Lackawanna Blues is a one-man show honoring the real-life Rachel “Nanny” Crosby, who unconditionally cared for the community of a rooming house in upstate New York. Accompanied on his harmonica and by guitarist Junior Mack, Santiago-Hudson brings to life two dozen characters in this autobiographical love letter of a musical.
Ruben Santiago-Hudson: First receiving a commission from the Public Theater, the play was honed from hours and hours of memory and recollections. Every incident was either something I witnessed or gathered from stories of those who were there. It took many interviews to really piece together what “Nanny” was as a young woman before bringing little Jr. [Santiago-Hudson as a boy] into her world. After gathering so much info, my dramaturge, John Dias, began to ask me the important questions, including what story I truly wanted to tell and what I needed in order to tell it. I knew music would be as integral a part to the play as it was in Nanny’s rooming house, so I called the incredible musician Bill Sims Jr. to join me. [Sims wrote the original music to the show.]
RSH: I want to remind people of the power of giving and helping, of standing with and by each other. In this terribly fraught and uncertain time, humanity must be at the forefront of our daily lives. Rachel “Nanny” Crosby is the perfect embodiment of what that means.
RSH: To have an opportunity to once again do the thing that God has placed me on this earth to do—tell stories that bring us all closer together and to the true essence of what Black culture, life, love, wit and humanity are. To show that we all are just simply human. That is incredibly important to me. And to bring people back into the theater to share moments together, to share space and experiences together. I am grateful for that.
Performances of Lackawanna Blues take place at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre (261 W. 47th St.) through November 12.
Connect with Ruben Santiago-Hudson at @rsantiagohudson