Berkeley Rep Premieres Paradise Square

The musical looks at Civil War-era strife in Manhattan.


Published:

Photo by Cheshire Isaacs/Berkeley Repertory Theatre

Rounding out 2018 at the Berkeley Rep is the world premiere of Paradise Square: An American Musical. Set in 1863, the musical takes place in a 20-block area of Manhattan called the Five Points, where black and Irish Americans live side by side. It’s a brief period of racial harmony, with neighbors in the community working together and even marrying.

But the onslaught of the Civil War soon leads to America’s first federal draft, which reignites racial tensions. Riots ensue as white people are called to enlist while black people are prevented from doing so. It’s a test of hard-won ties of community — will relationships across racial lines in the Five Points survive?

Paradise Square incorporates both Irish step-dancing and African traditional forms such as Juba dancing, as well as fusion of the two: tap dance. Popular music of the 19th century takes on new life, all while honoring the diverse inhabitants of this unique Manhattan neighborhood.

Music and lyrics are by Stephen Foster, book by Marcus Gardley, Craig Lucas, and Larry Kirwan, additional lyrics by Kirwan and Nathan Tysen, arrangements by Kirwan and Jason Howland, and musical supervision and orchestrations by Howland.

Paradise Square: An American Musical, Dec. 27-Feb. 17, 2010, $40-$115, Berkeley Repertory Theater, Roda Theatre, 2015 Addison St., Berkeley, BerkeleyRep.org.

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