Orphan Train, the Musical - Q&A with director Pat Birch

If you walk through New York's Grand Central Station Friday or Saturday (Oct 11-12), you may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of something you don't normally see in a train station: a musical. 

(The presentation is part of GCT's Centennial Celebration - so there will be other cool events coming, no doubt.) 

Orphan Train is about six children who were part of a movement in 1872 to send orphans - "surplus children" - out of the horror that was New York City and place them with families in the West - both for their own good, and as cheap labor for the booming frontier.

Orphan Train has a book by L.E. McCullough, lyrics by Michael Barry Greer, score by Emmy-winning composer Doug Katsaros,  and direction by Emmy-winning choreographer Patricia Birch.  The 75-minute musical has a fabulous Broadway cast, and includes some of Rosie's O'Donnell's Theatre Kids. 

We were so excited to hear about this project - talk about inspirational subject matter! - that we reached out to the creators and will be offering a series of Q&A's with them. We're going to lead off with Pat. Birch  Pat has earned two Emmy Awards, five Tony nominations, and scads of other honors, including her recent induction into the Theater Hall of Fame. Pat has directed music-driven projects ranging from Sondheim to the Rolling Stones, and to theatre folk, she is a Legend with a capital L.

Pat has worked with Orphan Train for years, and Hope Sings is so happy to have an opportunity to learn and share more about the project through this informal Q&A. It's so welcome to hear her goals for the show are  not just artistic, but social as well.  As she says in her interview, "In the 1870s the kids on the streets were called "surplus children." I want to help our own 2013 surplus kids now!

And now...here's Pat! 

1) How did Orphan Train begin its life as a musical, and how did you become involved?

They invited me to a very early reading. I fell in love with the stories and the message, and wanted to, and did, help the writers develop it.

2) What has been the journey of the show so far?

There were a few early developmental performances at NYMF (the New York Musical Festival). Patricia Snyder optioned it for NYST. We had huge success in the tri-state area - and thoughts about coming in to NYC, but I felt we might do some good and try to do a few gala performances at Grand Central - the very station from which the trains departed - then go across the country on the route of the trains, playing for family audiences and raising awareness- helping our own needy children!

3) How has it been to stage the show at Grand Central Station, of all places? The challenges/bonuses?

We're on the way now - it will be enormously exciting to play Vanderbilt Hall - we're ready for sound challenges and a very short rehearsal there before we have an audience - but guess what? We'll be fine. The cast - including Rosie's Theater Kids, wonderful Steve Blanchard, DeWitt Fleming and very talented up and comers, some from Marymount's Musical theater program - are great!

4) What impact do you hope the show has on the audience - on the world?

I hope  to bring Orphan Train to a wider audience across the country … a family-focused drama that will inspire thousands of Americans  to get involved in supporting foster care, early education, wellness/nutrition, juvenile justice and other critical youth development needs in their communities. In the 1870s the kids on the streets were called "surplus children." I want to help our own 2013 surplus kids now!


For more information on Orphan Train go to  http://orphantrainmusical.com.

Though there are no tickets left for these performances, there has been such strong demand that they hope to do more in the future. To get on their mailing list, write to orphantrainmusical@gmail.com