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First American Musical THE BLACK CROOK to Play Abrons Arts Center

In honor of its 150th anniversary Joshua William Gelb and company revive The Black Crook, the first ever American musical, at the Abrons Arts Center this fall. That is, if you believe the myth.

A year after the Civil War ended, on September 12, 1866, The Black Crook opened at Niblo's Garden on Broadway and Prince Street. The show featured a melodrama about a painter who sells his soul to a Sorcerer, written by Charles M. Barras, and mashed together dance numbers by a Parisian ballet troupe set to popular music. It ran a whopping five hours, boasting 100 performers. It was not only a scandal-the nude tights of the dancers prompted protests-it was also the beginning of Broadway as we know it: sensationalism and spectacle mixing in a melting-pot of entertainment both high and low.

150 years later a team of eight actor/musician/dancers, under the direction of Gelb, stage the full text of the 1866 musical at Abrons, a stone's throw from where Niblo's once stood. Much like the original Black Crook, Gelb's version mixes in a new story-this one about the tragic life of The Black Crook's own author Charles M. Barras. Performers double as the fictional characters of Barras's play and the actual larger than life players from 1866 while also playing music from the original score with new compositions created specially for the 150th anniversary. Each night will feature a special guest performance at intermission. The biggest of all American spectacles is being rescaled into the tiniest of spaces-from Broadway to East Broadway.

"The Black Crook is a post Civil War origin story about American spectacle that not only presages our current Broadway climate, but can be directly linked to the spectacle of the coming election and the desire for escapism in popular culture," says Gelb.

The Black Crooks features Randy Blair, Kate Weber, Alaina Ferris, Elizabeth Hagstedt, Steven Rattazzi, Jessie Shelton, Christopher Tocco and Merlin Whitehawk. The Black Crook is adapted and directed by Joshua William Gelb with music direction by Alaina Ferris, arrangement by Justin Levine, lights by Bradley King, set design by Carolyn Mraz and costumes by Normandy Sherwood. Produced by Moe Yousuf.

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