The Goree All-Girl String Band is one of the most interesting shows to hit NYMF in a long time. The story of the Goree Girls just begs to be a TV series, film or the next offering on Broadway. Based on a piece of history either long forgotten or buried into obscurity, The Goree All-Girl String Band follows inmates at Goree State Farm – an all-female prison in Texas – as they rise to fame on a radio show called “Thirty Minutes Behind the Wall”. When the governor starts pardoning the inmates, the women decide to form a string band to get out from behind the wall.
Set in the Depression-era, most of these women are under 24. As the band gains notoriety, friendships form, and they start to change their lives through the healing power of music.
The cast, for what they had to do in such a short time, was stellar. As the ringleader and woman who’s locked up because her lover shot her husband, Lauren Patten’s Reable Childs is full of spunk, protection of her fellow sisters, and missing men just a little too much. She nails the vocals and guitar charts. As Mozelle, the youngest who is mournful and longs to be set free, Ruby Wolf plays banjo, and though her vocals have a unique quality, she is flat too often. Lizzie Hagstedt on bass, Chanel Karimkhani on cello, and Lauren J. Thomas and Kendra Jo Brook on violin make up the rest of the band. As the two black inmates, Miche Braden, the hardened criminal who does not see a life outside the prison walls, and Nattalyee Randall, who was denied her right to sing with her fellow white inmates, take down the house with their solos.
Michael Bradley’s book and lyrics are powerful, though the first act could use some tightening. He has drawn clear characters with strong wants and you are hooked from the moment it starts. Because this story is so interesting we actually want to know even more about these characters.
The direction by Ashley Brooke Monroe is innovative, as is the movement by Brandon Powers.
The delightful country score by Artie Sievers is soulful with strains of bluegrass. “Did It Cuz I Had To”, “Ridin’ That Train”, and “Daddy Wore Boots” are addictive, but “How They Leave You”, “I Don’t Mind”, and “Always You” are standouts. What does need to be reworked here is the duet between Reable’s two lovers, “On Bended Knee”, and what should be the eleven o’clock number that breaks our hearts, “Disappear”.
I would love to see the Dixie Chicks, The Judds and Miley Cyrus cast in this show and bring a new, different audience to Broadway. Mark my words, this show has a life beyond NYMF. Catch this if you can!
The Goree All-Girl String Band: NYMF at The Acron Theatre, 410 West 42nd St. 7/28 and 7/29 @ 9 pm.