Singing Jailbird Poster, Festival of New American Musicals

Upton Sinclair's Singing Jailbirds: The Muscial

The Relevant Stage Theatre Company
Warner Grand Theatre
May 22–24 & 29–31

Music by Robert Gross
Book & Lyrics by Ray Buffer
Based on "Singing Jailbirds" by Upton Sinclair
Directed by Ray Buffer

Upton Sinclair's Singing Jailbirds: The Musical will feature over 35 musical numbers, including numerous songs from the IWW's (Industrial Workers of the World) Little Red Songbook by Joe Hill, T-Bone Slim, Ralph Chaplin and other Wobbly leaders. The score also includes popular music from the decade such as If I Could Be With You, Have A Smile, Sonny Boy, If I Had You, Love's Ship, and more. Composer and Music Director Robert Gross, along with Writer and Lyricist, Ray Buffer also penned several original songs and the entire show consists of new musical arrangements.

The story is just as Upton Sinclair penned it: Red Adams, a leader of the Wobblies, is thrown into solitary confinement without criminal charges for peacefully demonstrating. Threatened with the charge of criminal syndicalism (a charge no longer in the State of California's law books) Red begins to lose touch with reality as isolation and starvation begins to play with his mind. Through Red's delusions we see his secret past, and his perceptions of the present and future. His steadfastness to the doctrine and vision of the One Big Union is what keeps him grounded as he and his fellow workers use songs to turn pain into power and get their pleas for change heard.

In 1923, 86 years before this production, Upton Sinclair climbed the steps of a platform that striking dockworkers had built atop a hillock they named Liberty Hill. As someone held a candle for illumination, Sinclair said nothing about the 600 dockworkers who had recently been arrested for striking. He only tried to read the Bill of Rights. He got as far as the first three lines of the 1st Amendment, the one guaranteeing freedom of speech, before he was arrested. His experience led to the writing of "Singing Jailbirds". The ACLU of Southern California was formed the same day that Sinclair addressed the public, one week after his arrest and three years after the national ACLU had formed. Sinclair's arrest and release also led to the empowerment of the labor movement.

Sinclair's four-act play on which this new production of Upton Sinclair's Singing Jailbirds: The Musical is based, ran for 79 performances on Broadway in 1928 and 1929. The new musical production will run May 22 - May 24; May 29 - May 31 - 2009, Fridays and Saturdays at 8PM, Sundays at 2:30 PM. Performances will be at Warner Grand Theatre, 478 W. 6th Street, San Pedro, CA 90731. WGT is a facility of the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs.