This July, the European premiere of the uniquely stirring musical drama Dessa Rose is coming to London’s West End. Dessa Rose is based on the book by Sherley Anne Williams with lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and music by Stephen Flaherty (Ragtime, Once On This Island, Seussical and Rocky The Musical) who have won Tony Awards, Drama Desk Awards and Outer Critics Circle Awards and been nominated for Grammys, Academy Awards and a Golden Globe.
This powerful and moving story, set in 1846 in the ante-bellum South, follows two young women on their journey to acceptance. With elements of blues, folk, hymns and gospel, Dessa Rose perfectly blends history and fiction. The storytelling for which Ahrens and Flaherty are most famous is masterfully exhibited throughout. Passionate and innocent Dessa Rose is a young slave faced with a barrage of hardships because of the colour of her skin. While Ruth, a young white mother, faces difficulties because of her gender.
Ruth and Dessa ‘hand down the story’ to their grandchildren, reliving the adventure they experienced together. Through their extraordinary tale we see their deep and lasting bond and how this makes them part of a ‘long, strong line of women’.
Multi-award winning director Andrew Keates, who recently spoke at this year’s West End Eurovision challenging the stigma surrounding HIV in support of the MAD Trust, said: ‘In our current political climate, I can think of no better time to tell this visceral story of how we can learn from those that are different to us and also form lifelong relationships indiscriminate of age, gender and race.’
Dessa Rose at Trafalgar Studios is produced by Arion Productions, acclaimed for Passing By, As Is, Rooms – A Rock Romance and Howard Goodall’s A Winter’s Tale. Arion work with the primary goal of presenting theatrical pieces based entirely on their artistic merit, regardless of form. At Arion, ‘the work’ is what matters the most.
Performance Dates: Tuesday 29th July – Saturday 30th August 2014
Monday to Saturday, 7.45pm. Thursday and Saturday matinees, 3pm
Post-show discussion: Tuesday 5th August, Tuesday 12th August and Tuesday 19th August. Discussions will include the director and members of the cast
Running time: 2 hours including interval
Location: Studio 2, Trafalgar Studios, 14 Whitehall, London SW1A 2DY
How to get there: Trafalgar Studios is located on Whitehall. The nearest underground stations are Charing Cross (on the Bakerloo and Northern lines), Embankment (on the Bakerloo, Northern, Circle and District lines), Westminster (on the Jubilee, Circle and District lines) and Leicester Square (on the Northern and Piccadilly lines). The nearest rail station is Charing Cross.
Twitter: @DessaRoseUK, @ArionProds, @TrafStudios
Box Office: Tickets are available priced £15, £22.50 and £30 from Trafalgar Studios Box Office and www.atgtickets.com/trafalgarstudios, 0844 871 7632.
Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty: Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty won Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards and received two Grammy nominations for the Broadway musical Ragtime. In the same year, they garnered two Academy Award nominations and two Golden Globe nominations for Twentieth Century Fox’s animated feature film, Anastasia.
Other Broadway credits include: Once On This Island (eight Tony Award nominations, London’s Olivier Award, Best Musical); Seussical (Grammy and Drama Desk nominations; one of the most frequently performed show in America); My Favorite Year; Chita Rivera: The Dancer’s Life; the 2009 Broadway revival of Ragtime; and Rocky. Upcoming: Little Dancer, which will premiere at the Kennedy Center in 2014, directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman. Lincoln Center Theater and Off-Broadway: A Man of No Importance (Outer Critics Circle Award, Best Musical); Dessa Rose (2005 Audelco Award, Best Musical, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle nominations); The Glorious Ones (five Drama Desk nominations); Lucky Stiff (Helen Hayes Award, Best Musical).
Individually, Ms. Ahrens’ credits include MSG’s A Christmas Carol (ten years at Madison Square Garden); A Christmas Carol (adapted teleplay, Hallmark Entertainment); Camp (songs, IFC Films); Lucky Stiff (screenplay); She is a mainstay songwriter/singer for Schoolhouse Rock and has written and produced many network shows. She is an Emmy Award winner and four-time Emmy nominee. Mr. Flaherty’s credits include: concert premieres at the Hollywood Bowl and Boston’s Symphony Hall; commissions from the Guggenheim Museum, Carnegie Hall and Symphony Space; incidental music for Neil Simon’s Proposals on Broadway; musical score for Loving Repeating: A Musical Of Gertrude Stein (Chicago’s Joseph Jefferson Award for Best New Musical) and several film scores. Ahrens and Flaherty are Council members of the Dramatists Guild of America, ASCAP, NARAS, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. They co-founded the Dramatists Guild Fellows program for emerging writers. For more information, see www.ahrensandflaherty.com.
Andrew Keates: Multi-award-winning director Andrew Keates most recent productions include the hugely successful Passing By (Tristan Bates), the first London revival of As Is by William M. Hoffman and the European premiere of ROOMS – A Rock Romance (Finborough Theatre). Other productions include directing and developing the award winning professional premier of A Winter’s Tale, written by Howard Goodall, Nick Stimson and himself, The Thing About Man and The Hired Man (The Landor Theatre), Conjugal Rights (Courtyard Theatre) and Just So (Tabard Theatre). Awards include winning Best New Musical for A Winter’s Tale and Best Musical Production for The Hired Man in the OffWestEnd Awards. Andrew is the founder and artistic director of Arion Productions Ltd and former theatre manager of the Landor Theatre.