Gloucester Stage Presents World Premiere of Madame Defarge

Robert Walsh, Artistic Director Jeff Zinn, Managing Director




Gloucester Stage Company opens its 39th season of professional theater on May 11 with the world premiere of Madame Defarge, Wendy Kesselman’s new musical inspired by Charles Dicken’s classic A Tale of Two Cities. The world premiere musical runs from May 11 through June 2 at Gloucester Stage Company, 267 East Main Street, Gloucester, MA. A passionate re-imagining of Dickens’ infamous Madame Defarge illuminates this new musical by Wendy Kesselman. Set against the turmoil of the French Revolution, two men similar in face but separate in fate weave a story of sacrifice and salvation all driven by Madame Thérèse Defarge battling oppression with longings for love, freedom, justice, and revenge. Directed by Ellie Heyman in her Gloucester Stage debut, the cast features GSC veterans Jennifer Ellis as Madame Therese Defarge, the woman whose revenge sparked a revolution; Benjamin Evett as her husband Ernest Defarge; and Broadway veteran Rockport’s Wendy Waring as Miss Pross; along with GSC newcomers Broadway’s John Hillner as Monsieur Le Marquis; Boston Conservatory’s Sabrina Koss as Lucie; Jason Michael Evans as Sydney Carton; Rob Karma Robinson as Doctor Manette; Matthew Amira as Charles Darnay; Marissa Simeqi as Little Lucie; and John Shuman as Mr. Lorry. Massachusetts based playwright Kesselman wrote the book, music and lyrics for this untold story of Madame Defarge, New York’s Christopher Berg provides the musical arrangements, Mindy Cimini, is the music director and Asher Denburg is the associate musical director for this world premiere production.

Besides her Tony-nominated new adaptation of The Diary of Anne Frank, Wendy Kesselman’s plays include My Sister in This House; The Executioner’s Daughter; The Notebook; The Foggy Foggy Dew; The Last Bridge; I Love You, I Love You Not; Maggie Maagalita; Merry-Go-Round; The Shell Collection; My Sister in This House, A Re-imagined Version (Deaf West Theatre); The Graduation of Grace and Spit. She has written the book, music and lyrics for The Juniper Tree, A Tragic Household Tale; Becca and The Black Monk, A Chamber Musical. A member of the Dramatists guild, among other honors she has received the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, the AT&T Onstage Award, The New England Major Award for Outstanding Creative Achievement in the American Theatre, the first annual Playbill award, the Roger L. Stevens Award, the Jane Chambers Playwriting Award, the Lecomte du Noüy Annual Award, Meet the Composer Grants, a Massachusetts Cultural Grant and Guggenheim, McKnight and NEA Fellowships. Her screenplays include Sister My Sister (adapted from My Sister in This House), directed my Nancy Meckler, with Joely Richardson, Julie Walters and Jodhi May; I Love You, I Love You Not (adapted from her play of the same name), directed by Billy Hopkins, with Jeanne Moreau, Claire Danes and Jude Law; and Mad or in Love for Fox 2000. She won a WGA Award for her screen adaptation of John Knowles’ A Separate Peace, directed by Peter Yates. The CD of her chamber musical The Black Monk will be released Fall 2018.

Ellie Heyman is a NYC based Theater Director and the Director in Residence at Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater. Her recent credits include: Jason Craig & Dave Malloy’s Beardo at Pipeline Theater, Erin Markey: Boner Killer and Becca Blackwell’s They, Themself and Schmerm (Under the Radar/The Public Theater); Dinner with Georgette at the New York Theater Workshop Next Door; Fusiform Gyrus with Talking Band; and The Traveling Imaginary with Julian Koster (Neutral Milk Hotel) which was named one of the Top 5 shows of the year by NPR. The Orbiting Human Circus (Of the Air) (Night Vale Presents) was rated #1 on Apple Podcasts and downloaded over 4 million times. Ms. Heyman is a graduate of Northwestern University and Boston University, a Time Warner Fellow at WP Theater and a Drama League Alumni.

Madame Defarge is arranger Christopher Berg’s second collaboration with Wendy Kesselman. He provided arrangements for The Black Monk at the Samuel Beckett Theatre in NYC. A former member of the BMI Musical Theatre Workshop, he composed the score of Back Home: The War Brides Musical seen at the New York Musical Theatre Festival in 2007. His composing credits include songs (most notably those based on poems of Frank O’Hara and Vladimir Nabokov), and an opera, Cymbeline based on Shakespeare’s play

Jennifer Ellis last appeared at Gloucester Stage in Deborah Zoe Laufer’s Out of Sterno, in 2015. Her other GSC credits include Jacques Brel and the IRNE winning The Most Happy Fella. She has appeared in Shear Madness Off-Broadway in NYC at New World Stages and in Boston at The Charles Playhouse. She has been seen in Merrily we Roll Along at the Huntington Theatre; Shakespeare in Love, The Bridges of Madison County, Far From Heaven, and Nine all at SpeakEasy Stage; the National Tour of A Christmas Carol; Elliot Norton Award and IRNE Award winning My Fair Lady; Urinetown; and 1776 at Lyric Stage; Elliot Norton Award winning Wonderful Town and Carousel with Reagle Music Theatre; and Love’s Labour’s Lost; The Comedy of Errors; and The Boys From Syracuse with Commonwealth Shakespeare Company.

Benjamin Evett was last seen at Gloucester Stage as the Mariner in Albatross, a role which he has also performed Off-Broadway at 59E59, at the Arizona Theatre Company, The New Repertory Theatre, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and the Paramount Center and a role for which he won the Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding Solo Performance. He regularly appears at the New Rep in Watertown where most recently he was seen in The Bakelite Masterpiece; Good; Broken Glass; Assassins; Camelot for which he received the IRNE Award for Best Actor in a Musical; Amadeus;and others. He is the Founding Artistic Director of The Actors’ Shakespeare Project, where he played Hamlet, Petruchio, Coriolanus, Edmund, Caliban, and Richmond. He was a member of American Repertory Theatre Resident Acting Company, appearing in over 50 productions including The Bacchae; Waiting for Godot; Phaedra; The Cherry Orchard; and Mother Courage.

Wendy Waring returns to Gloucester Stage after having last performed here in Jason Robert Brown’s Songs For the New World directed by GSC Artistic Director Robert Walsh in 2016. A Broadway veteran of 20 years, she made her debut on Broadway in Peter Allen’s Legs Diamond and has appeared in Mel Brooks The Producers; Sondheim’s Follies;; Tommy Tune’s The Will Rogers Follies; and Susan Stroman’s Crazy For You where she met her husband and fellow Madame Defarge cast member John Hillner. Ms. Waring has worked on all NY soap operas, played the crazy Aunt in the HBO pilot The Wino Crossing; can be seen on film in Birdman; and on the television show Bull. When she is not acting, she is honored to be a NYC DOE Substitute Teacher. In 2016 she was a guest teaching artist in the Gloucester Stage Youth Acting Workshop sharing her talent and experience to teach a Broadway dance class. Although she has lived in NYC for 38 years, she has roots in Rockport with her family. As a child Ms. Waring spent her summers in Rockport and currently returns on a regular basis to visit her parents, Rockport residents Bayard and Bea Waring. Bea Waring is a past president of the GSC Board of Directors and a current Board of Advisors member as well as Miss America 1948.

A veteran of 10 Broadway shows, John Hillner has starred on Broadway as Georges in the Tony Award winning revival of La Cages Aux Folles; created the critically acclaimed role of Lank Hawkins in the original Broadway production of Crazy For You; and played featured Broadway roles in They’re Playing Our Song; Woman of the Year; Little Me; Zorba; The Graduate; Mamma Mia; Footloose; and the Roundabout Company’s 25th anniversary of Stephen Sondheim’s Company. Among his many off-Broadway portrayals mr. Hillner is especially proud of starring in the Pulitzer Prize winning production of Dinner With Friends directed by Daniel Sullivan. Television audiences will be familiar with his guest starring roles in Elementary; The Good Wife; Person of Interest; Body of Proof; Gossip Girl; Damages; Cold Case; Numbers; and Seinfeld. He recently completed the feature film, Backseat, playing George H W Bush opposite Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Sam Rockwell.

New York native Sabrina Koss is a Boston Conservatory at Berklee freshman pursuing a BFA in Musical Theater. Marissa Simeqi has appeared as Estelle in Gabriel at Greater Boston Stage, a role for which she won an IRNE award. NYC native Matthew Amira is a veteran of the Dirty Dancing National Tour playing Robbie Gould; and regionally has appeared in The Hunchback of Notre Dame at Ogunquit Playhouse; She Loves Me at Infinity Theatre; and The Most Happy Fella, and Fiddler on the Roof at Goodspeed Opera House. Robert Karma Robinson has appeared in The Blowin of Baile Gall by Boston playwright Ronan Noone at The Vineyard Playhouse; and the world premiere of Expedition Six, written and directed by Bill Pullman. Jason Michael Evans appeared in On Your Toes with Encores! at NY City Center as well as regionally in Beauty and the Beast; Oklahoma; South Pacific and Bye Bye Birdie. John Shuman appeared on Broadway in the revival of La Cage Aux Folles and 13 Rue de l’Amour; and off Broadway in The Dishwashers; the revival of The Fantasticks; Hot L Baltimore; An Oak Tree; and Moonchildren. Locally, he has appeared at Wellfleet Harbor Actor’s Theatre, Cape Playhouse, and Portland Stage.

The world premiere of Wendy Kesselman’s Madame Defarge, runs from May 11 through June 2 at Gloucester Stage. Performances are Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 pm; Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 pm. Following the 2 pm performances on Sunday, May 20 and Sunday, May 27, audiences are invited to free post-show discussions with the artists from Madame Defarge. Single ticket prices are $35 to $45 with discounts available for Preview Performances, Cape Ann Residents, Senior Citizens and Patrons 18 years old and under. In addition to regular reserved tickets, Pay What You Wish tickets are available for the Saturday, May 12 matinee at 2 pm. Pay What You Wish tickets can only be purchased day of show at the door. All performances are held at 267 East Main Street, Gloucester, MA. For more information about Gloucester Stage, or to purchase tickets, call the Box Office at 978-281-4433 or visit

All Photos Gary NG

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