Twain Story Inspires New Musical, A Murder, A Mystery
& A Marriage, Premiering April 2006 in Wilmington
By Kenneth Jones
23 Jul 2005
The 2005-06 season of Delaware Theatre Company in
Wilmington will boast a world premiere bluegrass
musical, A Murder, A Mystery & A Marriage: A Mark
Twain Musical Melodrama.
A draft of the new work, by writer-director Aaron
Posner and composer James Sugg, has been completed and
refinements are ongoing, toward a bow April 26, 2006.
The cast is expected to include Dan Manning, Sherri L.
Edelen, Tony Lawton, Erin Weaver, Ben Dibble and Scott
The creators have nicknamed the show M3 for short. The
work is a musical for the entire family "in a
toe-tapping bluegrass style," according to DTC. It
"depicts the loves, hopes and foibles of small-town
"The short story the musical is based on was written
while he was in the middle of writing 'Huckleberry
Finn' in the mid-1880s," lyricist-librettist Posner
told Playbill.com via email. "M3 is vintage Mark
Twain. One can see many themes that he would explore
so brilliantly in 'Huck Finn' taking shape here. It is
clear in this work how Twain came to embody and define
the distinctly American sense of humor. It is exciting
— at a time when so much puzzling is being done and
about what we mean by 'American' — to be working on
something that at its core is so quintessentially
Using Twain's "unique blend of sentiment and irony,
the piece is conceived to be friendly, informal,
straight-from-the-hip and a little bit folksy, very
much in keeping with the tone of Twain's narrators,"
Posner explained. "Nothing fancy, nothing too
highfalutin'. Just a good tale, well told."
What is meant by a bluegrass "musical melodrama"?
Posner explained, "The theatrical style of this work
was inspired by a Jug Band I saw at the Oregon Country
Fair a few years back. Folks played whatever they
could as best they could. The joy of the playing was
first and foremost in their minds. It was music-making
as a communal event. The energy and the playing off of
each other was as important as what was being played,
or even how it sounded. We hope to capture this
infectious and playful energy in our production, where
the whole cast will be part of the band and will
simply step forward to tell the story at hand. We have
set out to create a high quality new musical — one
that will have a broad appeal to audiences, but be
quirky, original, and work in new and playful ways."
Designers for the project are Tony Cisek (set), Kate
Turner Walker (costume), James Leitner (lighting).
Music director will be Jay Ansill.
"We are aiming to create something new within the
confines of this uniquely American form, utilizing the
unique perspectives that we both bring to the
process," Posner said of his collaboration with Sugg.
"These include strong backgrounds in literary
adaptations, storytelling, Shakespeare [Posner's
experience] and classical music, sound design, and
more experimental theatre [Sugg's background]. This
project is a great stretch and challenge for both us.
We have worked together several times as
director/actor and director/sound designer. We are now
excited to take on this new level of collaboration, as
well as stretch ourselves as artists and writers."
Posner and Sugg are respected artists who work
regularly in the Philadelphia theatre community
(indeed, the geographically-close Wilmington is
considered part of the Philly theatre scene and DTC
shows are eligible for Barrymore Awards). M3
performances play the 389-seat Delaware Theatre
Company space April 26-May 14. 2006.
The 2005-06 DTC season, under the artistic
directorship of Anne Marie Cammarato, includes Larry
Shue's The Nerd, Glen Berger's Underneath the Lintel,
Roger Bean's Winter Wonderettes (a revue of holiday
music in a '60s style), Arthur Miller's The Price and
Pamela Gien's The Syringa Tree (a South-Africa-set
solo show performed this time by a black actress and a
white actress, under the direction of C. Michael
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