Hard Times: An American Musical – The Villager; Preview

Not Charles Dickens’s “Hard Times.” Not Studs Terkel’s “Hard Times.” But white and black America’s hard times, in and around the Civil War era’s slum-ridden, crime-ridden Five Points intersection of Downtown Manhattan, near where a soft-spoken, fair-haired, ruddy-complexioned, bespectacled Irish-born singer, composer, musician, novelist and playwright named Larry Kirwan makes his home just off Canal Street in our own day….“No blacks or Irish need apply.” The coupled-together unwanteds…On July 13, 1863, one week after the high-water-mark of the Bloody Angle at Gettysburg, all hell broke loose in the Irish-fireball Draft Riots that swept New York City and particularly the Five Points dynamite keg. Kirwan’s “Hard Times” takes place on that day, and opens with Owen Duignan (John Charles McLaughlin), a young Irishman, dancing and singing in Nelly Blythe’s saloon to Foster’s “Camptown Races” — a white man in the requisite blackface for that sort of song in that era — and hating having to do so. Even Thomas Jefferson, a young black dancer (Stephane Duret), has to wear blackface! It’s the convention read more

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