Two years after the forced closure of the world premiere of Coal Country at The Public Theater, the musical returns for a six-week engagement at the Cherry Lane Theatre, produced by Audible Theater. Coal Country tickets will be available on New York Theatre Guide soon.
The Coal Country musical is set in West Virginia, just after the disaster at the Upper Big Branch Mine in the state's Raleigh County. On Apr. 5, 2010, a coal dust explosion killed 29 of the 31 miners inside the mine at the time. Some time later, an independent investigation would find Massey Energy, the company that owned the mine, responsible for the explosion after multiple safety violations were uncovered. But in the time between the explosion and the release of investigation results, West Virginia residents mourned their lost loved ones, found ways to keep going, and clamored for justice. Coal Country focuses on the middle period, and is developed from interviews with the families of the deceased miners as well as the two that survived.
Coal Country is by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen. The wife-and-husband duo first achieved Off-Broadway success with The Exonerated. Similar to Coal Country, The Exonerated is a docudrama based on interviews, in that case with more than 40 people who were set free after being on death row. The Exonerated received numerous accolades and has toured all across the world.
The first production of Coal Country off-Broadway in 2020 also received critical acclaim upon premiering in 2020; the New York Theatre Guide review called the show "at times as elemental as fire and air, and as all-consuming as the explosion itself." Shortly after opening, however, the production was forced to shut down amid the pandemic. In 2021, Audible Theater produced Coal Country as an audio play so anyone could listen worldwide and is now mounting the new engagement, which begins performances exactly two years after being shut down. The Coal Country story is set to an original score by Steve Earle, and is directed by Jessica Blank.
Check back for information on tickets to Coal Country in New York.
(Photos by Joan Marcus)