Eden Espinosa as the prostitute Sadie Thompson and Tally Sessions as the doctor Alec McPhail. Photo by Chris Jennewein
Eden Espinosa as the prostitute Sadie Thompson and Tally Sessions as the doctor Alec McPhail in “Rain” at The Old Globe. Photo by Chris Jennewein

A clash between sexual repression and religion on a remote Pacific island are the subject of a new American musical enjoying its world premiere at The Old Globe.

“Rain,” a musical adaption of a classic short story by British author W. Somerset Maugham, is the 30th musical premiere in the Globe’s history.

The year is 1924, the setting a boarding hotel on the island of Western Samoa. A missionary, a doctor, and their wives traveling to Australia are quarantined by a measles epidemic and scandalized by sharing the hotel with a prostitute.

“If you’re staying, stay inside your room,” the missionary tells Sadie Thompson, one of the iconic characters in literature and cinema.

The story has been adapted as a movie three times, with Thompson played by Gloria Swanson, Joan Crawford and Rita Hayworth over the years. Broadway star Eden Espinosa plays Thompson in the Globe production.

Artistic Director Barry Edelstein said the musical was two years in the making and the actors are now in the 5th week of rehearsals. He spoke to San Diego’s arts press at a special preview of the work in progress.

He said composer and lyricist Michael John LaChiusa and playwright Sybille Pearson‘s “approach to Maugham’s classic tale is to X-ray it, revealing the tale’s hidden powers that make its characters so memorable and their stories so moving.

“San Diego is one of the country’s great theatre towns,” noted Edelstein, who is also directing the musical. “We are very very proud of our work in the world of musical theatre.”

Previews begin March 24 and opening night is Friday, April 1, at the Donald and Darlene Shiley Stage at the theater in Balboa Park. Tickets start at $36 and are on sale to the general public now.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.