Factory Girls Offers a Fresh Take on the Industrial Revolution

The 11th Hour Theatre Company gives the rock musical a staged concert reading

11th Hour REading

A scene from a previous 11th Hour Next Step Concert.

It doesn’t seem like subject matter for a rock musical: The drudges of the Industrial Revolution are about as far as lyrical as one can imagine. Yet, leave it to writers Sean Mahoney and Creighton Irons to craft a show not only on the Industrial Revolution, but one with a female focus.

“We knew we wanted to write a show that spoke to the unnatural mechanization of humanity and allowed us room to meld our musical sensibilities,” said Mahoney. “We searched for a powerful, relevant story from American history.”

That story was of the Lowell Mill Girls, females as young as 13 who worked in deplorable conditions in factories throughout the mid 19th century in the U.S. However, there was a silver lining: A cohort of Lowell Mill Girls formed what is widely regarded as the first female-led labor organization in America, the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association.

The Association also published a newspaper of sorts, The Lowell Offering, which is the source of Factory Girls, a new musical penned by Mahoney and Irons which will receive a concert staging with 11th Hour Theatre Company at the Christ Church Neighborhood House, January 30 through February 1.

Yes, it’s a rock-based score, something that may raise the eyebrows of traditional musical theater fans given the show’s subject matter of labor reform. But this shouldn’t come as too much of a shock: Take a look at Broadway hits like Spring Awakening and Hamilton, both of which have juxtaposed modern musical styles on historical tales.

Shannon Remley

Shannon Remley

“We believe that the drive, energy, and power of American rock helps to activate and electrify the story, and we also aspire to use the conventions of theater songs to their full extent,” said Mahoney.

The show stars Samantha Joy Pearlman and Shannon Remley as the leading female revolutionaries, and also features Rachel Brennan, Brittany Martin, Amanda Robinson, Cara Noel Antosca, Meredith Beck, Elexis Morton, Maggie Johnson, Michelle Eugene, Joe O’Brien, Bill Van Horn, and Bryan Black. Kate Galvin directs, with John Daniels as musical director.

“Nothing excites me more than a story like Factory Girls, one that features women working together, creating together, and fighting for equality,” said Remley.

Her fellow performer, Brittany Martin, agreed. “The true girl power this piece possesses is awesome,” she said. “The women come together and never let themselves become victims of their struggle and I so admire that.”

Tickets are $26, with student and industry tickets at $11 and can be purchased here. For more information on 11th Hour Theatre Company’s Next Step Concert Series, click here.