The Musical James Joyce: “Himself and Nora” premieres in Rahway, NJ

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How it’s New York: One of the hits of last year’s New York Music Theatre Festival is back for a full production.
How it’s Irish: Joyce was/is the most influential Irish author of the 20th century.

Himself and Nora-2Despite the millions of words written about his literary works, and the tens of thousands of words those works contain, the interior mindscape of Dublin-born author James Joyce (1882-1941) remains an enigma wrapped in a conundrum shrouded in mystery.

Who was the Real Person behind the most inventive literary imagination of the 20th century?

A new musical premiered by American Theater Group at Hamilton Stage in Rahway, New Jersey, promises to provide insight into a personality as complex and provocative in life as on the written page.

Himself and Nora features book, lyrics and music by Jonathan Brielle (Foxfire, Nightmare Alley) with Broadway star Matt Bogart (original Jersey Boys cast member) playing James Joyce and Jessica Burrows (fresh from a turn as Greta Garbo in When Garbo Talks) cast as Mrs. Joyce — Nora Barnacle of Galway, whom Joyce first met on June 16, 1904, a date enshrined in Joyce’s 1922 novel Ulysses and today celebrated worldwide as “Bloomsday”.

Directed by Broadway veteran Michael Bush (Doubt, Proof, Reckless, Love! Valour! Compassion!), Himself and Nora explores the volatile relationship between a man fully consumed by Art and a former chambermaid serving as his unlikely Muse.

While several of Joyce’s works have been reinterpreted with music, and his classic short story The Dead made into a full-fledged musical, Himself and Nora is the first original stage work that invites the personage of James Joyce to tell his remarkable life through song.

Himself and Nora-1In crafting the lyrical versions of Joyce and Nora, Brielle has accessed a rich historical background. Joyce was in his youth a well-regarded classical singer with an encyclopedic knowledge of music history and the popular music styles of his day. Joyce’s writing is suffused with thousands of musical references detailed by scholars in numerous books and articles; his first collection of poetry was titled Chamber Music, and his final offering took the title of a venerable Irish barroom ballad.

During his lifetime Joyce achieved a fair measure of recognition within literary circles, but his existence as a working writer was far from luxurious and his relationship with Nora punctuated by bouts of mutual infidelity, pornographic love letters and riotous Lost Generation carousing compounded by the alcoholism of their only son and their only daughter’s incarceration in an English mental institution. Through it all, the couple stayed together until his death in Zurich, where they had found refuge from the Nazi occupation of France.

HamiltonStage-ExteriorHimself and Nora is the debut world premiere production of American Theater Group at Hamilton Stage, a 199-seat theatre in the heart of the colorful Rahway Arts District, a lively and diverse hub of arts performance/arts education activity 30 miles from midtown Manhattan.

A versatile facility that houses six performing arts companies (American Theater Group, American Repertory Ballet, Vital Theatre Company, Strange Dog Theatre Company, Ballets with a Twist and Good Music-Mostly Classical), Hamilton Stage is already earning repute as one of most versatile creative spaces in the state — a perfect venue for viewing a new musical celebrating one of the most versatile and creative writers in the English language.

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  • American Theater Group presents Himself and Nora, a new musical by Jonathan Brielle
  • Presented at Hamilton Stage, 360 Hamilton St., Rahway NJ
  • April 24-May 12, 2013 (Wednesday through Saturdays at 8 p.m. Sundays at 3 p.m.)
  • Tickets $30-$35 (special rates for seniors, students)
  • Call (732) 499-8226 or buy online here

* Photo credit:  Seth Walters Photography

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Copyright 2013 New York Irish Arts