|courtesy of the New York Public Library|
First performed in 1866 at Niblo's Garden on Broadway in what is today Soho, The Black Crook is considered by many to be the first modern musical comedy, where drama, dance, and song combine to tell a story. The story is a fantastical tale of a young woman, Amina, who is betrothed against her wishes to an evil count, who in turn imprisons her beloved, a peniless painter named Rudolphe.
Rather than play it entirely straight, this modern production intersperses the Black Crook story with the tale of how the musical came about. After a fire at the Academy of Music on 14th Street, a troupe of dancers from Paris and a theatrical producer were forced to team up to merge their two forms. The original production ran for over 400 performances (then a record) and one song from the production, "You Naughty, Naughty Men," quickly became a standard.
We don't want to give too much away, but the musical is by turns funny and moving, and everyone in the cast -- most playing two or three roles and a musical instrument -- is excellent.
If you go, stop in the lobby for a homebrewed 19th-century beer made from water, yeast, and molasses. It's a bit strange for modern palates, but will definitely help you transport back to the period.
THE BLACK CROOK
Abrons Arts Center at Henry Street Settlement
through October 7
TICKETS are $25 at http://www.abronsartscenter.org/on-stage/shows/joshua-william-gelb-black-crook-1866-world-premiere/