The Robber Bridegroom

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I went into New York City back in April with my mom and my friend Jasmine and we had lunch at a Ruby Tuesday’s near Time Square. Outside of the restaurant, I saw a poster for an off-Broadway production of a show called The Robber Bridegroom. The title stuck with me and I decided to look it up at some point; I read the Wikipedia article and decided that the story sounded interesting.  Back in August, I searched through Youtube for a video of the show. All I could find were clips of the musical numbers from regional productions. What I did get to see, I liked; I even brought some of the songs off of Itunes.

On Monday, I found a video of the entire show in my Youtube recommended column and my roommate Jasmine and I checked it out that evening. I thought Jasmine, being a fan of country music, might enjoy the show’s catchy bluegrass score. With some chocolate fudge pop tarts, cheez curls, and barbeque chips, we sat down to finally watch the thing.

The Robber Bridegroom is musical written by Alfred Uhry and Robert Waldman which premiered on Broadway in 1975 and ran until 1976 and has since been a staple of regional theaters. The poster I saw in New York was for the off-Broadway revival which opened back in March. What Jasmine and I saw on Youtube was a professionally videotaped production from 1980.

The production we saw was filmed in what appeared to be barn where some of the citizens of the Natchez Trace in Mississippi have gathered to have a square dance and to talk about some of their eccentric ancestors: Jamie Lockhart, a dashing bandit and the titular “Robber Bridegroom”,  Rosamund, a famous beauty and Jamie Lockhart’s love, Clement Musgrove, the wealthiest planter in the area and Rosamund’s father, Salome, Musgrove’s notoriously ugly and vicious second wife, the Harps, a bloodthirsty gang of robbers, and Goat, the village idiot.

The plot proper takes place in the Natchez Trace of the late 18th century and involves Jamie Lockhart, a daring gentleman thief known as The Bandit of the Woods, who is trying to gain the fortune of  Clement Musgrove, the richest man in the territory of Mississippi by marrying his  daughter, Rosamund but falls in love with a beautiful girl in the forest, who he does not know is Rosamund and only knows him as his Bandit of the Woods alter ego. More complications ensue involving Rosamund’s jealous stepmother Salome, the villainous Harp gang, and the a simple minded boy named Goat. The Robber Bridegroom is very much Americana folklore/tall tale with some elements taken from legends and fairytales such as mistaken identity, evil stepmothers, and dashing and noble thieves. The Harp gang, the story’s main antagonists, were inspired by a real life Harp gang, who are credited with being America’s first serial killers: Big Harp, the older of the two Harp brothers, is a talking, decapitated head which is carried around in a chest.

Jasmine and I enjoyed our viewing of The Robber Bridegroom. It’s plot is a bit silly and tall tale-ish but has all of the enjoyment of that genre. The catchy, country score is one of its highlights. Looking this little known gem up on Youtube is definitely worth the time.

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