Producers Won't Take Musical Molly Maguires to Bway in 2000
By Kenneth Jones
June 18, 1999
Producer Bill Haber, who, with Kathleen Raitt, initiated a five week pre-
Broadway workshop of The Molly Maguires May 3-June 10, has decided
not to pursue the Irish-accented musical after all. Producer Bill Haber,
who, with Kathleen Raitt, initiated a five week pre- Broadway workshop of
The Molly Maguires May 3-June 10, has decided not to pursue the Irish-accented
musical after all.
Raitt told Playbill On-Line she felt the workshop was "worthy" and had much
"beauty," but "we're not going to take the next step." That leaves the door
open for other producers who might be interested in the serious- minded show,
about a community of Irish coalminers in 1877 Pennsylvania.
The "next step" for Haber and Raitt was expected to be an early 2000 Broadway
staging. Designers Santo Loquasto and Eugene Lee had already been engaged.
"We're very proud of the workshop we put on," Raitt told Playbill On- Line.
Presentations for friends and industry people were held June 8 and 10, respectively.
A number of exploratory readings and workshops are held every year in New
York City, with only a fraction of works seeing the light(s) of Broadway.
Composer-lyricist Sid Cherry, who has been developing the musical for nine
years with book writer William Strzempek, told Playbill On-Line June 18,
"I don't think anybody is defeated by this. We don't want to lose whatever
momentum we've got."
"There's a rumbling in the theatre community that the era of the serious
musical is over," said Cherry, pointing to audience disinterest in the darkly
human Parade and Side Show and audience enthusiasm for pop
musicals such as Footloose and the upcoming Saturday Night Fever.
Cherry said he and his collaborators will keep exploring and developing their
material to see how to make it audience-friendly without damaging its integrity.
He pointed to Les Miserables as the prototype for the "serious" show
that can still be a hit with crowds.
The show had previous professional stagings in Pennsylvania during its developmental
The workshop was mounted, with a cast of 25, as the first chance for producers
Haber and Raitt to see the dark musical drama -- about radical Irish coal
miners protesting wages and conditions in 19th-century Pennsylvania -- on
its feet with the Irish step dancing, made popular by the stage show, Riverdance.
The cast included Jody Ashworth, Jane Bodle, Catherine Brunell, Kristin Carbone,
John Dewar, Robert DuSold, Rich Hebert, Jessica Hendy, Ellen Horst, Paul
Iacono, Christopher Innvar, John Jellison, Ken Jennings, Robert Jensen, Kathleen
Keady, Joanne McHugh, George Merrick, Martin Moran, Gary Moss, Karen Murphy,
Erin Pender, Ciaran Sheehan, Erik Stein, Jeff Talbott, Stephen Tewksbury.
Sheehan (Toronto's The Phantom of the Opera) played McKenna, the Pinkerton
detective who infiltrates the Molly Maguires, the Irish coal mining subculture
violently protesting low wages and unsafe conditions in 1877 Schuylkill County,
Innvar (A New Brain, Floyd Collins) played Kehoe, the head of the
Mollys, Bodle (Miss Saigon, Sunset Boulevard) played Mary, the widow
who falls in love with McKenna, and Martin Moran (Titanic) was the
conflicted priest pulled between the church and justice.
Musical numbers in the workshop staging included "The Molly Maguires," "This
One Chance," "Passin' Through," "Down, Down," "Whose Turn Now?/Wedding Dance,"
"Take Another Look," "Father, Tell Me," "Thankin' Franklin Gowen," "Do You
Trust Him?," "Brothers," "One More Ton," "Watching and Waiting," "An Eye
for an Eye," "There's a Wind Comin' In," "Hey, McKenna," "The Man I Know,"
"If That's the Way They Want It," "Love Will."
Dan Foster directed, Joey McKneely choreographed and the Irish step consultant
was Riverdance alum Kevin McCormack.
Insiders said several million dollars were in place for a Molly Maguires
production, and that a target date of St. Patrick's Day 2000 was rumored
prior to the readings.
Begun in the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop as early as 1990,
the show has gone through many readings and workshops. Strzempek won the
Ed Kleban Award for outstanding libretto for the project and Cherry was nominated
for the BMI Jerry Bock Award for best score.
The project won a Richard Rodgers Development Grant which provided workshop
money for an Off-Broadway staging. In October 1992 a full length version
was presented in a series of staged readings at Playwrights Horizons.
The story is also the basis of the 1970 Martin Ritt-directed film starring
Sean Connery and Richard Harris. Although the subject matter is dark, "there's
a love story and a small child who is the catalyst in humanizing the leading
man," said Raitt.