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  Dessa Rose at Victory Gardens Theater - Biograph

Dessa Rose

Victory Gardens Theater - Biograph
2433 N. Lincoln Ave Chicago

DESSA ROSE is a stirring musical drama based on the noted novel by Sherley Anne Williams. Told as an oral history and related by two women, Ruth and Dessa Rose, this powerful tale of an unlikely friendship takes place in 1847, 14 years before the outbreak of the American Civil War.

Presented by Bailiwick Chicago

Thru - Apr 5, 2014

Thursdays: 8:00pm
Fridays: 8:00pm
Saturdays: 2:00pm & 8:00pm
Sundays: 2:00pm

Price: $15-$40

Stage: Richard Christiansen Theater

Show Type: Musical

Box Office: 773-871-3000

Running Time: 2hrs, 15mins

Victory Gardens Theater - Biograph Seating Chart

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  Dessa Rose Reviews
  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune - Recommended

"...Opening just a few days after "12 Years a Slave" won an Academy Award, one is inclined to see "Dessa Rose" in that context. That's a good thing. To some degree, the show's initial trajectory struggled with a general reluctance and reticence, on part of both the creative community and the general audience, surrounding a musical about slavery. Some African-American actors, for very good reason, have been reluctant to play such roles, especially in a show that has a white woman as a co-heroine. The horrors of that era are difficult to embody on any stage. The ticket-buyer has to be willing to relive, to some degree, this original American sin. I wouldn't say Brown is explicitly taking a leaf from the Steve McQueen playbook, but she picks up on the theme (rather hidden in "Dessa Rose" originally) of articulating the untold stories of pain and victory, the survival skills of seemingly ordinary people, leaders who just happened to be born too soon for their own good. Dessa Rose and Solomon Northup have a lot in common."
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Chris Jones

Chicago Sun Times - Highly Recommended

"...With its soaring score, and a story built on the ever thorny issue of race in this country, you need only listen to the initial anthemic chorale in “Dessa Rose,” to know that this is a musical by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, the team behind “Ragtime.” (The same pair has penned the score for “Rocky, The Musical,” opening Thursday on Broadway.)"
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Hedy Weiss

Chicago Reader - Somewhat Recommended

"...The best parts of director Lili-Anne Brown’s revival are the many small moments she and her wonderful cast add to this production—the quick asides, the meaningful glances, the subtle shifts in the way lines are delivered and sung—that speak volumes about the characters and the hateful world they live in. "
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Jack Helbig

Time Out Chicago - Recommended

"...Bailiwick’s Chicago premiere is cooking up some damn tasty vegetables. Brown and musical director James Morehead have assembled a cast and band to squeeze every last drop of emotion out of Flaherty’s bright score, all inspirational swelling and harmonies, and they present it in a satisfyingly intimate staging upstairs at Victory Gardens. The likes of Jayson “JC” Brooks, Jasondra Johnson and Steven Perkins bring everything they’ve got vocally and leave it all on the stage. And Charles and France each imbue their characters with what seems like more nuance, detail and fire than they have on the page; these are uncommon women indeed."
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Kris Vire

Stage and Cinema - Highly Recommended

"...Based on Sherley Anne Williams’ historical novel, this picaresque, proto-feminist saga, set 14 years before the Civil War, imagines a happier solution to slavery than that bloody carnage allowed. Flaherty’s stirring songs, which combine the syncopated verve and spiritual uplift of Ragtime with the bouncy abandon of Once on This Island, depict an unlikely partnership, a strange but ultimately convincing case of sisterly solidarity."
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Lawrence Bommer

Splash Magazine - Not Recommended

"...Structurally speaking, this musical fails on a multitude of levels. It’s almost like everything is in a fog where the characters drift in and out in small fragments without allowing any of them outside of Ruth to really develop into real people. It’s just baffling to me how a story that deals with slavery, abuse, two attempted rapes, racism, and other dark topics from America’s past can be so completely void of any actual emotion. This is especially true for a musical, which inherently is meant as a means to express deep emotions. Not once during the entire production do we feel anything outside of “their voices sound great!” or “Wow. That actress can really sing.” But no amount of good vocals can smoothe over what is essentially a clumsy, uneven, languid, and highly flawed script that moralizes its messages rather than emoting them." Let me know if you have any questions."
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Justin LeClaire

ChicagoCritic - Highly Recommended

"...Dessa Rose is a tale of courage, suffering, redemption and friendship in a memorable story that reinforces the power of the human spirit. Strength and love can transcend the barriers between people. It is refreshing to find out how tough our ancestors actually were. Dessa Rose is an beautiful American folk operetta where the human spirit is celebrated through song within an original story. This is an uplifting show that celebrates the human spirit. It is a gem!"
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Tom Williams

Chicago Stage Standard - Highly Recommended

"...Jasondra Osbourne as Dorcas could steal every scene she is in with her powerful voice and her impeccable comic timing, but instead creates a real, grounded character, who creates her own dignity despite being stripped of her name and identity. Jayson “JC” Brooks is perfect as the charming and empathetic Nathan, conveying both Nathan’s bravado and his compassion, which goes beyond race. Steven Perkins as Harker offers quiet support and golden vocals. Jaymes Osbourne’s Kaine captures the innocence and determination of his character, and his power comes through in his vocals."

Kerstin Broockmann

Chicago Theatre Review - Highly Recommended

"...With Black History month behind us and Women's History month upon us, Bailiwick offers up a marvelous, seldom-produced celebration of both history and humankind, bringing to life a page from our country's past that begs to be experienced live by everyone. This is a show that shouldn't be missed."
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Colin Douglas

The Fourth Walsh - Highly Recommended

"...From commencement to conclusion, this sublime ensemble captivates. At the beginning and the end, they appear in contemporary street clothes singing the haunting "We are Descended." The finale message is especially powerful after knowing what transpired in the-in-between. Looking at the collection of men and women, black and white, I'm overwhelmed in the emotional finality. Whether it's the 1800s or 2000s, people evolve into a better person by their own choice."

Katy Walsh

  Dessa Rose Photo Gallery

   This show has been Jeff Recommended*

*The designation of "Jeff Recommended" is given to a production when at least ONE ELEMENT of the show was deemed outstanding by the Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee.

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