Announcement before the 2013 show by Wesley H. Gallagher for N’focus Magazine
If you’re looking for entertainment on September 17, come to Christ Church Cathedral on Ninth and Broadway at 7 p.m. for a free staged reading of Lost And Found, the new Stephen Foster musical. The play is the brainchild of Nashville architect Martin Shofner, who conceived the story, and his wife Corabel, who wrote the script. Rachel Fogarty, a composer who graduated from Belmont, has arranged the songs for the musical, and Catherine Coke, a seasoned director who teaches theatre at USN, will direct the reading. The musical reworks Stephen Foster classics such as “Oh Susanna” and “My Old Kentucky Home” along with lesser-known works into more contemporary songs that accompany a plot based off of the New Testament parable of the Prodigal Son. Martin, who was introduced to Foster, “the father of American music,” at an early age, felt that his contributions to American music were underappreciated and wanted to free his songs from their Victorian parlour sound. In listening to the songs he thought, “There’s a story in here,” and before long, the Prodigal Son came to his mind and pulled it all together. The play focuses on family, youthful passions, jealousy, longing, redemption and love, all themes present in both the parable and Foster’s songs. Characters from Foster’s tunes are woven into the narrative so that barely any lyrics were changed to fit the plot. Members of the audience will be encouraged to share their response to the work, so come ready to give not only your attention, but your opinion too. Maybe one day it will end up on Broadway and you can tell all your friends you saw it first.
Review by Jazz Dorsey for The Nashville Dramaturgy Project
Last night’s reading of LOST & FOUND in the sanctuary of Christ Church Cathedral, directed by Catherine Coke, was glorious. The cast of 16, headed by legendary Nashville vocal mentor Nancy Allen, literally breathed life and spirit into this telling of the tale of the prodigal son, which could not have had a more stunning and appropriate back drop than the beautiful stained glass windows that hovered above them. At the end of the show, as the cast reprised “The Pure, the Bright, the Beautiful” I looked above them and saw Jesus reaching out to man. Never before in my personal experience have church and theatre come together more powerfully.
I don’t know if it’s true for today’s kids, but Stephen Foster’s songs were certainly an important part of my generation’s musical upbringing – at least the better known songs such as “Oh,Susanna,” “Swanee River,” and “Camptown Races.” But one of the great joys of this production is the chance to discover Foster songs that you have not heard – and one of the great merits of the project is giving new life to these amazing and beautiful songs, which otherwise might, over time, have fallen completely through the cracks.
And thanks to the fascinating arrangement by Rachel De Vore-Fogarty, they do get a new life. While I can’t think of any two composers more unlike one another than Foster and Kurt Weill, De Vore-Fogarty has infused Foster’s music with just enough of Weill’s tonalities to give LOST & FOUND that Brechtian quality needed to give this Biblical tale the aesthetic hormones necessary to reach a level of universality that it might otherwise have fallen short of.
Musically, the show explores the spectrum of Foster’s music, giving the voices simple but beautiful things to do, leaving the magic in the hands of the singers and musicians, under the fine musical direction of Randy Craft, free from the crutches of technology which have become the bane of contemporary music. The fine trio consists of Mr. Craft on piano, Lindsey Smith-Trostle on Cello and Cameron Cleland on guitar. That same Brechtian spirit goes for the Shofner & Shofner book, which sets the tale in an ambiguous gestalt that is as much present day as it is early 19th century.
Particularly powerful and current is the play’s depiction of addiction – in this case, gambling – which is the underlying villain of the story. William and Susana are beautifully crafted as enablers caught up in the romance of addiction, and Coke’s staging, which places these two babes together on a bench center stage, between the worlds of home and Camptown. Camptown here is “sin city” if you will, a moral morass of horse races and whores. In a really fascinating “double entendre” on heaven and hell, the whores are know as the “Heavenlies” and their procuress as “Madam Paradise.” Megan Eyre is delicious as the Madam, and
Aaron Crites vilely sibilant as “Snake.” In another sweet take on the ironies of heaven and hell, the excellent ensemble dbles as the church congregation and as the miscreants of Camptown, deftly conveyed by a change in the womens’ hats (echos of CROWNS!) Shelton Clarke does a fine job as both Pastor Honeymaker and Boss Taggert of Camptown ( 7th Heaven meets Dukes of Hazzard), and the ladies of Camptown are also the judgement passing widows of the church community. The character names are taken from Foster songs and the lyrics and the story are so beautifully interwoven that you would swear that the Shofners and Mr. Foster had been sitting at the same table for several years crafting the piece together. The cast is perfect -especially Nick Hurn as Willie, the prodigal, and Neal Buckley as his brother, Paul – the one cherubic and Rubenesque, the other all angular and “American Gothic.” Jenna Burns is a lovely Jeanie (of the light brown hair) and Sara Caroline Billings delivers a very edgy Susanna.