The Firehouse Theatre Project and Richmond CenterStage present the Civil War-Era musical Dessa Rose May 2 – June 3, 2012. Dessa Rose will be performed at the Firehouse Theatre and comes during Virginia's commemoration of the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War and Emancipation.
Dessa Rose is a musical based on the epic novel by Sherley Anne Williams with Book and Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and Music by Stephen Flaherty. Based on both fact and fiction, the plot weaves together the stories of two real women, Ruth Sutton and Dessa Rose, in the year 1847, nearly a decade and a half before the outbreak of the American Civil War. Ahrens and Flaherty are best known for their Tony Award-winning work on Ragtime and Once on this Island. The Firehouse/CenterStage production of Dessa Rose is directed by Richard M. Parison, Jr., with choreography by Karen Getz and music direction by Leilani Giles.
"Dessa Rose is a musical about love, laughter, hope and a pair of unlikely heroines. The soaring music creates an intricate tapestry of storytelling between them and draws audiences into their dynamic world," said Richard Parison, Director of Dessa Rose and Executive Director of Richmond CenterStage. "I think particularly in Richmond, during the Sesquicentennial commemoration of the Civil War and Emancipation, this piece has tremendous resonance."
The musical follows the lives of Ruth Sutton and the title character Dessa Rose. Ruth is a white woman abandoned by her husband and living on an isolated plantation. Dessa is an escaped slave on the run from a bloody slave rebellion. Dessa has a newborn infant to protect, and she seeks refuge on Ruth's farm. Hidden in this Alabama backwater, the two women's uneasy alliance ultimately transcends racial barriers as they find the strength to confront the world on their own terms. Based on imagined details of real events, their dangerous journey to freedom and self-realization makes for a musical that is by turns comic, tragic, uplifting and inspired.
"Since I first saw Dessa Rose at Lincoln Center in 2005, I wanted to bring the show to Richmond to share with our community. This partnership with CenterStage enables us to do so through artistic collaboration and community outreach, utilizing resources from both groups to heighten the impact of the piece and reach new and diverse audiences," said Carol Piersol, Artistic Director and founding member of the Firehouse Theatre Project.
Cast in the title role of Dessa Rose is Desiree Roots. Desiree is known to local audiences for her theatrical and cabaret musical performances. Playing opposite her as Ruth Sutton is Stacey Cabaj, who recently starred in My Fair Lady at Barksdale Theatre. Dessa Rose also features Nicholas Aliff as Adam Nehemiah, Durron Tyre as Nathan, Katrinah Lewis as Dorcas, Stephanie Hill as Rose, Keydron Dunn as Kaine and Todd Patterson as Harker. Additional members of the ensemble include Diana Carver, Fran Coleman, Laymetha Guy, Michael Hawke, Dale Leopold, Alana Thomas, and Emmanuel Wray.
The Creative Design Team includes Scenic Designer Todd Edward Ivins, Costume Designers Becky Cairns and Ann Hoskins, Lighting Designer Robert Perry, Sound Designer Trevor Wight, Assistant Stage Manager Sharon Gregory and Production Stage Manager Trevor Riley.