Onward Victoria was a musical choreographed by the late great Michael Shawn. It opened on December 14, 1980 at the Martin Beck Theatre, where it ran for one performance. The cast included Jill Eikenberry as Victoria Woodhull, Bethe Austin as her sister Tennessee, Michael Zaslow as Henry Ward Beecher, Ted Thurston as Cornelius Vanderbilt, Laura Waterbury as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Dorothy Holland as Susan B. Anthony, Gordon Stanley as Fleming, and Lenny Wolpe as Charlie Delmonico. The show had a book and lyrics by Charlotte Anker and Irene Rosenberg, with music by Keith Herrmann (Romance/Romance). Its subject is Victoria Woodhull, the 19th-century woman who with her sister were the first women to operate a brokerage firm, at which they became millionaires; and started a newspaper. Woodhull was a proponent for free love and activist for equality of the sexes. In a fictional romance that leads to the minister being tried for alienation of affections, this show was ahead of its time. Last night, thanks to producer, writer and performer Steven Carl McCasland, Feinstein’s/54 Below and musical director James Horan (also on piano), Onward Victoria’s score had a delightful second listen to. Songs like “Respectable,””Unescorted Women,”Another Life” the fabulous “Changes” and “Magnetic Healing” showed the tuneful score was not something to banish. Keith Herrmann’s melodies are catchy and interesting with areas that sounded as if Schwartz or Sondheim listened to this score.
The cast consisted of LA Law’s Jill Eikenberry who was the original Victoria Woodhull who narrated the show. The wonderful Bethe Austin (Original Broadway Cast of Onward Victoria) and scene stealer Lenny Wolpe (Bullets Over Broadway, Original Broadway Cast of Onward Victoria) reprised their roles and showed time does not steal talent. Lora Jeanne Martens (Original Broadway Cast of Onward Victoria), Gordon Stanley (Onward Victoria original cast member, Ragtime, Cabaret, Joseph…), Emily Austin, Branch Fields (South Pacific), Kristen Gehling, Kimberly Faye Greenberg (Fabulous Fanny), Jay Malsky (Elaine Stritch: Still Here), Kelly Reader, Paul Thomas Ryan, Vanessa Spica, Daniel Walstad and newcomer Sabina Petra played the lead role.
A special treat came when Jill Eikenberry came onto the stage to sing “Another Life” with composer Keith Herrmann on piano.
Another surprise was that the evening was being filmed for a documentary to be done on Miss Woodhull (See video).
Steven McCasland staging was innovative and interesting and brought Onward Victoria to life, but in hearing these lyrics, I can see why this show was and still is ahead of its time. I am enclosing the lyrics to “You Can Not Drown The Dream.”
Once in 1884…
(Chord.) ELIZABETH: I can see a day when women will vote but they will not be equal to men. I can see a day when women will hold responsible job but they will not be equal to men.
SHE’S A WHORE…
SHE’S A FREE LOVER… SHE’S AN EVIL WOMAN… SHE’S MRS. SATAN….
WE ALWAYS CRUCIFY OUR PROPHETS KEEPING THE GUILLOTINE READY TO SLICE
WE BUILD THE SCAFFOLDS, POUR THE HEMLOCK THOSE WHO CLING TO DREAMS PAY THE PRICE
VICTORIA: I have an inalienable right to love whom I please for as long as I please and with that right you cannot interfere. If that makes me a free lover, so be it!
LIFE FLOWS ON, WE ONLY HAVE ONE CHANCE
TO NAVIGATE ITS RUSHING STREAM
SOME WILL TRY TO DROWN THE DREAMER BUT THEY CANNOT DROWN THE DREAM
NARRATOR: Victoria moved to London following the third election… ELIZABETH: continuing her career as speaker and editor. BETHE/TENNIE: It was there that she’d marry John Bidulph Martin.
SUSAN: And publish The Humanitarian magazine from 1892 to 1901.
THE EARTH WHEELS ON ITS COURSE FOREVER SPINNING ITS CENTURIES ONE AFTER ONE
SOME DAY THE TRUTH WILL COME FULL CIRCLE AND I KNOW THAT JUSTICE WILL THEN BE DONE
NARRATOR: Victoria would continue fighting–
ELIZABETH: –not just for women’s rights, but human rights, too–
NARRATOR: –for the rest of her life.
SUSAN: She died in her sleep at the age of 88.
TENNIE: It was June 10th, 1927.
VICTORIA: 75 years later, Victoria Woodhull was inducted into The National Women’s Hall of Fame.
NARRATOR: A single candle in a red votive illuminates a tribute to the stockbroker, politician, mother, wife, sister, clairvoyant and three-time Presidential nominee.
LIFE FLOWS ON, WE ONLY HAVE ONE CHANCE TO NAVIGATE ITS RUSHING STREAM
SOME WILL TRY TO DROWN THE DREAMER BUT THEY CANNOT DROWN
THEY MUST NOT DROWN
THEY WILL NOT DROWN THE DREAM!
This was the concert with Music by Keith Herrmann and Lyrics by Charlotte Anker and Irene Rosenberg
Victoria’s Banner (Ensemble)
Magnetic Healing (Bethe Austin, Sabina Petra, Vanessa Spica, and Gordon Stanley)
Read it in the Weekly – Part I (Ensemble)
I Depend on You (Bethe Austin and Sabina Petra)
Changes (Sabina Petra and Branch Fields)
A Taste of Forever (Paul Thomas Ryan and Sabina Petra)
Unescorted Women (Lenny Wolpe)
Every Day I Do a Little Something for The Lord (Jay Malsky)
Read it in the Weekly – Part II (Ensemble)
Respectable (Bethe Austin)
Love and Joy (Branch Fields and Sabina Petra)
Another Life (Jill Eikenberry with Keith Herrmann on piano)
Beecher’s Defense (Kristen Gehling, Kimberly Faye Greenberg, Sabina Petra, and Vanessa Spica)
You Cannot Drown the Dream (Ensemble)
A Broadway cast recording was released by Original Cast Records.
Onward Victoria, Feinstein’s/54 Below, 254 West 54th Street July 19th One Night Only!