By Bernie Schmitt
Indiana’s first city will see the world premiere of “Alice of Old Vincennes: A Musical,” during the Memorial Day Weekend in 2016, in celebration of Indiana’s bicentennial.
Plans are moving forward for the original musical production that will highlight Vincennes and the Indiana Territory as an important component of early American history. The musical is an adaptation of Maurice Thompson’s popular novel “Alice of Old Vincennes,” which captivated readers when it was published in 1900.
The musical will be presented at the Red Skelton Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. May 27 and 28, and 2 p.m. May 29. It will also be presented at 7:30 p.m. June 3 and 4, and at 2 p.m. June 5. The Center is located along Red Skelton Boulevard on the campus of Vincennes University.
Individual ticket prices will be $25 and $20, with reduced rates for groups. Ticket sales will be announced early in 2016.
Fund-raising for the professional, world-class production is ongoing. Orchestration for the music written by Jay Kerr, a Broadway composer, is underway in New York. The lyrics were written by poet and lyricist Laurel Smith. James Spurrier, retired Director of Theatre at Vincennes University, wrote the adaptation.
Adapting the Maurice Thompson’s classic novel “Alice of Old Vincennes” for the stage, the musical’s authors have incorporated original songs to create a unique interpretation of the famous story.
“The songs move the story ahead and give us insight into the characters,” said composer Kerr. “It’s a love story that takes place with a war in the background, where characters thrive and survive focused on a greater good, the spirit that created America. It is entirely fitting for Indiana’s Bicentennial.”
Professional casting for the lead roles of production, especially Alice, will begin in February, when Spurrier plans to attend the Midwest Theatre Auditions in St. Louis. There will be local auditions for some parts, mostly the chorus, in late March or early April. Dates and times of the auditions will be announced later.
The story is set in 1778 and features Alice, a young woman coming of age on the American frontier during the Revolutionary War. She is the frontier Indiana heroine, a strong-willed, independent young woman whose love of country, and for one of George Rogers Clark’s soldiers, is the focal point of this historical romance.
The original novel was published at the turn of the 20th century, when many Americans were nostalgic for Americana, for glorious visions of history and heroes. Alice seems to fit the bill, especially for Indiana’s first city, Vincennes.
Though the story is old, the adaptation is designed for modern audiences. The new version of the story and its music are entirely new. The world premiere of “Alice of Old Vincennes: A Musical” will be performed at the a theater dedicated to famed American comedian Red Skelton, who was born and raised in Vincennes.
“It is interesting that Red Skelton brought so many fictional characters to life in his comedy,” said lyricist Smith, who is a longtime educator and interim provost at VU. “Alice is not one of Skelton’s creations, but she is certainly a character who should come to life.”
Thompson’s novel about Alice brought considerable attention to Vincennes when Indiana turned 100. Smith is happy that “Alice in a musical setting will be around for the 200th celebration.”
In addition to Alice, other characters influence the outcome of their story – from local townspeople to the Indians and soldiers on both sides of the American Revolution. It was in 1779 that Clark led a band of loyal frontiersman, dedicated to the American cause, through wintry flood waters to surround Fort Sackville on the Wabash River at Vincennes, forcing the British to surrender, thus winning what was then “the West,” for the fledgling United States.
Fund-raising for “Alice of Old Vincennes: A Musical,” continues. Alice of Old Vincennes, Inc., is a non-profit organization, and all donations are tax deductible. The tiered structure of fund-raising includes Platinum sponsors ($25,000+), Gold sponsors ($10,000+), Silver sponsors ($5,000+), Bronze sponsors ($1,000+), and Patron sponsors ($500+).
All contributions are welcome. Please send contributions to: ALICE, c/o Jim Spurrier, 2202 E. Seminole Drive, Vincennes, IN 47591.
For updates on Alice, visit www.aliceofvincennes.com.