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A toe-tapping ballad based on a true story

Preview by Paul Nelson

THE Ballad of Little Jo is a new award winning musical by American writers Mike Reid (composer) and Sarah Schlesinger (lyrics) based on the film of the same name by Maggie Greenwald. It will receive its European premiere at the Bridewell Theatre, in June/July.

Starring Anna Francolini in the title role, The Ballad of Little Jo is an archetypal American frontier legend which draws on Irish/American folk forms. Full of poignant melodies and toe-tappers, it packs a powerful emotional punch.

The Ballad of Little Jo is based on the true story of Josephine Monaghan, who lived as a man in Silver City, Idaho, in the late 1800s. Her true identity was only discovered on her death.

Abandoning home after having an illegitimate child, Josephine travels to the West coast and works in a silver mine, disguised as a man until her true identity is revealed … a traditional 'yarn' is woven with questions of prejudice and injustice and the way small communities behave under pressure.

The Ballad of Little Jo is directed by the Bridewell Theatre's artistic director, Carol Metcalfe, whose credits include the world premiere of Sondheim's Saturday Night, Damn Yankees and On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.

Musical direction is by Michael England, whose West End credits include The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables.

First staged at the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago in 2000, the New Yorker Magazine described it as: 'the real thing … the best piece of musical storytelling I've seen in a decade … a compelling drama'.

An educational project, funded by the Corporation of London as part of the City of London Festival, will explore some of the themes from the musical, and will involve 45 students from three inner London schools.

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