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New Line's "The Robber Bridegroom," 2005


THE ROBBER BRIDEGROOM is a funny, rowdy, sexy adaptation of Eudora Welty's famous novel set in Natchez, Mississippi, about a "gentleman robber," the girl he wants, the greedy, sex-crazed stepmother who wants to seduce him and kill her, the idiot thieves who mistakenly kidnap the stepmother, and lots more zaniness, all set to an infectious Broadway/bluegrass hybrid of a score. 

The Robber Birdegroom is set in America's rough-and-tumble past, just about the time our Founding Fathers were creating our new nation. But the folks in the Natchez Trace weren't drafting a Constitution. No, they were lying, thieving, killing, and screwing. This wasn't the America of waistcoats, powdered wigs, and British tea. This was the real America -- rough, dangerous, uncivilized, lustful, and real damn funny. Underneath its raw, bawdy humor, the show explores America's self-delusion that we've civilized out of ourselves our animal natures, our still strong primal urges toward sex and violence. And in this increasingly sexualized culture, in which cosmetic surgery is becoming more and more common, this tale about physical beauty and lust is more relevant than it has ever been before -- and it reminds us that nothing has really changed...

The show began life as the very first production of Broadway producer Stuart Ostrow’s non-profit Musical Theatre Lab, at the Theatre at St. Clement’s in New York in the early 1970s, the institution that would invent the “workshop” process for musicals, a process most famously used by Michael Bennett for A Chorus Line. This first production of THE ROBBER BRIDEGROOM starred Raul Julia as the gentleman robber Jamie Lockhart. Then producer-director John Houseman’s group The Acting Company took the show to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs in upstate New York, now with Kevin Kline and Patti LuPone in the leads, both of whom were recent graduates of Juilliard, of which Houseman had been one of the founders. Houseman then took it on to the Ravinia Festival in Chicago during the summer of 1975. The Acting Company opened the show in New York (as a one-act) in October 1975 for a limited run at the Harkness Theatre (geographically off Broadway but technically on Broadway). Kline and LuPone remained in the leads, with Gerald Freedman (HAIR's original director) at the helm. The production went on a very successful national tour for a year with the cast from the Harkness. But while they were on tour, the producers decided the show was doing well enough with audiences that they should open it on Broadway. So while the tour was still running, they opened a new production on Broadway. Unfortunately, that meant no one who had created these roles would be able to play them on Broadway since they were all still on tour.

The New York Post called Robert Waldman and Alfred Uhry's songs "a truly ingenious score, somehow managing to be country and theatrical, melodic and interesting, catchy but not obvious... Here is the combination of theatrical instinct and musicianly technique that has always invigorated our musical stage." 



Want to explore more? We recommend:  

The original Broadway cast album

The MTI website's Robber Bridegroom page, or another good plot synopsis.

Eudora Welty's novella, on which the musical is based

Director Scott Miller's background notes on the show

An excellent book about the history of the Natchez Trace, A Way Through the Wilderness

A site about Rodney, Mississippi, where the story is set, and another Rodney site, and a good webpage about the Natchez Trace

The Eudora Welty Newsletter online, and a good biography of Welty; also the Eudora Welty Fuondation website, and the Eudora Welty webpage on the Mississippi Writers website

The Brothers Grimm's original version of The Robber Bridegroom

A listing of bluegrass bands and related news in the St. Louis area, and  upcoming bluegrass performances in the area

  St. Louis district of the Missouri Federation of Square and Round Dance Clubs; also a site of square dance moves




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