Music by Robert Waldman
Based on the novel by Eudora Welty
March 3-26, 2005
ArtLoft Theatre, St. Louis
Jamie Lockhart – Michael Heeter
Rosamund Musgrove – Leah Schumacher
Salome Musgrove – Ember Hyde
Clement Musgrove – Thomas Conway
Little Harp – Gregory Paul Hunsaker
Big Harp – Drew Somervell
Goat – Jeffrey Pruett
Raven – Jamie McKittrick
Goat’s Mother – Kimi Short
Goat’s Sister, Arie – Christine Brooks
Innkeeper/Thief/Preacher – Richard Ives
THE ARTISTIC STAFF
Director – Scott Miller
Set Designers – The Company
Scenic Artist – Todd Schaefer
Lighting Designer – Mark Schilling
Costume Designer – Thom Crain
Props – Richard Ives
Puppet Design – Pat Edmonds
Box Office Manager – Vicki Herrmann
Lobby/Concessions Manager – Ann Stinebaker
Graphic Designer – Kris Wright
Photographer – Michael C. Daft
Fiddle – Matt King
Guitar – Mike Renard
Banjo – Michael Mason
Bass – Dave Hall
“God Bless New Line Theater and Artistic Director Scott Miller for having the sense to put on a show as interesting as The Robber Bridegroom. New Line Theatre, the self-proclaimed Bad Boy of Musical Theater, lives up to the title yet again with their most recent production… By challenging the way we look at musicals, [New Line] makes them more accessible to the common man, while giving theater snobs something to love in the process. For those that fall somewhere betwixt the two, you’re in luck, as New Line’s players will indeed entertain.” – Tyson Blanquart, Playback St. Louis
“The Robber Bridegroom suits Miller’s smart, no-frills aesthetic – and boasts the added advantage of unfamiliarity. It’s one show that nobody’s seen ‘too many times.’ Yet it’s a charmer. . . But The Robber Bridegroom is a fairy-tale for grown-ups. The four-man band serves up the blue-grass score (by composer Robert Waldman and lyricist Alfred Uhry) in likeable, familiar, laid-back style. But catch the lyrics to songs like ‘Two Heads’ or ‘Poor Tied Up Darlin.’ There’s no latent message here. Violent, sexual and avaricious impulses are right on surface of this story, in which civilization and self-control are as easy to rip off as Rosamund’s dainty frocks. “ – Judith Newmark, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Director Scott Miller scores a triumph with his delightful production that smartly captures the free spirit and charming effervescence of this romp through the woods.” – Mark Bretz, Ladue News
“The indomitable Mr. Miller [as director] has taken what he’s got and whipped his cast into a proper frenzy of comic cataclysm.” – Richard Green, Talkin’ Broadway.com
“A bright, charming production by New Line Theatre. . . Highly entertaining.” – Joe Pollack, KWMU-FM
We’re going for a crazy ride tonight. The Robber Bridegroom is a very funny show, chock full of cheap gags and lots of silliness, but it’s also a difficult one, a story built on some of the ugliest aspects of human nature, including a really awful, sexist view of women. From today’s perspective, it might make us a squirm a little. But all great social satire does. If we don’t stare our problems in the face, how can we ever solve them?
The Robber Bridegroom is one of a number of musicals that form an interesting sub-genre, the anti-hero musical. For instance, in The Music Man, Harold Hill swindles a town full of decent, hard-working folks, and we love him for it. In Chicago, both central characters are murderers, but we are utterly seduced by them. In Pal Joey, Joey is a slimy, self-serving, adulterous little twerp, but we find him charming and funny. In My Fair Lady, Henry Higgins is an arrogant, self-involved woman-hater, but we laugh right along with his abuses. Likewise, in The Robber Bridegroom, Jamie Lockhart is a thief and he only enjoys sex if it’s not consensual, but he’s the hero of a musical comedy.
The Robber Bridegroom 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 down in Mississippi 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, lustful, dangerous, and uncivilized.
The Robber Bridegroom is about the two sides of humanity, the “gentlemanly” side and the animal side, about the primal urges that we think we’ve civilized out of ourselves. But if we have, how can we explain our torture of prisoners in Iraq? How can we explain the escalating violence on our streets? How can we explain our overcrowded prisons? How can we explain all the gun owners in America or our collective love affair with The Sopranos? Do we ignore that side of our nature, do we confront it, or do we accept it as part of us?
We can sit back comfortably and believe that because this story is set in 1795, we can dismiss it as a less evolved time and place. But its parallels to today are obvious. When it was written, America was still grappling with the war crimes committed by American soldiers in Vietnam. Now we have other disturbing parallels. Perhaps The Robber Bridegroom illustrates one of the big lessons we’re learning right now in the world – morality and survival aren’t always compatible.
You can watch the show from a modern feminist perspective and be appalled that Rosamund wants to be with the Bandit of the Woods, but how many of us know women like her, who only like “bad boys,” who are attracted to men who treat them badly, who stay in unhealthy relationships? It’s real. And maybe if we recognize that we haven’t really come all that far since the days of the earliest American settlers, we can at long last do something about it.
It’s okay just to sit back and enjoy The Robber Bridegroom and not think about any of this for a couple hours. But don’t think we have nothing to learn from these crazy, nasty, desperate, deeply human characters on stage.
We have met the enemy and he is us.