James Joyce Gets
jonathan brielle is well aware that
musicals about historical figures are
having a moment. But the composer
and playwright’s Himself & Nora,
which premieres June 6 off-Broadway
at the Minetta Lane Theatre in Manhattan, is no Hamilton.
“We’re very different shows,” says
For one thing, both have sturdy
Brielle, 62, during an interview at the
one-room schoolhouse that serves as
his studio on 10 Hunterdon County
acres he owns with his wife, Cherie
King, the musical’s producer. “This
show isn’t a modern view of things
that happened then, and it’s not hip-
hop. Ours is a contemporary pop score
with a little bit of an Irish feeling.”
Still, Himself & Nora, about the love
affair between the Irish literary icon
James Joyce and Nora Barnacle, the
chambermaid he eventually married,
has its similarities to Hamilton.
ties to New Jersey. While Hamilton
recreates the famous 1804 duel in
Weehawken that ends in the death
of the title character, Himself & Nora
got liftoff in the Garden State. Brielle
wrote key scenes in his schoolhouse
studio. What’s more, the musical was
staged in 2013 in Rahway at (where
else?) Hamilton Stage.
Brielle’s credits include the score
for Broadway’s Foxfire and numerous
productions at off-Broadway’s Circle
The Jersey native—Brielle took his
name from the town where he grew
up—says audiences don’t need to know
about Joyce to appreciate Himself &
Nora. “It’s just about these two people
that fight a lot and have great sex,” he
says. “Totally relatable.”
—Tammy La Gorce
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