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Sundae Horn

“A Tale of Blackbeard” heads to Broadway after summer season on Ocracoke.

New York – or Bust! A production of Ocracoke’s own “A Tale of Blackbeard” musical by Julie Howard will be staged this fall at the Gershwin Theatre, the largest of Broadway’s venues. Great White Way audiences will see the first off-island production of this piratical musical.

Pirates of the 2016 cast of A Tale of Blackbeard
Pirates of the 2016 cast of A Tale of Blackbeard

November 22, 2018 is the 300th anniversary of the Battle of Ocracoke, where Blackbeard, a.k.a. Edward Teach, fought his last fight and lost his head. To celebrate this historic anniversary occasion, the fall Broadway season will be piratically-focused. Audiences will thrill to the sights and sounds of “Pirates of Penzance,” “The Pirate Queen,” and “Peter Pan.” But none of these revivals is as highly-anticipated as the debut of the small, but mighty “A Tale of Blackbeard.”

Famed composer, actor, singer, dancer, rapper, director, and cultural icon Lin-Manuel Miranda will direct and star in the new Broadway version. He also plans to write three new songs for the musical, and set some of Julie Howard’s original compositions to a hip-hop beat in the tradition of his groundbreaking hit “Hamilton.”

"Like Alexander Hamilton, Edward Teach is a man whose place in history has been much misunderstood," said Lin-Manuel in a phone interview. "He deserves a second look. He wasn't just a fierce pirate, but also a shrewd leader, a clever negotiator, and a charming ladies' man. Julie's well-researched book and lyrics portray him as a complex man of his time who could be reflective and thoughtful as well as ruthless and cutthroat. Also, I've gotten really good at staging sword fights and duels, and this show is full of them."

Lin-Manuel Miranda in Hamilton garb
Lin-Manuel Miranda in Hamilton garb

Lin-Manuel credits his discovery of "A Tale of Blackbeard" to two of the Ocracoke production's cast members. 

"Caroline and Kenzie Novak have been such loyal fans of "Hamilton," following me and the play on social media from the beginning, and I couldn't help but notice and appreciate their devotion to my work," he said. "When they both tweeted at me that I should take a look at this musical on Ocracoke, I knew I couldn't go wrong."

The Novak sisters will play Village Girls in the Ocracoke show this summer (running Monday nights in the Ocracoke School gym, the island's biggest venue)(tickets sell out fast!), but they declined the offer to audition in New York. 

"We like this island better," said Caroline. "And we've got too much homework," added Kenzie. They are looking forward to Lin-Manuel's visit to Ocracoke this summer when he comes to preview the show as directed by Karen Dundore-Gulotta. "We're not nervous about having him in the audience at all," they giggled. 

The play's composer, Julie Howard, says she wasn't sure about the hip-hop interpretation of her songs at first, but is willing to go along with Lin-Manuel's suggestions. "He's had a hit musical on Broadway," she said. "And now, because of his involvement, so will I."

Lin-Manuel plans to introduce some of Edward Teach's backstory into the musical. "Do you know that before he came to Ocracoke in 1718, he blockaded the city of Charleston to demand medication and treatment for his men?" he asked. "The pirates were suffering from STDs and needed mercury injections. That story is ripe for musical interpretation!"

Unlike in Hamilton, Lin-Manuel does not plan to cast himself in the title role, nor as the romantic lead.

"I've already played one guy that dies at the end," he said. "And I'm too old to win the girl. I think William Howard is by far the most interesting character to explore and expand. And I understand that I can meet his descendants on Ocracoke to help me with my research."




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