‘The Ballad of Black Jack’ to grace stage again
"The Ballad of Black Jack," which was written with the expectation it would be presented only at Baldwin City's centennial observance in 1970, will be a part of the Maple Leaf Festival for the 16th year and will feature some surprising casting.
The full-length historical musical set in Baldwin and Lawrence was originally commissioned by the festival and underwritten with a gift of $2,000. According to Don Mueller of Baldwin, who wrote the play, the music and the lyrics, it was clear half-way through the first performance that the show was a hit with its audience and was destined to be repeated.
At the request of the festival committee, the show was given every year but one between 1970 and 1983, when the stage of Rice Auditorium was no longer available. It had a one-year revival in 1986 in Liberty Hall in Lawrence.
Directing for the second year will be Carolee Vincent of Tonganoxie, who both choreographed and danced in the show in earlier years.
Last year's Jacob Branson, Jim Tuscherer of Topeka, will repeat his role. Bob Martin, who was in the original production, will again be on stage, as will T.J. Danley, who joined the cast the following year. Also from Baldwin will be Marion Constantinescue, who will play the clergymen force-fed liquor by border ruffians, and the clear audience favorite, Greg Wessling, who will reprise the role of Zeke.
In a bit of unusual casting, Sarah Beach will be the leading lady, replacing her mother, Robin Miller, who becomes Liza, the local man-hunting spinster. Other Baldwinites are Steve Absher, Gerard Arantowicz, Bryn Hinshaw, Judy Martin, Sharon Magee-Minor, Sheree Mills, Jackie Robertson and Verdeania Zeller.
In the children's chorus will be Michael Bruce, Ally Foye, Blair Landon, Stephanie Minor, Justin Moss, Trent Russell and Jenessa Vincent.
Two radio personalities are in the cast Danny Bristow of KLZR and Bob Newton of KLWN, returning to a role he earlier played for six years.
Out of town participants include Mary Brohammer, Stephen and Kelly Cady, Melanie Moss, Bryce, Barry and Brianna Landon, Baker student Joyce Winder and Sabrina Evans, playing Gloomy Aggie for a second year. Warren Vincent directs the chorus and plays Sheriff Jones.
Traveling from Michigan to appear in the show will be Brooks Paine, veteran of a dozen years of the Ballad.
The show will open to an audience of area fifth graders on Wednesday at 10 a.m. The show, with the approval of the Kansas Historical Society, has been seen by several thousand school children over the years. Steve Absher, coordinator, says that there will be fewer schools attending this year because of the state's budget cutbacks.
In this year's show a tune once dropped from the score has been restored "Beecher's Bible," referring to the Sharp's rifles sent to the free-staters by the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher. It will be sung in act one by Newton and Wessling; in act two, by the children.
Accompanying will be Jodie Eldridge and the composer, with Hal Bundy of Ottawa playing the string bass used by his father, Harold Bundy, when he played in the show.
The set has been reworked by Scott Braddock and Judy Martin in accordance with the original Mueller design. Costumes will be by Linda Ballinger, Anita White and Sheree Mills. Ron Chinn and Jeff McLaughlin head the technical staff.
Tickets for the show are available at all three local banks for $8 for adults and $5 for children. Evening performances on Friday and Saturday will be at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday matinees are at 2 p.m.