The Belle of Tombstone
Lyrics by Sheilah Rae
Music by Michele Brourman
Suggested in part by the book "I Married Wyatt Earp" by Glenn G. Boyer
Formerly titled "I Married Wyatt Earp", The Belle of Tombstone has been produced Off-Broadway, in notable regional theatres in the U.S. and London, and by colleges and universities across the country. For more information about productions, click here.
Cast Size: 11 women with doubling of roles; 15 women without doubling
Production Requirements: unit set or bare stage with projections
Orchestrations Available: small band; orchestrations by Bruce Coughlin
This “creative nonfiction” musical is based on the historical events of the American West, and boasts an all-female cast of 11 members. With a rousing score that ranges from pop to country-western to Victorian dance hall songs, The Belle of Tombstone traces the true-life tale of Josephine Marcus, who escaped her stifling upper-class San Francisco Jewish family by bluffing her way into a Gilbert & Sullivan troupe en route to Tombstone, Arizona in the late 1800s. There she met the love of her life—Wyatt Earp—and plunged into a tumult of scandals and outrage that led to the notorious and deadly Shootout at the OK Corral. As Wyatt’s widow, 81-year-old Josie drags her vendetta against 90-year-old Allie Earp (widow of Wyatt’s brother Virgil) from the 1880’s into 1939 as they struggle their way toward reconciliation and, ultimately, forgiveness.
The story of Wyatt Earp, his brothers, and Doc Holliday has become American Legend. Almost all of the characters depicted in I Married Wyatt Earp are based on real people. After the discovery of silver in the nearby mountains, Tombstone, Arizona was a booming town in 1879, and yet within a few short years, the entire place became practically deserted. During its heyday, Tombstone produced over $80 million dollars of silver within ten years; the town had approximately 12,000 men and only 860 women, mostly prostitutes, schoolmarms, and few assorted wives.
The political and socio-economic events which led up to the Shootout at the OK Corral have been dramatized in over 54 movies and 13 television shows, but the story of the unconquerable, gutsy women in Tombstone who loved and lived with these lawmen and outlaws has never been told. This is their story.
I Married Wyatt Earp: the Recollections of Josephine Sarah Marcus by Glenn Boyer first attracted bookwriter and lyricist Sheilah Rae’s attention when she was skimming another book called Pioneer Jews by Harriet and Fred Rochlin. In a chapter called ‘Humdingers’, she ran across the scandalous (for the 1880’s) photograph of Josie Marcus. Reading about Josie’s adventurous life, Sheilah immediately decided that this was indeed the ‘stuff of musicals’!
In researching the period and these characters, co-bookwriter Thomas Edward West and Sheilah realized how little had changed in the world for women: they are still victims of abuse and drug addiction, still live in fear of their men coming home safely. And, of course, the time period was attractive to composer Michele Brourman, because of the enormous palette of musical colors the period offered: western, folk, Gilbert & Sullivan, saloon songs, Americana.
The writing team set out to create the telling of a unique story, but chose to tell it through the women’s eyes only, so as not to compete with the many versions of the Earp myth that already existed — hopeful that telling this story from the women’s perspective would shed a new light on the contribution of women to the development of the West, a story rarely told.
Pictured above: (presumably) Josephine Sarah Marcus.