Monday, March 19, 2012
Stagger Lee shot Billy
The one and only fully staged production of the Ignite! festival is Ayad Akhtar’s smart thriller The Invisible Hand, which can be seen in the Rep Studio through March 25th, but the first reading—the first act of the musical Stagger Lee on Thursday, March 15th—was almost as impressive.
Based on the graphic novel of the same name (which I’d strongly recommend), Stagger Lee combines a fictional love story with the largely true tale of how Lee “Stag Lee” Shelton shot Billy Lyons in a St. Louis saloon in 1895. The killing and subsequent trial became grist for songwriters’ mills almost immediately—and still is.
The show has music by Stew and Heidi Rodewald and book and lyrics by Derek McCulloch (who also wrote the original graphic novel). The cast assembled for the reading were J. Samuel Davis, Rebecca Jones, Javier Munoz, Ken Page, Stacey Sargeant, and Paul Stovall. Amanda Dehnert directed, with musical direction by Jon Spurney.
Both Stagger Lee and the Ignite! festival show real promise. There are two more readings in the Ignite! New Play Festival on Tuesday and Wednesday, March 20 and 21; details at http://www.repstl.org/ignite