Orphan Train is an epic stage drama rooted in American history — depicting one of our nation’s most powerful movements for social change.
Directed by Emmy-winning choreographer Patricia Birch with book by L.E. McCullough, lyrics by Michael Barry Greer and a vibrant musical score from Emmy-winning composer Doug Katsaros, this 90-minute musical relates the trials and triumphs of America’s first formal venture into “saving Surplus Children” — what we now know as foster care.
Orphan Train is a call to address the problem of our era’s own Surplus Children … the millions of American youth whose childhood is scarred by poverty, homelessness, gangs and addiction.
The play’s gritty narrative is told in a variety of authentic period voices, from Bowery street slang to blunt Western wit. The music of Orphan Train evokes a uniquely American soundscape: Tin Pan Alley brashness merging with poignant Celtic folk strains, labor songs, gospel, honky-tonk, fiddle tunes and vaudeville.
Orphan Train is the story of one of America’s greatest migrations told by the children who lived it.
It is a play that tells the audience, “These people made a difference in their world. So can you.”
Now in our time — witness the power of Orphan Train to change young lives … today.
… snobbish Jenny, forced to learn the true price of family loyalty, and her clumsy little brother Peter, who emerges as a life-saving hero
… the Irish lass Bridget, a bordello refugee grappling with a host of dark secrets
… James Henry, whose cynicism masks his hunger for acceptance
… Emma, the good girl who meets a gruesome end.
They are shepherded West by Miss Harriet Pemberton, a kind-hearted idealist struggling to reconcile do-gooder instincts with the harsh realities of the “saving business” that test even the redoubtable Rev. Brace:
“If there is a good family in the West, that is willing to take in a poor child from the city, to give them social and Christian instruction, why in God’s name should they not do it!”
Their faith and the Orphan Train mission itself face the ultimate challenge when Barney stands trial for murder — and they must persuade the jury to spare his life.
* All photos by Richard Finkelstein