Rare Revival Planned for the "First Musical," The Black Crook

News   Rare Revival Planned for the "First Musical," The Black Crook
Production at Off-Broadway’s Abrons Arts Center is seeking crowd funding.
 <i>The Black Crook</i>
The Black Crook - 1866

The Black Crook, widely credited with being the first example of what came to be known as the Broadway musical form, is seeking crowd-funding for a September 2016 production that would celebrate its 150th anniversary.

Director Joshua William Gelb and artistic producer Moe Yousuf are seeking to raise $8,000 toward the $30,000 they need to mount a scaled-down tribute to the seminal musical. To do that, they have launched an appeal via hatchfund.org to pay for the production, which will be performed by eight actor-musicians taking the place of the dozens of performers who appeared in the original.

Also on the creative team: Alaina Ferris (musical director), Bradley King (lighting designer), Justine Levine (arranger), Katie Rose McLaughlin (choreographer), Carolyn Mraz (scenic designer), Normandy Sherwood (costume designer) and Matt Stine (sound designer).

The show, about an agent of the Devil who tries to lure a young man who give up his soul in return for the girl he loves, was notable for extravagant special effects including an actual battle in Hell in Act II.

There were numerous operas, operettas and other entertainments that combined music and storytelling in New York for decades before 1866. But in that year, the owner of the downtown Manhattan theatre, Niblo's Garden had booked the melodrama The Black Crook into his theatre and had imported a scandalous French dance troupe that was booked into a separate theatre, the Academy of Music, that was damaged in a fire during the run. (The scandal was caused by the ballerinas wearing the then-new invention of silk stockings which allowed them to show off the shape of their legs without actually baring them.)

The producers and theatre owner decided to combine the productions, adding music and dance. The combined show, which included a highly dramatic story, colorful costumes, spectacular sets, songs, dances and a bevy of scantily clad French maidens, ran more than a year in its original production, brightening up a country that had emerged from the Civil War just 17 months earlier, and was revived repeatedly into the 1920s.

Here is the clip that accompanies the crowdfunding appeal:

According to the Hatchfund appeal, “Generous lead support from the Abrons Art Center (including in-kind rehearsal space, a subsidized rental agreement, and marketing / front of house support), a grant from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC), and seed money from an individual donor bring our current committed funding to about $19,000. The remaining $8,000 we are seeking through Hatchfund.org will go directly to supporting the artistic and production fees to pay the very talented aforementioned artists working on this project. Supporters who help us get to our $12,000 stretch goal will see a true spectacle of scenic arts as those additional funds will be used to enhance our scenic design to realize the "grand transformation"—a 13 minute long tableau of ‘gradually culminating beauty,’ which serves as The Black Crook’s grand finale.”

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