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Artsmash Critic Tim Smith covers classical music, theater and visual arts in Baltimore and beyond

David Simon, Steve Earle planning to write musical about Baltimore's steel industry days

Tim Smith
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

Here's a tantalizing prospect for fans of musical theater: author/TV producer David Simon, singer/songwriter/actor/etc. Steve Earle and UMBC professor Deborah Rudacille may write a Baltimore-centric musical about the city's old steel industry and its workforce.

Word of the possible project leaked out in a New York Times interview with Earle, which described the musical as being set in the Sparrows Point neighborhood.

In an email to The Baltimore Sun, Simon, creator of HBO's "The Wire" and much more, said that he, Earle and Rudacille "are attached to work on a project involving the steel works and the people who labored there."

The Dundalk-born Rudacille, who just received a Guggenheim Fellowship, is author of "Roots of Steel: Boom and Bust in an American Steel Town," a look at the steady decline of middle-class life that once thrived around the Bethlehem Steel plant at Sparrows Point.

Talk of a musical now "is all a bit premature as it is one of several things in development, and other deadlines and projects — including a third draft of another musical project," said Simon, a former Sun reporter.

"But I saw that Steve mentioned something in an interview and accurately so. For a long time ... other projects have interposed for me, and Steve has himself been in the studio and on tour, but we hope to sit down and begin work on the idea later this year ... [There] just isn't much to report at this early moment."

Still, it's enough to conjure up images of gritty steel workers raising voices in likewise gritty songs during a pre-Broadway run at one of Baltimore's theaters. Then, a triumph for years in New York, a slew of Tonys, and — why not? — a movie musical version that sweeps the Academy Awards.

No harm in dreaming.

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