2015 Archives

Dallas Theater Center stages new musical 'Stagger Lee'

Written by SMU Artist-in-Residence Will Power

January 26, 2015

The Dallas Theater Center is producing the world premiere of the new musical Stagger Lee, book and lyrics by Meadows Prize recipient Will Power of SMU. 

Will Power
Will Power

Stagger Lee, which takes its title from the century-old folk song, is directed by Patricia McGregor with music by Will Power and Justin Ellington. Stagger Lee was partially developed in workshops in collaboration with the Meadows School of the Arts, Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas as a part of Will Powers' Meadows Prize residency.

  Stagger Lee runs through Sunday, February 15. Tickets to Stagger Lee are on sale now at www.DallasTheatercenter.org.

"Dallas Theater Center's partnership with SMU's Meadows School of the Arts has generated many artistic accomplishments in recent years and Stagger Lee is among the most exciting. Will Power, DTC's Playwright in Residence, is an incredibly talented writer. With this piece he has created his first musical," said DTC Artistic Director Kevin Moriarty. "Working with co-composer, Justin Ellington, Will has crafted a musical score that spans the breadth of African-American music throughout the 20th century, from the blues to hip hop, while telling a fast paced, deeply moving story of love, friendship, freedom and sacrifice."

Stagger Lee, which features a 21-person cast, spans the 20th century, tracing mythical characters in their quest to achieve the American Dream. Billy is a dreamer and an optimist. He moves North with his wife Delilah in search of a better home to raise his young family. Johnny, Delilah's brother, and his girl Frankie also dream of a bright future. Stagger Lee embodies the challenges and struggles these two couples face along the way. Told with music that crosses decades and locations, Stagger Lee explores deep-seated themes of racism and the raw power of the human spirit.

"It's a challenge to have the kind of diversity we have in America and try to create one American mythology. So with Stagger Lee, I started to think about these old folk tales. Frankie and Johnny is about a woman who found out her man was cheating on her and killed him. Long Lost John is a folk tale about this convict who broke out of a chain gang and spent years on the run. And Stagger Lee comes from a story about a guy named Lee Stag Shelton, and he was gambling with another guy named Billy Lyons. They got into an argument about what the dice said and Billy knocked off Lee Stag Shelton's hat, and Lee Stag Shelton shot him," says Power. "All of these folk tales are woven through the play to tell a story that is ultimately about the search for the American Dream."

Read the full story.


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