'Blackbeard' to Premiere in Phoenix

"Blackbeard," a new musical by composer/lyricist Rob Gardner, will have its world premiere in September at the prestigious Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix, AZ.

After a very successful, sold-out workshop run last summer, the show has been reworked and re-imagined for what is being billed as its pre-Broadway event. Cambrian james, an award-winning choreographer, has been brought in to direct and choreograph this production. Rob Gardner, the show's composer, will be music director.

"Blackbeard" is an ambitious show about America's most notorious pirate, Edward Teach—known as Blackbeard—who used his fearsome façade to capture and plunder his way into legend. The action surrounds the pirate's famously brazen blockade of Charleston Harbor, where he takes a ship full of wealthy passengers hostage and among them, the fiancée to Lt. Robert Maynard of the Royal Navy. But the Governor refuses to pay the bizarre ransom: a chest full of medicine. Meanwhile, despite warnings of bad luck, Blackbeard has brought aboard his latest pursuit, a woman named Mary, who challenges his façade and sets in motion events that will change everything.

The idea for the show came in 2006 when Gardner saw a documentary on pirates. "They had this short segment on Blackbeard, mostly about his final battle on ship with Lt. Maynard, and it just captured my attention," he remembers. "Like most people, I'd heard the name Blackbeard, but never really knew his story. And here he was, this real pirate, in what appeared to be the classic battle of good versus evil. It was fascinating and I had to know more."

After weeks of research, what Gardner discovered was a man who is surrounded by a lot of legend and very little fact. Although Blackbeard was believed by his contemporaries to be the devil himself—with a notoriously ruthless reputation—historians cannot pin a single victim to his alleged murderous adventures. Even more interesting, the pirate apparently had a major weakness for women, marrying over a dozen of them.

And so it was this multi-layered, paradoxical character that Gardner chose as the protagonist for his new musical. And it's Tyler Maxson, who originated the role of Blackbeard in last summer's workshop, who will once again bring the pirate to life this fall. Also returning are Linsey Maxson (as Mary), Jordan Bluth (Lt. Robert Maynard), and Mark Kleinman (the Governor). Kaitlynn Kleinman, a much sought-after local actress will join the cast as Maynard's fiancée, Anne, and character actor Jere Van Patten has been tapped to play the ridiculous "Gentleman Pirate," Stede Bonnet.

"Blackbeard"'s producers are ultimately aiming the show for Broadway and this production will serve as an out-of-town tryout to garner attention from potential investors, theater owners and industry insiders. Such an event is a rare opportunity in the growing Phoenix arts scene.

The musical has book, music and lyrics by Rob Gardner, who has composed for film, television, recordings and the concert stage. His sacred oratorios for choir and orchestra have been performed live around the world and filmed for television broadcast internationally. He has written three musicals previously: "Joan of Arc," "12 Princesses," and "The Price of Freedom."

"Blackbeard" will open Sept. 5 at the Herberger Theater Center Stage and run through Sept. 27. Tickets go on sale Monday, July 28.

For more information, call the box office at (602) 252-8497 or visit www.blackbeardthemusical.com.

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