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A CurtainUp Review
I Married Wyatt Earp

If you had only made some attempt to know me back then - but you never even tried, did you Allie? I will have you know I came from a good family, well-respected. Proper. And as a matter of fact, I was born in New York.— Josie Earp
I Married Wyatt Earp
Maude, Pauline and Cora, in the theater troupe. (Photo: Berry Goodstein)
Who would have ever guessed? It turns out that Wyatt Earp, that quintessential gunslinger of the Far West, was actually married (or sort of married, as there seems to be no actual record of a legal marriage) to a Brooklyn Jew, an actress named Josie Marcus. The story is recounted in Josephine Sarah Marcus Earp's memoir, I Married Wyatt Earp, edited by Glenn G. Boyer. Inspired by the memoir, Thomas Edward West (book) and Sheilah Rae (book and lyrics) and Michele Brourman (music) have created a musical of the same name.

In West and Rae's version, directed by Cara Reichel, the story is presented as a series of flashbacks in which Josie (Carolyn Mignini), now the widow of Wyatt Earp, and Allie Earp (Heather MacRae), the widow of Wyatt's brother Virgil, each promote their own versions of what happened at the famous shootout at the O.K. Corral. A multitude of characters inhabit the flashbacks, including Josie and Allie's younger selves (Mishaela Faucher and Carol Linnea Johnson);also other people in Josie's acting troupe and a houseful of Earps (former prostitutes who have gone into the saloon business).

Mignini does yeoman's work playing not only the elderly Josie Earp, but also her own mother, Sophie Marcus and (very briefly) Wyatt Earp himself. Her formidable acting ability is not matched by her voice. Fortunately Faucher powerful and lyric voice more than compensates.

Interestingly, this is an all-female cast telling a story that basically involved a group of men. If this is a feminist take on history, it is ill-advised. Much of the story revolves around the struggle for the lawman's affections between Jose and and Mattie Earp (Anastasia Barzee), Earp's laudanum-addicted common law wife. But as the erudite and charming Earp is never onstage so we never see exactly what made him so desirable.

Ariela Morgenstern, playing Doc Holiday's Hungarian mistress, Kate Haroney, gives a lively turn to the show but can do no more than hint at the drama in her and the famous dentist's lives. And Tina Stafford, as the imperious Pauline Rackham, director of the Pinafore on Wheels theatrical troupe, does an admirable job, along with her girls, Cara Massey, Karla Mosley and Morgenstern, putting the events into the context of their time.

The story of the O.K. Corral is a complicated one. Historians are still not in total agreement as to who exactly were the heroes and villains. This musical complicates the story by keeping the older women on the stage at the same time as the younger versions of themselves. It mixes musings and an intrusive narration with the actual drama of the situation. And it leaves out many of the essential facts (a cause of much confusion) and characters that should have been included.

Brourman's score, mixes western and symphonic themes, often quite successfully, but contains far too many ballads and slow melodies to keep this show moving. And Rae's lyrics are often obvious and inappropriate. Would a character at this time really speak of an "emotional drain"?

Perhaps the biggest problem with this production is that Ann Bartek has created a set that is too big for the stage, especially considering that the band at the back of the stage takes up a considerable portion of the space. As a result there is no room to develop any of the dances Joe Barros has choreographed. In fact, often the characters seem to be in grave danger of falling over each other. Credit should go in part to the director that they do not.

I Married Wyatt Earp is a show with great potential. It recounts a fascinating story and a legendary time. These writers just need to take a critical view of their work and find a better way to tell that story.

I Married Wyatt Earp
Book by Thomas Edward West and Sheilah Rae
Lyrics by Sheilah Rae
Music by Michele Brourman
Directed by Cara Reichel
Choreography by Joe Barros
Cast: Carolyn Mignani (Josie Earp), Heather MacRae (Allie Earp), Mishaela Faucher (Young Josie), Anastasia Barzee (Mattie Earp), Stephanie Palumbo (Young Allie), Carol Linnea Johnson (Bess Earp), Laura Hankin (Hattie Earp), Ariela Morgenstern (Kate Haroney, Penelope), Tina Stafford (Pauline Rackham), Cara Massey (Maude), Karla Mosley (Cora)
Scenic Design: Ann Bartek
Lighting Design: Jorge Arroyo
Cpstume Design: Ryan J. Moller
Sound Design: Andy Leviss
Music Director: Remy Kurs
Orchestratons: Bruce Coughlin
Stage Manager: Naomi Anhorn
Band: Remy Kurs (conductor/piano), Adam Waddell (violin/viola), Dan Erben (guitar/mandolin), Matt Scharfglass (bass). Jeff Roberts (percussion)
59E59 Theaters, 59 E 59th St. between Park and Madison
From 5/20/11; opening 5/26/11; closing 6/12/11
Tuesday - Thursday at 7:15 PM; Friday and Saturday at 8:15 PM; and Sunday at 3:15 PM
Tickets: $25 (212) 279-4200 or
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons May 25, 2011
Musical Numbers
Act One
Prolgue (Josie, Young Josie)
Don't Blame Me for That (Allie, Josie)
Unpacking Dreams (Company)
Nothing Like the Girls at Home (Young Josie)
When a Maiden Makes a Promise (Pauline, Cora, Maude, Young Josie)
I Ain't Goin' Back (Young Allie, Bess, Mattie)
High Class Attraction (Young Josie, Hattie, Pauline, Cora, Maude, Young Allie, Bess, Mattie)
Mama, Oh Mama (Young Josie)
They got Snakes Out Here (Kate)
Pins and Needles (Young Allie, Hattie, Bess, Mattie)
Don't Blame Me for That (reprise) (Allie, Josie)
Didya Hear? (Company)
Little Black Sheep (Young Josie)
Mama, Oh Mama (reprise) (Young Josie)
It's Different This Time (Josie, Young Josie)
Act Two
Pins and Needles (reprise) (Company)
Don't blme Me for That (reprise) (Allie, Josie)
In the Cards (Bess, Hattie, Young Allie)
Room to Breathe (Josie, Young Josie)
The Dust (Company)
Games Are Everywhere (Kate)
I'd Do It All Again (Mattie, Young Josie)
Stand Our Ground (Young Allie, Allie, Young Josie, Josie)
Pins and Needles/Shootout (company)
All These Years (Allie, Josie)
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