Intrigued by tales of the hobos who rode the rails during the Great Depression? Theater Works, the resident theater company at the Peoria Center for the Performing Arts, brings back those stories with the world premiere of “Burning in the Night: A Hobo’s Song,” a play based on the memoirs of Dale Wasserman. The author of the musical “Man of La Mancha” and the stage play “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” Wasserman actually rode the rails as an itinerant laborer when he was a teenager. Orphaned at age 8, in his later years, he made his home in Paradise Valley, Ariz. Now Richard Warren, Arizona playwright and co-founder of Phoenix Theatre's New Works Festival, brings the story of Wasserman’s wanderings to the theater in both a funny and moving story seasoned with American folk songs from the era.
Directing the production is Daniel Schay, who is also the executive director of Theater Works. “Burning in the Night: A Hobo’s Song” encompasses both the romance and the danger of the road,” he said. "Richard Warren has captured Dale's unique voice—the humor and irreverence, coupled with wisdom and heart, which can be found in his characters, from Quixote/Cervantes in “Man of La Mancha” to McMurphy in “Cuckoo's Nest.”
Songs such as “This Train Is Bound for Glory” and “Wabash Cannonball” are performed by members of Jam Pak Blues 'N' Grass Neighborhood Band, a group based in Chandler, Ariz. "The music adds context to the play, as well as sense of time and place," said Schay.
The Hobo is played by Mike Lawler, a member of Actors Equity who has previously played leading roles for a variety of Valley theaters, including Theater Works, Phoenix Theatre and Actors Theatre of Phoenix.
The play opens Friday, Jan. 25 and runs through Sunday, Feb. 24 in the McMillin Theater at 8355 W. Peoria Ave. in Peoria, Ariz. Thursday, Friday and Saturday performances are at 7:30 p.m., with Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. and a special 2 p.m. matinee performance Wednesday, Feb. 6. Order tickets online or by calling the box office at (623) 815-7930. Ticket prices are $31 for adults, $13 for students, $28 for seniors.
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