It’s a musical about a woman on her own in the Old American West – disguised as a man named Jo. “The Ballad of Little Jo” opened Friday, June 9th at Two River Theater in Red Bank, and runs through June 25th.
Based on the 1993 film of the same name, the show is directed by Maggie Greenwald, who based her story on the real life experiences of a woman named Josephine Monaghan. In the story, Josephine becomes Jo to survive in a time and place in which women are openly preyed upon, and lynch mobs are a cold fact of life. Shunned by her East Coast family when she refuses to deny that she has given birth to an illegitimate child, Josephine heads for the edge of civilization – the Wild West – in late 1800s Idaho to re-invent herself, make her way in the world, and be re-united with the son she had to leave behind.
We recently spoke to the musical’s co-writer and lyricist Sarah Schlesinger about creating this production with composer Mike Reid in 2000 at Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago, and collaborating with Two River Theater’s Artistic Director John Dias to bring it to a 2017 audience.