Coinciding with the 105th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, NYU Steinhardt’s Program in Vocal Performance today announced it will present a “revival and restoration” of the 1937 musical Pins and Needles, the only hit Broadway musical ever to be produced by a non-theatrical labor union. The show, which runs March 24-27 at the Provincetown Playhouse, features music and lyrics by Harold Rome, with sketch material by Joseph Schrank. Meg Bussert directs.
Originally conceived as a community theater show sponsored by the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU), Pins and Needles is a light hearted and pro-labor depiction of workers in a changing society. The 1937 show was cast with ILGWU workers who rehearsed after work and performed Friday and Saturday nights at the Princess Theatre in New York City. The show’s popularity was so immense that the cast ultimately abandoned their day jobs to embrace a full performance schedule of eight shows per week, marking the only time in history that non-professionals were able to bring a successful musical to Broadway.
Pins and Needles ran for nearly four years with several editions and road tours. Throughout the run, material was added and dropped to keep the show current. As a result, Pins and Needles did not exist in a specific, static form but rather had to be reassembled from original source material.
Bussert, a Tony Award nominee and World Theater Award winner, together with the show’s musical orchestrator and supervisor Joseph Church (music director and supervisor for The Lion King and The Who’s Tommy) were granted permission by the Harold Rome estate to review the original material and fashion an evening of interest today while retaining the unique mix of topics and music. In that vein, Church has written new orchestrations that honor the unique style and humor of Harold Rome’s songwriting. Bussert is rehearsing the production as a workshop, a process that allows the cast time to discover their characters and situations. This restored version of Pins and Needles will be premiered in this Steinhardt Vocal Performance production.
Friday, March 25 is the anniversary date of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of the city which caused the deaths of 146 garment workers and sparked a legislative battle for improved, federally mandated labor conditions. In honor of the anniversary, there will be a special performance that evening at 8 p.m., followed by a short “talk back” featuring labor representatives from theatrical unions.
Performance times for Pins and Needles are 8 p.m. on March 24 and 25, 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. March 26, and 3 p.m. March 27. The Provincetown Playhouse is located at 133 Macdougal Street, between West 3rd and West 4th streets. Tickets are $15 for general admission and $5 for students and seniors. For tickets, contact NYU Box Office at tickets.nyu.edu, call the box office at 212.998.4941, or visit in person at 566 LaGuardia Place at Washington Square South.
Pins and Needles features choreography by Maria Malanga, music direction by Joshua Cullen, music supervision and orchestration by Joseph Church, scenic design by Brittany Vasta, lighting design by Cheyenne Sykes, costume design by Rose Bisogno, and props design by Alberto Ruiz. The production stage manager is Kat Gavornik. The cast features NYU Steinhardt students Catherine Ang, Jack Flatley, Molly Gallagher, Alex Guhde, Hayley Jackowitz, Elena Juliano, Stephanie Meadowcroft, Chris Price, James Rose, Matt Ross, Wayne Shuker, and Jacqui Sirois.