Rose's War

This musical mashes South Pacific and Chicago with The Negro Motorist’s Green Book. Is the result a bombshell, or a ten-car pile-up?

By Andrew Andrews

Alex Lugo and the Ensemble dancing in Rose's War. Photo by Russ Rowland.

Rose’s War is the story of three wars: World War II, the war between the sexes, and, primarily, the war over segregation, especially in the jazz clubs of Harlem.

Alex Lugo stars as the diva Rose, the illegitimate daughter of Cecil (Gavin Gregory), a smack-addicted trumpeter and owner of the integrated Pair O’Dice club.

The musical feast explores Rose’s interracial romance with Danny (Jace Reinhard) of the 8th Army Air Corps, who sometimes plays piano and sings at Pair O’Dice.

With a handsomely costumed, fourteen person cast performing over two dozen song-and-dance numbers practically back to back, Rose’s War is a nonstop treat of catchy lyrics set to familiar-sounding tunes, resulting in one hell of a good time for anyone who loves the work of Rogers & Hammerstein or Sondheim & Bernstein.

Backed by a live band, this is the closest you can get to a full blown Broadway musical within the confines of a black box theatre, for a price that’s ten times more friendly to your pocketbook.

Everyone on the stage delivers a thoroughly enjoyable experience, with a magnificent performance by Lugo, and frenemy Steffanie Leigh as Decca Records star Sophie Hudson also standing out.

This is not to say that the piece is perfect, by any means, even overlooking the sound issues and other limitations that are bound to crop up in a low budget festival, where each performance is sandwiched between unrelated others. The story itself is a bit repetitive and the ending very anticlimactic, and the role of Danny would benefit from a deeper voice. But Rose’s War is a work in progress—albeit one that’s already highly tuned—and I have no doubt that a slightly more polished version of this project would have tremendous success on Broadway.


Andrew Andrews attended Rose's War at The Clemente Teatro LATEA in Manhattan on Friday, August 16, 2019 @ 4:00pm to write this review.