RED BANK: ‘LITTLE JO’ GETS ACTUAL BALLADS
Teal Wicks (second from left) is the title character — and Daniel K. Isaac, Jane Bruce and Eric William Morris lend solid support — as the screen-to-stage musical adaptation “The Ballad of Little Jo” begins previews at Two River Theater. (Photo by Amanda Crommett)
In the 1993 film The Ballad of Little Jo, director Maggie Greenwald told the story of Josephine Monaghan, a young 19th-century woman from a proper Boston family who adapts to a life of self-exile in an Idaho frontier town by living her life as a man.
While the movie left the actual ballads at the door, a handful of creative people heard the music in its fact-based tale. And beginning with its first preview performance this Saturday, Little Jo adapts to life in the 21st century in its new incarnation, as a musical stage production from Red Bank’s own Two River Theater Company.
Opening officially on June 9 and continuing a limited engagement through June 25, The Ballad of Little Jo represents both the last offering in the company’s 2016-’17 season and the latest in an ever-growing portfolio of productions to be developed by talented folks with a connection to Two River Theater.
Steering the evolution of the show each step of the way was TRTC’s artistic director — John Dias, the acclaimed producer whose hands-on involvement began with his co-authorship of the musical adaptation’s dialogue book, and who saw an idea for a show nurtured into singing, dancing, fully staged life as a 2000 world premiere from Chicago’s celebrated Steppenwolf Theatre Company.
When it came time to put the words and music to Little Jo’s ballad, Dias partnered with a favorite pair of Red Bank returnees: former NFL defensive tackle turned Grammy winning composer Mike Reid, and co-book writer/ lyricist Sarah Schlesinger — the same team whose previous successful collaborations with Two River included A Wind in the Willows Christmas and In This House.
Dias, who took over the top spot on the Two River creative team in 2010, makes his homestage debut as director with this production, which stars the young Broadway veteran Teal Wicks (Finding Neverland, Jekyll & Hyde, a high-profile turn as Elphaba in Wicked) in the title role of Josephine/Jo. The supporting cast boasts several other actors with credentials in New York productions and major national tours, including Jane Bruce (Elf), Daniel K. Isaac (Anna Nicole the Opera), Leenya Rideout (War Horse, Cabaret), Barbara Tirrell (Miss Hannigan in Annie) — plus Two River returnee Eric William Morris, who starred in the supercharged musical Be More Chill a couple of seasons back. John O’Neill directs the live band; Marc Kimelman (Broadway’s A Bronx Tale) handles the choreography, and Tony winner Jess Goldstein designed the costumes.
Tickets ($20 – $70) and full schedule details can be obtained via the Two River website, or by calling the box office at (732) 345-1400.
And keep it tuned to redbankgreen for more on The Ballad of Little Jo, as well as the upcoming guest engagement of the children’s show The Way Back Home at Two River Theater.