Soulpep­per’s first full mu­si­cal set to hit the stage this month

Plus two ex­cit­ing shows in an amaz­ing start to the 2019 the­atre sea­son

Village Post - - Currents - by Ron John­son Rose: A New Mu­si­cal runs Jan. 17 to Feb. 24, www.soulpep­

This month, Soulpep­per The­atre of­fers Rose to the city, the com­pany’s first full-blown mu­si­cal in its his­tory. And it is shap­ing up to be some­thing spe­cial.

The pro­duc­tion first saw the light of day four years ago when Soulpep­per’s Sarah Wil­son pitched an idea to di­rec­tor of mu­sic Mike Ross: a piece based on the beloved writer Gertrude Stein chil­dren’s story “The World Is Round” and its de­ter­mined main char­ac­ter Rose.

“Once we started to write, the scope of piece started to grow,” says Ross. “Times have been chang­ing in won­der­ful ways the past cou­ple years, and sud­denly the idea of telling a story of nine-year-old girl try­ing to find place in this world and re­fus­ing to let oth­ers tell her who she is be­came kind of im­por­tant.” Over the past two years, Rose: A

New Mu­si­cal was work­shopped a few times, and a clearer pic­ture of the story and songs came into fo­cus.

The cre­ative team be­hind the pro­duc­tion, Ross and Wil­son, were also re­spon­si­ble for Soulpep­per’s re­sound­ing hit Spoon River. That means ex­pec­ta­tions are high — so much so that the show has al­ready been ex­tended be­fore it has opened.

“[It’s a] Tes­ta­ment to peo­ple trust­ing the mu­sic pro­gram that’s been hap­pen­ing here over the last cou­ple years,” says Ross.

“Peo­ple are will­ing to jump into new wa­ters with a lit­tle bit of trust be­cause of that.”

The lead role in the pro­duc­tion is played by adult Hai­ley Gil­lis.

“I have spent a lot of time with this beau­ti­ful lit­tle girl, and I feel like I’ve grown with her as she has been mould­ing her­self into full char­ac­ter,” says Gil­lis.

“I’ve met with a lot of nine-yearolds in re­search­ing, and they are way cooler than I am. They are so sure, and Rose is like this. She’s so sure about what she’s un­sure about. She feels all the in­jus­tices of a con­fus­ing world as the blin­ders of child­hood open up a bit.”

Rose is set in the moun­tain town of Some­where. The nine-year-old is very con­cerned about the world around her, and she ex­presses her con­cern through song. But when she sings, she of­ten cries. The main char­ac­ter’s en­dear­ing em­pa­thy makes this an in­spir­ing story about a search for self-iden­tity.

Gil­lis hopes ev­ery­one who comes to the show will leave with a lit­tle bit of magic all their own.

“I’ll be stand­ing up there try­ing to ex­pose my heart as much as I can, and I’m hop­ing ev­ery­one will take a lit­tle piece — that they’ll pick up what I’m putting down.”

Hai­ley Gil­lis as Rose dur­ing a re­cent pre­view of Soulpep­per’s new mu­si­cal

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