In the realm of musical theater, some stories transcend entertainment and delve into the annals of history to bring forth tales of courage and resilience. Brian Belding, the creative force behind “White Rose: The Musical,” has masterfully crafted a production that immerses audiences in the gripping narrative of young activists who stood up against Hitler’s regime. In a recent interview with Artist Weekly, Belding shared insights into the inspiration, challenges, and collaborative spirit that gave birth to this powerful musical.
“White Rose: The Musical” is a powerful new musical that follows the inspiring story of a courageous group of university students who stood up to Hitler. Set against the backdrop of Nazi Germany, the musical follows Sophie and Hans Scholl and a group of young activists as they create and distribute leaflets challenging Hitler’s propaganda.
Belding’s journey with “White Rose” began over 30 years ago when he discovered the story of the White Rose, a group of real-life heroes who fought against Nazi oppression. He expressed, “History books only focus on those people who led ‘successful’ movements, but the real heroes are often the ones who laid the groundwork for others to follow.” Belding sees the importance of acknowledging the “failed” attempts as essential steps in an epic battle against tyranny.
As a former high school history teacher, Belding’s approach to storytelling in the musical is deeply influenced by his teaching experiences. His students were most engaged when presented with stories they could identify with, and “White Rose” aligns perfectly with his essential question of how and why people resist oppression.
Brian and the entire creative team emphasized the importance of authenticity in crafting the narrative, drawing upon actual leaflets produced by the White Rose. He highlighted key sources, including Inge Scholl’s personal homage, “The White Rose,” and Annette Dumbach and Jud Newborn’s academically rich “Sophie Scholl and the White Rose (1986).” Personal correspondence and diaries of White Rose members played a crucial role in shaping the characters’ personalities. But in new musical the creative team faced challenges in deviating from real history while crafting an engaging narrative. The entire team is commitment to honoring the truth of the White Rose heroes while ensuring the musical is both compelling and entertaining.
To balance the emotional weight of the narrative, Belding drew inspiration from musicals like “Come From Away,” focusing on hope amidst tragedy. He shared, “Not every story is appropriate for the artform of musical theatre, but I feel that this particular story of young people standing up against tyranny and oppression truly sings.”
Belding praised the collaboration with Natalie Brice for the music and Sheela Ramesh for music direction and arrangements. He highlighted Natalie’s songwriting genius and marveled at her ability to craft magical music. Sheela Ramesh played a pivotal role in guiding Natalie and shaping the music to bring out its artistic essence.
Belding and director Will Nunziata connected on a profound level, creating a working environment that fosters creativity and passion. Will’s background as a former performer and his rapport with actors contribute to the success of their collaboration, making the creative process a truly beautiful experience.
The casting process focused on passionate individuals who connected with the material, and is made of an incredibly talented group of performers, some stage veterans others making their Off Broadway debut. Regardless, the audience will be enamored by this ensemble which include Jo Ellen Pellman as Sophie Scholl, Mike Cefalo as Hans Scholl, Paolo Montalban, Kennedy Kanagawa, Cole Thompson, Laura Sky Herman, Cal Mitchell, Sam Gravitte, Aaron Ramey with Dani Apple, Pasquale Crociata and Ellis Gage.
Although the White Rose existed decades ago, the relevance of these students’ story to contemporary audiences is potent. The show ultimately highlights the universal theme of using privilege for good and the show challenges audience members to reflect on their own privilege and consider ways to make a positive impact.
“White Rose: The Musical” stands as a testament to Brian Belding’s dedication to preserving history through the power of musical storytelling. It is an ode to the courage and resilience of the White Rose heroes, inviting audiences to reflect on their own roles in challenging times. As the musical makes its Off-Broadway debut, it promises to be a compelling and heartwarming theatrical experience that resonates with the human spirit.
“White Rose” has a book & lyrics by Brian Belding, music by Natalie Brice, direction by Will Nunziata, music direction, music supervision, and arrangements by Sheela Ramesh, and movement direction by Jordan Ryder. The design team includes James Noone (set), Sophia Choi (costumes), Alan C. Edwards (lighting), Elisabeth Weidner (sound), Caite Hevner (projections), Liz Printz (wig design) and Charlie Rosen (orchestrations).The production stage manager is Ellie Handel, casting by Eisenberg Casting, production management by Intuitive Production Management, general management by LDK Productions LLC, Ken Davenport is the Executive Consultant. The Executive Producer is Lisa Dozier Shacket. This production is being presented in association with NewYorkRep.
White Rose will perform Tuesday – Thursday at 7 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 pm & 8 pm; and Sunday at 2 pm & 6:30 pm; Tickets are $35-$85. For tickets and more information, please visit WhiteRoseTheMusical.com.
Published By: Aize Perez