THE FARGO FORUM: 09/24/2007
SONGS' TELLS PRAIRIE TALES ON THE STAGE
By Mila Koumpilova
Songs From The Tall Grass is the story of a scrappy settler family, told through authentic song lyrics- something audiences along the way have relished as an escapade to a no-frills past. "I think there's this craving all of us have to connect to our past and pass it along," says the show's producer, Rebecca Petersen. "The show is like a family photo album with stories and music."
EXCERPT FROM THE WASHINGTON POST
"G-rated Americana is the house specialty at Ford's Theater and Songs From The Tall Grass serves up all the wholesome nobility you can eat, and then some. Hale…pens cannily crafted songs."
EXCERPT FROM THE BALTIMORE SUN
INSPIRING TALE OF PIONEERS, PRIDE AND PAIN
Every now and then a show comes along that seems especially well suited to Ford's Theatre. Songs From The Tall Grass is such a show.
A musical about a chapter of American history, the small-scale show is a logical choice for America's most historic theater with its steady tourist clientele. Several school groups were at the matinee I attended, and this account of 19th-century life on the prairie easily held their interest.
For young people, part of the appeal no doubt stems from the fact that six of the 13 cast members are children. But the framework of the piece is also readily accessible, using a fictitious family to link adaptations of authentic songs, journal entries, diaries and letters. Indeed, it would be difficult to think of a show more deserving of the designation: "for the entire family."
EXCERPT FROM THE WASHINGTON TIMES, MARCH 24, 2001
FORD'S PRAIRIE SONGS WELL-SPUN
by Christian Toto
The nameless narrator of Songs From The Tall Grass seems a rickety device from which to hang a show about prairie life in the 1800s. The man opens the show by comparing his cushy modern lifestyle to that of the pioneers, who battled insects, Draconian bankers and illness to forge a piece of Americana for their own. It should not work, or at least should cause you to shudder at its sticky sentimentality. But it doesn't. Indeed, the world premiere of Songs From The Tall Grass at Ford's Theatre strikes nary an off-note throughout its homespun musical vignettes. And, oh, what potential exists in the book, derived from authentic era songs, letters and journals, for a cloying production.
Songs From The Tall Grass is stitched together from century-old writings by a quartet of talented scribes, but its music bears enough of a modern polish to send home its multilayered message. Sung chiefly with piano, violin and guitar accompaniment, its barrage of numbers charms while depicting an American spirit rarely found in modern drama.
The homesteaders clung to their simple pleasures, like the wonder of a glass window in their unsteady sod house. Their songs assuaged the pain of loss and let them bask in the celebrations along the way. The opening numbers, like the rousing Home on the Prairie, reveal a contented side of their formidable lives. A tiny fear blossoms that the images being conjured will be rosier than reality. But much of the music is elegiac in nature, and the narrative pulls few punches in depicting the rigors of their existence. A subdued version of Home on the Range lends the tune an emotional depth rarely hinted at in other guises.
The theater's majestic set, a simple space awash in blue, gold and maroon straw imagery, changes little throughout the performance. Above it, though, runs a montage of vintage photographs. The quiet portraits, featuring steely-eyed pioneer men and wizened women, add to the evening's Technicolor pictures of prairie days.
Part historical lecture, part Broadway-style musical, Songs From The Tall Grass takes pains to show how the persevering nature of our pioneers still exists in us all, if we could only shut off the VCR and log off the Internet long enough to remember.
EXCERPT FROM THE POTOMAC NEWS, MARCH 29, 2001
'SONGS FROM THE TALL GRASS' IS A FAMILY MUST-SEE.
By Kari Eaves
If you are trying to take your children to a cultural event they (and you) will actually enjoy, Ford's Theatre is offering the family musical, Songs From The Tall Grass. "Songs" uses traditional songs and stories from the era to paint a vivid and poignant picture of history that is richly poetic and lively enough to keep kids enchanted. It tells the story of a young pioneer family settling the newly acquired Oklahoma territory. With their neighbors, the family builds a community and a culture of song that celebrates its joys and accompanies its sorrows.
In a time when phrases like "family values" are bandied about by politicians, Songs From The Tall Grass tells a beautiful and expressive story of an America we've almost left behind.