Cynthia Erivo (I Can’t Sing!, The Color Purple) returns to the West End in the title role of the European premiere of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty’s Dessa Rose when it opens at London’s Trafalgar Studios from 29 July-30 August (press night is 31 July). Cassidy Janson (Avenue Q, Wicked, Candide) will play the role of Ruth.
Also in the cast are John Addison (The Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables, A Little Night Music), Edward Baruwa (Sister Act, Avenue Q, Les Misérables), Sharon Benson (Hot Mikado, Cats) who returns to the West End after her best-known role in the Old Vic production of Carmen Jones, Miquel Crown (The Amen Corner, Fame, The Reflection Day), Alexander Evans (The Secret Garden, Carousel, Masterclass), Cameron Leigh (Imagine This, Calamity Jane, Chicago), Fela Lufadeju (Dirty Dancing, Hairspray, Drunk), Gabriel Mokake (The Color Purple, Porgy and Bess), Abiona Omonua and Jon Robyns (Avenue Q, the Menier Chocolate Factory’s Road Show, Les Misérables).
Award-winning director Andrew Keates said: “In an age of casting inappropriate celebrities just to sell seats, we are very proud to have collected together some of our finest actors, who work in musical theatre, to serve this extraordinary story and indeed respect musical theatre as an art form. Quite simply, I couldn’t have asked for a better cast.”
Cynthia Erivo added: “I am so excited to be part of this production. We have a great cast and it is a gift of a role for me to play.”
Dessa Rose is based on the book by Sherley Anne Williams with lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and music by Stephen Flaherty (Ragtime, Once On This Island, Seussical and Rocky the Musical).
This powerful story, set in 1846 in the ante-bellum South, follows two young women on their journey to acceptance. With elements of blues, folk, hymns and gospel, Dessa Rose blends history and fiction. Passionate and innocent Dessa Rose is a young slave faced with a barrage of hardships because of the colour of her skin; while Ruth, a young white mother, faces difficulties because of her gender.
Ruth and Dessa ‘hand down the story’ to their grandchildren, reliving the adventure they experienced together. Through their extraordinary tale, we see their deep and lasting bond and how this makes them part of a ‘long, strong line of women’.
Keates is joined by choreographer Sam Spencer Lane, musical director Dean Austin, musical supervisor Mark Collins, costume designer Philippa Batt and lighting designer Neill Brinkworth.
Dessa Rose is produced by Arion Productions, acclaimed for Passing By, As Is, Rooms – A Rock Romance and Howard Goodall’s A Winter’s Tale. Arion works with the primary goal of presenting theatrical pieces based entirely on their artistic merit, regardless of form.