While not a household name, multi-Grammy award winner Patty Griffin has a lot of fans in the music industry. Her songs have been performed by many of her well-known peers, including the Dixie Chicks, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Bette Midler, even Jessica Simpson. VOA's Katherine Cole reports Patty's songs are now the subject of "10 Million Miles," an off-Broadway musical starring actress Mare Winningham.
The first song you hear in 10 Million Miles is "Useless Desires," one Patty performs on her 2004 CD, Impossible Dream.
10 Million Miles tells the story of Duane and Molly, a young couple whose relationship is tested over the course of a road trip from Florida to Worcester, Massachusetts, a journey of close to 2,000 kilometers. They are two lost souls, the kind of person Patty Griffin seems to specialize in writing about. Molly, two months pregnant and only recently sober, is heading north to give birth to her baby and give it up for adoption. Duane, who may or may not be the father, is heading north to change his luck.
"The two leads are incredible. Irene Molloy and Matt Morrison. And they're both champ[ion] vocalists," says multi-award winning actress and singer Mare Winningham. Winningham, who received an Oscar nomination for her role as a singer in the film Georgia, is making her New York stage debut in 10 Million Miles.
"Skipp and I, Skipp Sudduth, we play all the people that they [Molly and Duane] meet along the way on their road trip," she said. "So we're both playing six or seven roles, [singing] several songs, and several different people of different ages. I play his [Duane's] mom, and her Jesus-freak [devoutly-religious] aunt, and a floozy [prostitute] in Atlantic City, a motel owner and a waitress."
Is there one that is the most fun?
"You know, playing a floozy is kind of fun, it's kind of fun! But I just enjoy each of them," said Winningham. "They're so different, it's a pleasure."
"The Floozy" Winningham speaks of is called "Lois" in 10 Million Miles. She leads the cast in singing "Love Throw A Line" performed by Patty Griffin on her Impossible Dream CD.
In addition to Patty's songs, there are a few other interesting things about this production. First of all, they're taking part in a world premiere.
"Yes, I love that! It's an off-Broadway production of the Atlantic Theater Company," said Winningham. "They did the rock musical Spring Awakening. Duncan Sheik did the music for that, and it had the same director, Michael Mayer. And they had a huge success with that, and it's on Broadway now, and nominated for all these awards, and winning awards."
It's rare these days that we see people willing to try something different and try something new. Because of the costs and everything else that surround a production. A lot of people don't want to take any chances. It's hard to believe that someone would consider something based on the songs of Patty Griffin "chancy," but it takes a special company to mount a production like this.
"I agree," Winningham said. "They showed with Spring Awakening that they know how to reinvent the idea of a musical, and this is, I think, really just carrying on waving that banner."
Mare Winningham's New York stage debut proved to be quite the success. Many of the reviews of 10 Million Miles single out her strong performance, both as a singer and as an actress. 10 Million Miles is onstage now at the Atlantic Theater Company in New York City.