Orphan Train

Based on a True Iowa Story

Presented by Way Off Broadway

Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts

Ticket Information

$38 - Zone 1

$28 - Zone 2

$18 - Students and seniors

$12 - Children under 12


"Everybody's Thursday"
Special priced showing on Thursday, August 9 at 7:30 p.m.; sponsored by Everybody's Whole Foods
$18 - Reserved seating
$12 - Children under 12


Journey back in time to the turn of the century with Orphan Train; witness the heartfelt stories of six young orphans who were forced out of New York and relocated by rail to Iowa in this new and exciting musical, based on a true story, beginning Friday, August 3 at 7:30 p.m. at the Sondheim Center.

Broadway legend Patricia Birch, who choreographed both the Broadway production and the movie Grease among many others, lends her expertise and proven talents to this emotionally stirring story to truly represent the characters struggle and transformation.

Orphan Train
creatively presents a strong, real message enhanced with harmonized vocal and instrumental period music featuring Fairfield and Way Off Broadway's own, Shannon Cochran, mixed with continually on-point, keen choreography, outstanding costumes, scenic sets and more! This unique and truly inspiring musical is one you won't want to pass up!

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Orphan Train
Performance Review
Patrick Bosold

You could be forgiven for being mildly incredulous if you were told that the triumph-and-tragedy history of six young New York City orphans, who were put onto trains in the 1870s and sent to Iowa to (hopefully) secure new homes, has been made into a musical theater show--and that the show, Orphan Train, which is having its world premiere at the Stephen Sondheim Theater in Fairfield, is a first-rate musical.

But keep in mind that some of the best musicals ever done were based upon such things as vignettes from GI life during WWII in the south Pacific, or upon the life-and-death struggles of the people settling the Oklahoma territory in the 19th century, or upon a speculation about what really happened to the wicked witch in the Wizard of Oz fable.

On opening night of Orphan Train, after watching the show get off to a strong and meticulously staged start with its first three musical numbers, I thought to myself, "Somebody who really knows what they're doing put this together." Somebodies, in this case. Randy West and Way Off Broadway brought in three seasoned veterans of New York musical theater, plus Broadway and film veteran Patricia Birch as director, to work with WOB's mix of professional leads, summer program interns and local talent. The result is a remarkable evening of musical theater.

Orphan Train has a strong social conscience. It begins with a stark, well-staged summary of the plight of children in New York City in the financial panic of 1870 and ends with another well-staged summary that reminds us of the millions of American children today who remain unfed, uneducated and in deep poverty in the United States. In between, Orphan Train is a poignant, often funny, sometimes riveting and perfectly paced telling of the story of how these children did, or did not, manage to adapt to the circumstances of their lives.

I am particularly proud of our local and regional talent in this production. They include local actors Lou Bolster, Griffin Hammel, Shannon Cochran and Sondra Ward, all of whom bring real attitude and real life to their roles. West's interns all shine as well, including Meghan Gaunt, Ahillan Kumar and Julia Fritz, with Michael Neumann in a tragic role that I found especially moving. Professional players Robert Kemp and Ryan Gaffney, along with Chaz'men Williams-Ali from Iowa City, deliver strong performances in their lead roles.

Orphan Train is the real deal in a musical theater production: precision staging and lighting, a great score, and a cast that does the songs and the story justice. Don't be surprised if you hear about this one landing lots of honors and awards as it commences its U.S. tour. Be among the privileged few who were the first to see it. Catch this show on its final weekend at the Sondheim.

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Orphan Train
Performance Review
Galen Hawthorne

From beginning to end, the Way Off Broadway production of Orphan Train will take you through an emotional gambit representative of life as an actual 1870s orphan. By the end, however, you will understand that watching it could never compare to living it. This is the play's goal: to make the viewer realize the true magnitude of the struggles of the long-passed characters of the play and of the orphans alive today.

Director Patricia Birch uses fantastic staging to lead the audience to such emotional realizations. The spoken scene changes, throughout which characters bustle past help to form a great sense of persistence in the world of the play; and the stripped-down, simplistic set pieces help to focus all the viewers' attention on the story before them.

The story itself is conveyed beautifully by a very strong mix of WOB interns and community adults and adolescents. In a show so serious, the message can fall entirely flat with just one miscast actor. However, every role in this production is filled beautifully with so much thought and constant dedication from the actors, from the big parts like social worker Harriet Pemberton (played by Shannon Cochran) and Orphan Barney Collins (Michael Neumann) to the ensemble cast who expressively and creatively played every seamstress, fat cat and townsperson.

The levels of expression reached in this show could never happen without its spectacular musical aspect. The on-stage band provides a high-quality emotional verve that supports the songs that often entirely replace the need for spoken exposition, making the show feel at times like a modern opera. In terms of entertainment, you'll find yourself repeating the hooks over and over again days after watching it, and remembering the voices of the singers to boot.

Even the musical numbers are staged in such ways to make the audience really consider everything; at one point, the reverend heading the orphan train program (Robert Kemp) sings a poignant song about poverty-stricken orphans while sickeningly rich businessmen eat a three-course meal on stage. Every image the viewer sees (both on the stage and the projection screen) is crafted to create an exact and powerful impact.

As this is a sort of "final workshop" for the Orphan Train before it goes on tour, seeing this musical will now will tell you exactly the effect it will have on our country in just a few months. I think the hope of everyone who has seen it so far is that it will be massive, positive, and lasting.

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