A History of Firehouse Musicals

In two weeks we open a great new musical, Interstate, that is vintage Mixed Blood: substantive, entertaining, predictably unpredictable, and bringing together people with difference. The firehouse bounces with youthful zeal and artistic excellence as director Jesca Prudencio guides eight actor-singers, four musicians, five designers, and a battery of other artists and artisans to great storytelling through vocal stylings that cross all genres.

Interstate is not without precedent. We have produced scores of original musicals in our Alan Page Auditorium, throughout the Upper Midwest, and in workplaces of all kinds. In our inaugural year, the year of the Bicentennial, Carl Lumbly and I wrote Badd High, a musical about a changing Minneapolis – nostalgia and tradition confront “progress.” One critic remarked, “to demean it would be like kicking a warm puppy.” But trust me, it was all heart, cleverly written, and poorly performed. The 1980’s launched such masterpieces as Rapmaster Ronnie (about Reagan), Motown Opera, Black Magic, and Baby Boomers Black Big Bands Meet The Great Falsettos, among others. (We did perform 504 performances of A…My Name Is Alice, but that wasn’t our creation.) In the 1990’s, we produced Ring of Fire, Baby Baby, Minnecanos, and Jevetta Steele and I mounted three versions of Black Belts.

The new millennium showed maturation with Two Queens One Castle, Found, and Point of Revue in the oughts. We’ve gotten better and better until now as the Roaring 20’s kick off with Interstate, a musical with years of development, showcases, festivals, and now its world premiere in our Alan Page Auditorium, culminating a process that began when Jerry Ford was Prez! In that year we sang a Democrat into the West Wing. Perhaps Interstate…!