Festival Season Selection
Mark Brokaw Guest Artistic Director

Gumbo (1141)

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Music

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Score

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SnapShot

  • TITLE OF WORK: Gumbo
  • SELECT ONE: Original
  • MUSICAL STYLE: Jazz or Blues, Gospel or Soul
  • NATURE: Drama or Tragedy, Romance, Fantasy, Humor
  • INTENDED AUDIENCE: Adult
  • STRUCTURE: Some spoken dialogue: Mostly sung
  • APPROXIMATE DURATION (Hrs/Min): 2 hrs 30min
  • DESIRED INSTRUMENTATION: Could be preformed with a full pit, small New Orleans Jazz Band with two keyboards, or for a reading with Piano, Bass, and Drums.
  • BRIEFLY STATE THE THEME or MESSAGE: The show is at its heart about the resilient spirit of love and community.
  • NUMBER OF SETS: 5-7

Cast Description

CAST BREAKDOWN (9M, 5W)

DR. HOWARD HART: mid thirties, Caucasian, textbook Midwesterner, stoic, works in the E.R.; loves two things: his work and his wife, Martha (unexpected, Billy Bigelow voice, not necessarily look; Gorgeous, lush Baritone with an Earthy soul to it. Bb2-A4)

MARTHA LEDOUX (Hart): mid-thirties, African-American of Creole descent; full of life & love with the voice of an angel. She’ll stop you in your tracks. Also, an elementary school teacher married to Howard. (Soprano with a facile range. Can sing classical, jazz, and pop seamlessly)

BOSS: timeless (may ideally appear fifties), a person of color,; ultimate charmer, devilish ring leader of the Gumbo Pot, center of any room. (Big, Beefy Baritone. Should shake the earth with his voice with a lot of Cab Calloway; able to sing big jazz and funk easily – Gb2-B4 opt. low Eb2 - High C5)

BEARD (M): fifties, forties, thirties, African-American, slight, scraggly, looks like he’s really lived, ring leader of the trio (Big Blues man. Able to sing tight harmony a la Blind Boys of Alabama; Dark, lowest baritone; Gb2-Gb4. opt. low Eb2)

SCARF (M): fifties, forties, thirties, African-American, brawny Teddy bear, the diplomat of the trio (Baritone - Able to sing tight harmony a la Blind Boys of Alabama)

PONYTAIL (M): twenties to thirties, Caucasian, Latino, or Asian-American, overeager, the “kid brother” of the trio (Tenor - Able to sing tight harmony a la Blind Boys of Alabama; Sings Funk/Jazz Bb2-D5))

GAIL FORCE/MAN (M): timeless, Latino/a, fierce and fit drag queen, in love with Boss (Tenor A2-A4)

OLIVER FLOOD/WOMAN (F): timeless, any race, dapper vaudeville drag king, short and stocky with a bawdy sense of humor (Alto F3-D5)

 

ENSEMBLE ROLES (Multi-Ethnic Necessary)
*Each ensemble member represents a neighborhood of the greater New Orleans area.

MS. FELICE WARD [Seventh Ward]: forties, fifties, African-American, a mother hen (Coloratura with a lot of soul – Gb3-C6; soprano at church)

HOLLY [Hollygrove]: twenties to thirties, African-American or biracial, buoyant and youthful (Sassy Mezzo-Soprano – Big voice)

ESTHER [The East] / MERYL [Marigny]: thirties, forties, Vietnamese-American (Rich, Facile
Gospel and Blues Singer, Rangey, Gb3-Bb5)

SLY [Slidell] / TREY [Treme]: twenties to thirties, should be a person of color; troublemaker, too handsome for his own good (Tenor á la Kermit Ruffins C3-C5)

CHARLIE [Uptown] / OFFICER WESTIN DULAC: [Lakeview]: thirties, Caucasian (Baritone C3-G4 opt. low Eb2)

NINE [Lower 9] (Male): twenties, thirties, forties, nicknamed for his luck (Bass Eb2-E4)

Synopsis

On the eve of a monstrous storm, Dr. Howard Hart and the mystical Martha LeDoux tie the knot. As the celebration ends, a mysterious stranger tempts Martha with a star-studded future. The next day, as the City prepares for the oncoming hurricane, Howard is called to the hospital downtown. Howard urges Martha to evacuate, but she refuses.

When the levee breaks, Howard returns to find Martha, but she is gone. Desperate, he journeys to the crowded Superdome. There, Howard meets a shady trio, Beard, Scarf, and Ponytail, who have seen and heard of Martha’s disappearance.  

The trio leads Howard to the spot where Martha vanished and leaves him for dead. With the power of his voice, Howard unlocks the floodwaters and descends into the Gumbo Pot, hell in speakeasy form. There, he faces emcees, Gail Force and Oliver Flood, and Boss, Hades himself, sultan of the Gumbo Pot. Boss has captured Martha, the light of the City, to maximize his intake of souls and revitalize his kingdom.

Above ground, the City is ravaged and desperate.  In the Gumbo Pot, Howard has no strength or voice, and worse yet, Martha remains under Boss’s spell. As Gail Force, Boss’s spurned lover, declares her desire to leave the Gumbo Pot, Howard miraculously attempts to speak to Martha. In turn, Boss boots both Gail and Howard out of his club.

With Gail’s help, Howard learns the power of his voice, and returns to the Gumbo Pot. Thus, the showdown between Martha, Howard, and Boss begins. When Howard and Martha sing together, they release the Gumbo Pot’s captured souls. Yet as Martha and Howard escape, Martha makes the ultimate sacrifice and assures the continued life of her hometown. Howard returns to their neighborhood and suddenly sees everything through Martha’s eyes. He must rebuild. 

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