Abyssinia (musical)

Abyssinia (musical)

Abyssinia is a musical with music by Ted Kociolek, lyrics by James Racheff, and a book by both Racheff and Kociolek. It is the story of a young girl who is born during a tornado and grows up with the gift of song. It is based on the novel Marked by Fire, by Joyce Carol Thomas. Abyssinia uses mainly gospel music.


Abyssinia, set in rural Oklahoma at the turn of the last century, begins with a tornado just as a young, widowed sharecropper, Patience Jackson, is about to give birth. The community healer, Mother Vera, sends it away just before it reaches the people in the cotton field it is approaching. Jackson's child is born. Her daughter, Abyssinia, has a beautiful voice and healing powers. She also has an enemy; Trembling Sally, a cruel and angry village woman who lost her children to the tornado that touched the earth on the day Abyssinia was born. Sally is determined to bring pain and sorrow into this young girl's life. Abyssinia's innocence is destroyed when she is raped by a gang of boys. She loses her faith and her singing voice.

Mother Vera teaches Abyssinia folk medicine and that life is a mix of good and bad. After a long inner journey, Abyssinia is lifted out of the depression she was in, and Trembling Sally is redeemed as well.


Abyssinia was first produced in 1987 by Musical Theater Works at the CSC Repertory Theater. It was directed by Tazewell Thompson. The scenery consultant was Evelyn Sakash, the lighting consultant was Clarke W. Thornton, the costume consultant was Amanda Klein, musical supervision and choral arrangements were by Daryl Waters, the choreography consultant was Julie Arenal, and the production stage manager was Greta Minsky. The same year, the musical was produced by CSC Repertory Theater in New York, directed by Tazewell Thompson.

The North Shore Music Theatre produced Abyssinia twice, once in 1995 and once in 2005. It also sponsored a reading in 1994 at the National Alliance for Musical Theatre's New Works Festival. The 2005 production ran at the Schubert Theater in Boston, Massachusetts. It was directed by Stafford Arima and choreographed by Todd L. Underwood, with music direction by Michael O’Flaherty, lighting design by Kirk Bookman, and costumes by Pamela Scofield. The orchestra consisted of Michael O’Flaherty, Mark Pinto, Jay Daly, Walter Bostian, Ed Krauss, Michael Ambroszewski, and Gregory M. Brown.

Abyssinina was also presented three times by Goodspeed Musicals, in 1987 and 1988 at the Norma Terris Theater and in 2005 at the Goodspeed Opera House, directed by Stafford Arima and choreographed by Todd L. Underwood.


Character Musical Theater Works 1987 North Shore Music Theater 2005
Abyssinia Jackson Jennifer Leigh Warren Shannon Antalan
Mother Vera Tina Fabrique BJ Crosby
Minister André Garner
Trembling Sally Karen Jackson Uzo Aduba
Lucas Nathaniel Stampley
Brother Samuels Edward M. Barker
Patience Jackson Cheryl Freeman Karole Foreman
Selma NaTasha Yvette Williams
Corine Q. Smith
Mavis Angela Karol Grovey
Lily Lisa Nicole Wilkerson
Marcus Derrick Cobey
Leon Darius Nichols
Jesse Eric LaJuan Summers


  • http://www.joycecarolthomas.com/musical.html

External links

  • http://theater2.nytimes.com/mem/theater/treview.html?res=9B0DE4DD1F31F931A25757C0A961948260
  • http://www.wbur.org/arts/2005/51246_20050830.asp
  • http://www.theatermirror.com/CRabyssiniansmt.htm
  • http://aislesay.com/MA-ABYSSINIA.html
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