com.
* Frank Wildhorn, composer of The Civil War: Our Story in Song was among celebrities, artists and Civil War enthusiasts (including "Civil War" documentary-maker Ken Burns) invited to the April 5 opening. It's not clear yet if Wildhorn will attend.
Wildhorn's still-developing musical, a conceptual revue of new songs interwoven with pieces of period letters and diaries, began previews March 23 and officially opens April 22 at the St. James Theatre. Jerry Zaks directs.
-- By Kenneth Jones