Show History



The idea for the musical adaptation of Dessa Rose came in 1986, when lyricist/librettist, Lynn Ahrens, first read Sherley Anne Williams's acclaimed novel of two women in the pre-Civil War South. Her writing partner, composer, Stephen Flaherty, was not initially convinced.

In the summer of 2002, Ahrens took the book with her on vacation, where, just as an experiment, she wrote the first fifty pages of the libretto on her own. As soon as Flaherty received the libretto, he agreed to musicalize it. In a 2003 interview, Flaherty reflected on the benefits of altering their writing process for this particular piece, "It was an interesting way to write. I think it actually allowed Lynn to explore her vision of the piece first, because she obviously had a very, very strong vision of what the story was and how to tell it, and I was intrigued by the piece, but I didn't have the same vision about it that she did."


A workshop of Dessa Rose was held at Lincoln Center Theater in June of 2003, featuring Donna Murphy and LaChanze. The musical then premiered Off-Broadway at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center. The show officially opened on March 21, 2005, and closed on May 29, 2005. It was honored with four Drama Desk nominations and praised for being a significantly serious show with a substantive message.