Fringe musical: Henry Box Brown
New York gospel singers and Broadway actors from a new Edinburgh Fringe musical gathered around a statue of Abraham Lincoln and sang Amazing Grace in tribute to the Scots who fought against slavery in the American Civil War.
Henry Box Brown is a musical based on the true story of an American slave who shipped himself hundreds of miles to freedom concealed in a small wooden box just 3ft by 2ft.
Some of the cast are the descendants of African American slaves. While in Edinburgh, they are keen to discover more about Scotland and the rest of the UK’s links to slavery and its abolition.
They came to see the memorial in Old Calton Burial Ground, with its statue of President Lincoln and a freed slave, which is dedicated to Scots who fought and died on the Union side.
Ben Harney, the show’s director,said: “While here in Scotland we very much wanted to show our appreciation for all those Scots who struggled so hard for the abolition of slavery here, in the rest of Britain, and in America.
“I’ve learned that some campaigned socially and politically, some through the courts and there were even those who fought on the Union side in the American Civil War. They struggled against huge and powerful vested interests, who were making vast profits from the misery of others.
“This was the spirit of Henry Box Brown himself, who believed we could be free of the bondage and the stain of slavery.
“And we are also delighted to be following in his footsteps because Brown escaped continued persecution in the USA and came to Britain where he spent many years raising awareness of the evils of slavery.”
Henry Box Brown, written by Mehr Mansuri, is directed by Tony Award winner Ben Harney (Broadway’s Dreamgirls) with original compositions by New York Composer, Frank Sanchez and Mehr Mansuri and musical arrangements by Oscar nominee – Best Original Score, Jack Lenz (Mel Gibson’s Passion of Christ); the spirituals have been arranged by Musical Director, Renee Reid, and renknowed Gospel Music Director, Eric Dozier.
About the real Henry Box Brown
Born into slavery in Louisa County, Brown worked in a Richmond tobacco factory. In 1848 his children and pregnant wife were sold to new owners in North Carolina. Brown resolved to escape slavery and enlisted the help of a white churchman and a slave-owning gambler. In later life Brown became a prominent abolitionist, a performer, musician and a published author.
About the musical
It is Les Miserables set in the American south, but the good guys are not so obvious. The show is driven by original songs blending gospel, R&B, bluegrass as well as ‘a capella’ original negro spirituals. It’s a crowd-pleaser that shines a light on the human ability to transcend.
It is also something very rare indeed – a musical with an African American here. While US history is rich with inspiring African American stories, few make it to the stage. After 19 years of working in NYC public schools in deprived areas, and creating theatre for African American audiences, Mehr decided the time had come to change this.
She set up the Henry Box Musical Project to allow African American students and young audiences to celebrate their own history and celebrate the triumph of the human spirit from a distinctly African American experience.
Venue: Assembly Rooms, Music Hall, George Street,
Time: 14:30. Running Time: 90 mins
Dates: 02-26 AUG PREVIEWS:02-05 August NO SHOWS:Wed 8, Mon 13, Mon 20 – August