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Hear the news! Here's what folks are saying about Haymarket

Chicago Tribune ★★★1/2

A girl of roughly middle-school age was directly in my field of vision Saturday night at the Den Theatre’s mainstage. She was part of a large group of kids who had been taken to the show and, by the end of “Haymarket,” I could see that her eyes were flooded with tears.

And her fellow students all stood and cheered at the end. Wow, I thought. Not bad for an original musical about an oft-forgotten labor protest turned deadly in 19th century Chicago.

“Haymarket” has now become a fully staged, highly effective, made-in-Chicago musical that’s well worth a look.

There are echoes of “Les Miserables” (especially since the workers honor their Parisian counterparts). But Higgin-Houser and Kornfeld are yet more interested in the John Kander and Fred Ebb playbook, as the oft-sardonic theatrical style recalls both “Chicago” and, once we reach the trial, “The Scottsboro Boys.”

Many of the songs are quite beautiful; so is the commitment. You don’t have to be a kid to be moved to tears.

Chris Jones, 2018

If you are a Chicago history buff, or interested in an event that was central in labor history, you will want to head over there and hear some of the beautiful new songs penned by the young composer David Kornfeld and the writer Alex Higgin-Houser.

Kornfeld, whose prospects are exceptionally bright, is headed to New York this fall. I suspect I'll be writing his name again.

"Haymarket" put me in mind of the very fine musical "Ragtime," which could serve as a useful model as this new piece moves forward, especially since Kornfeld's score evokes a similar era — offering a sense of the strictures of the time, with the intermittent explosion of both American populism and the music of the anarchists' mostly Germanic roots. This is a very accomplished suite of songs.

Chris Jones, 2016

Chicago Sun-Times ★★★

One of the sneakiest strengths of “Haymarket,” a new folk musical from composer David Kornfeld and writer Alex Higgin-Houser, is that it knows to keep current events out of it. While the play contains numerous parallels to the nation’s current political strife, it makes sure the two lines never converge. The parallels stay parallel.

“Haymarket” is big, sweeping and brash, a historical mini-epic that just might manage to leave you in tears.

Events mostly play out through the eyes of Parsons’ wife, Lucy (Bridget Adams-King), a fellow radical activist who would go on to a long and fruitful career of raising hell. Really, the show is as much about her as it is them and is the better for it — Higgin-Houser’s book serves her well.


Still, the show’s greatest asset is Kornfeld’s beautiful, loping score that blends modern folk stylings with traditional Americana. True to his characters, the music is often warm and hopeful — it’s protest music, but it isn’t angry.

[This production produces] something rare: agitprop that strikes the heart.

Alex Hutsberger, 2018

The score for “Haymarket” is a real beauty, with everything from songs designed to marshal the masses, to sophisticated love songs, to the mocking “Order of the Gallows” (when the women whose husbands are imprisoned pin symbolic nooses to their lapels). Riffs from “La Marseillaise” are tossed in for good measure, too. I can’t deny I’d like to hear it all again…There is so much heart and truth in this production.

Hedy Weiss, 2016

Chicago Theatre Review

...Exciting musical that makes this chapter in Chicago’s violent history come alive. Interestingly, this story often mirrors many of the horrific events of 21st century America, but Alex Higgin-Houser and David Kornfeld have wisely chosen to leave those comparisons to the audience to imagine. Resisting hitting theatergoers over the head with any similarities to our appalling, corrupt, modern-day government, “Haymarket” feels as topical and contemporary as today’s headlines.

Colin Douglas, 2018


The themes of HAYMARKET are profoundly resonant and the continuing evolution of this brazen new musical work - by a talented, creative team in ascension - a credit to Underscore's development program. In addition to exploring a central voice for human rights, the show reminds us again that much of what we take for granted came at the supreme sacrifice of others. HAYMARKET also addresses issues of law enforcement of the day. The tragic and senseless death of protesters and officers, and an act that we would call 'terrorism' today, is only the tip of the spear of the poignant story being told that leads to a corrupt criminal prosecution and the injustice of a sentence carried out against innocent men. In the end, we can never truly make amends for the miscarriage of justice. We can only pledge to never forget.

Ed Tracy, 2018

Chicago Theatre Beat ★★★

One of the finest new musicals mounted on a Chicago stage in years!...Haymarket is proof positive that the American musical is, indeed, in good hands!...Sparkling...This show has so much promise – don’t miss it!

John Olson, 2016

The Dueling Critics

The music in the second act is outstanding. It goes from one strong number to another...One of the other things that’s very powerful about The Anarchist’s Songbook is the use that the show makes of relevant musical traditions. So there’s singing that evokes the male German chorale style of singing, there’s a lot of string folk associated with the labor movement, there’s accordion music which goes with the sort of Irish and Polish members of the working class, and I just found that exceptionally thoughtful and powerful as we tell a story, because we have tendency to think about the working class as a single entity, and this musical olio evokes the multiplicity of people and kinds of people who were involved in the’s a very lilting score, a very lovely score, and particularly apt for the show.

Kelly Kleiman & Jonathan Abarbanel, 2016

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