The world premiere of the new rock musical The Tattooed Lady, about the history of tattooed ladies, will begin previews October 29 prior to an official opening November 4 at Philadelphia Theatre Company's Suzanne Roberts Theatre.
Penned by Obie-winning playwright Erin Courtney (Map of Virtue) and Lortel winner Max Vernon (KPOP, The View Upstairs) and developed and directed by Drama League winner Ellie Heyman (Space Dogs), performances will continue through November 20.
Emmy nominee Jackie Hoffman (Hairspray, Feud) will star as sideshow luminary Ida Gibson, joined by Kim Blanck (Octet), James Dybas (Pacific Overtures), Ashley Pérez Flanagan (The Great Comet of 1812), Anastacia McCleskey (Caroline, or Change), Jessie Shelton (Hadestown), Katie Thompson (Oklahoma!), Grace Slear (Jagged Little Pill), Sophia Ramos (Party People), and Maya Lagerstam.
“The lives of three main tattooed ladies in our musical intersect with historical waves of progress around women’s rights and the unfortunate backlash that follows,” says Courtney. “Ellie Heyman found this Rebecca Solnit quote ‘Courage is contagious,’ and that has been a guiding principle for us. It’s scary to stand up for what you believe in, but when we witness others do it, we feel able to do it as well. My favorite song in the show is ‘Torchlight,’ which is a lullaby about living through difficult, oppressive times with the knowledge that the next generation will continue the sometimes slow but important progress of positive change.”
“I became most interested in The Tattooed Lady because it was an act that was all about self-actualization,” Vernon says. “Unlike other freaks who were essentially exploited for deformities or medical conditions, the Tattooed Ladies intentionally chose their otherness—by tattooing themselves they renounced respectable society, but gained a new kind of autonomy. I think a lot about the physical dangers of visibility vs. emotional harm of invisibility. I wanted to tell a story about the freak show that wasn't sanitized or Disneyfied for a musical theatre audience.”
“The Tattooed Lady is a full course meal,” adds Vernon. “The show is wild, provocative, hilarious, and entertaining in the way any trip to the freak show should be...But underneath our tattooed surface, this is truly a musical about liberation and loving yourself even when it's really really hard.”
The production also has choreography by Mayte Natalio, music direction by Rodney Bush, scenic and costume design by Lex Liang, lighting design by Mary Ellen Stebbins, sound design by Nevin Steinberg, and wig and hair design by Jason Hayes. Trey Lyford is the magic consultant, Chelsea Pace is the intimacy coordinator, Adam John Hunter is the stage manager, and Sarah Lunnie is the dramaturg.
The musical was developed with support from the Rhinebeck Writers Retreat, The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, Goodspeed Festival of New Musicals, the Kimmel Center, National Alliance for Musical Theatre (NAMT) and Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater.
Former PTC Producing Artistic Director Paige Price is the creative producer of The Tattooed Lady.