(Image Credit: http://www.atgtickets.com)
Dessa Rose was on for a month during the summer at Trafalgar Studios which starred Cynthia Erivo and Cassidy Janson. The musical, based on Shirley Anne Williams's novel, was first premiered Off Broadway, New York, nine years ago. This production, directed by Andrew Keates, was having its European Premiere.
Dessa Rose, written by Lynn Ahrens and the beautifully composed music by Stephen Flaherty, tells the stories of two young ladies, Dessa Rose (played by Cynthia Erivo) and Ruth (played by Cassidy Janson) who both share their life stories of friendship and being accepted to their grandchildren in post civil war America in 1920. Their lives were of contrasts and couldn't be any more different - Dessa Rose's slavery upbringing and Ruth's privileged life. The story explores Dessa Rose's strength of character, self sufficiency and determination whenever she faced adversaries including persecution whereas Ruth believed she had her life planned with a comfortable lifestyle and her marriage to Bertie (played by John Addison) but only for her dreams to be shattered. Ruth's changed situation which enforced her to see life beyond the closed minded society she only knew of before and being in situations which she had always believed forbidden.
Flaherty's beautiful music and lyrics illustrates vocally how both Dessa Rose and Ruth felt in their ever changing situations. The hybrid of blues, folk and gospel music is reminiscent of America's Deep South and humanely expresses the poignancy of this dark and naive history involving slavery and the society at the time. The excellent cast of 12, led by Erivo and Janson, certainly have put more than their heart and soul and the studio's small and intimate space reflected those emotions and energy throughout the show.
Unfortunately the musical is now closed however, with the great reviews Dessa Rose received, one is confident that it will return on a theatre's stage or space sooner than later! Happy to have had the opportunity to see it!
Thoughts of a Blue Eyed Girl excellent review of this show is a recommended read!