The Road of Life: A New Musical

by Bob Schwartz

Road of Life

Some of our greatest and most popular musicals have been set against the background of darkest history. Les Miserables. Miss Saigon. Fiddler on the Roof. Cabaret. In the context of adversity, shining stories of love and human spirit stand out starkly, movingly—and musically.

The German Siege of Leningrad, lasting 900 days between 1941 and 1944, has been relatively ignored when we think about the atrocities of that atrocious war. A million people died over the course of more than two years, and millions of others suffered attacks and depravations that brought them to the brink and marked their lives forever.

Ann Reid writes in Leningrad: The Epic Siege of World War II:

[T]he siege of Leningrad, the deadliest blockade of a city in human history…. Other modern sieges – those of Madrid and Sarajevo – lasted longer, but none killed even a tenth as many people. Around thirty-five times more civilians died in Leningrad than in London’s Blitz; four times more than in the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima put together.

Hope, wrote Emily Dickinson, is the thing with feathers. A songbird who lifted the people of Leningrad during this cold hell was a poet named Olga Burggolts. Each day she broadcast from Leningrad’s only radio station—reporting events, reading her poems, exemplifying the imperative of survival. Just as the siege is too forgotten, so she is not very well-known or celebrated for her achievement. But as much as we may dismiss poetry as an idle pastime, maybe nowhere at no time has a poet done more to affect so many—and to help those people withstand the brutality of history.

The team of Jay Jacques and Mark Chimsky have created a bold and uplifting new musical intertwining this big history with the individual lives, loves, and losses that are its true components. It is an invitation to see this chapter of the not-so-distant past in a new light, one that demonstrates in theater and song how dreams rise from the depths. To find out more, please visit The Road of Life. Read the story, listen to the music, and be inspired.