Haymarket: The Anarchist’s Songbook

Book & Lyrics by Alex Higgin-Houser

Music by  David Kornfeld

Directed by Elizabeth Margolius

Music Direction by Robert Ollis & Tyler Thopson

Produced by Underscore Theatre Company

At The Edge Theater, Chicago

Powerful story of Chicago’s infamous Haymarket massacre soars in a tuneful folk musical

If you wonder where the new voices in musicals are in America, you only have to turn to the creators of the fabulous new folk musical, Haymarket: The Anarchist’s Songbook to see evidence of talent. With Book and Lyrics by Alex Higgin-Houser and music by David Kornfeld, Haymarket is proof positive that the American musical is, indeed, in good hands!

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This sparkling new chamber folk musical is featured at the new Edge Theater  (5451 N. Broadway), a terrific venue. Haymarket: The Anarchist’s Songbook is a mature, polished folk musical that creatively and most effectively tells the true Chicago story of the 1886 Haymarket Affair that erupted into a bombing after a labor rally. The story is told from the point of view of Lucy Parsons (LaKecia Harris), the daughter of a slave and the widow of anarchist martyr Albert Parsons (James Smart).

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Utilizing slick music direction by Robert Ollis and Tyler Merle Thompson of David Kornfeld’s richly varied score while having the cast members acting as musicians, Haymarket unfolds as a folk operetta. This wonderful score with smartly appropriate lyrics by Alec Higgin-Houser set the proper tone of labor organization,  populist movements, and social unrest as Americans strive for basic worker’s rights. The roaring songs effectively captured the hope, dreams, and spirit of both immigrants and American working class. Featuring guitars, mandolin, piano, accordion, ukulele, harmonica, and trumpet, among other instruments, each played by a cast member to accompany their fine vocals, Haymarket “sings” richly as the mood and spirit of the story soars into our hearts!

The 25 song score is in fine hands here. It is  amazing that the creatives at Underscore found as many excellent actors/singers/musicians as they did to tell the early labor confrontation story.  Just like their terrific Borderlands, Haymarket uses the players as musicians as they strut ballads and traditional melodies to celebratory tunes to protest songs to tell the labor struggles of the 1880’s.

The artistry here is fluid; songs richly both to tell the story as well as underscore the mood and tone of events.  LaKecia Harris anchors the cast with her fine acting and terrific vocals. James Smart (Albert Parsons), Mike Mazzocca (August Spies), Royen Kent (Louis Lingg), David Kaplinsky (Adolf Fisher), Tyler Merle Thompson (George Engel),  each had fine moments while Summer Hofford (Nina Van Zandt Spies), Victoria Olivier (Johanna Fisher) and Khaki Pixley (Mary Engel)  contributed fine solos and rich harmonies.

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This two hour folk operetta grabs us from the start and carries us through the events and injustices of the Haymarket Affair.  I only hope that regional theaters and national tour producers get to see the merits of this wonderful show. I hear that producers are always looking for new worthy shows. Best they get to The Edge Theater in Chicago to see Haymaket: The Anarchist’s Songbook. This show has so much promise – don’t miss it!

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

Date Reviewed: May 17, 2016

Jeff Recommended

For more info checkout the Maymarket: The Anarchist’s Songbook page at theatreinchicago.com

At the Edge Theater, 5451 N. Broadway, Chicago, IL, call 312-646-0975, www.underscoretheatre.org, tickets $20 –$25,  Fridays at 7:30 pm, Saturdays at 3 & 7:30 pm, Sundays at 5 pm, Mondays at 7:30 pm, rinning time is 2 hours with intermission, through June 12, 2016

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