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Cross That River

From 12 critic and 17 member reviews
Members say: Great singing, Entertaining, Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking

About the show

59E59 presents this new musical that tells the story of Blue, a runaway slave who becomes a Black cowboy. More…

The unsettled West of the 1860s provides a new life and new dreams for Blue, who escapes to Texas to become one of America’s first Black cowboys. This tale of freedom integrates fiction with historical fact, and each song presents a different page in this complicated chapter of American History.


"The show has a riveting story along with a fabulous score and the finest musical accompaniment...A passionate and inspiring piece of theatre portraying the spirit and courage that built America...The show presents fascinating historical facts with a narrative and each of the songs captures a chapter in Blue's compelling story...Immensely entertaining. It has a story that you will find enthralling with music that is absolutely superb...It is an extraordinary theatrical experience." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

“A thoroughly winning, unpretentious, indelibly distinctive musical about a…black cowboy…Remarkably infectious music, extraordinary performances, and engrossing historical background. With a supernova exploding nightly in the person of stunning singer/actress Maya Azucena, this is about as must-see, must-hear as any new Off-Broadway show of the season…The book's structure as a string of anecdotes works better as a story told than one enacted literally, and lets us focus on the wonderful songs.” Full Review


“Composed by Allan Harris, a noted jazz musician, the score starts off with an overture that's pure downtown cool, but, after the last funky rhythm subsides, Harris himself is on stage in a flannel-and-denim outfit as dusty as the range itself, donning a Stetson, and twanging a guitar. Incorporating country, jazz, blues, and gospel, what makes ‘Cross That River’ so instantly captivating is that from the get-go it looks and sounds like all of America, which is a wonderful place to begin.” Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"Resounding with spirit and vitality...This is an extraordinary journey for Allan Harris having presented this at NYMF back in 2009 and now, after many rewrites and a new cast, brings this story of guts and blood and a Black West to new heights with a mix of jazz, blues, country, and R & B tunes...From my perspective, it’s a story that needs telling and perhaps this concert will come to fruition in a fully staged production sooner than later." Full Review

Stage Buddy

“The incredible story of a slave turned cowboy...A true paragon of the American musical...Just as fascinating as the tale, the musicianship of ‘Cross That River’ is rock solid...It’s nearly impossible to single out any one musician as they all stand out in their artistry. The band creates a rich tapestry onto which the impressive vocalists weave their gorgeous story. " Full Review

Nitelife Exchange

"Raises the bar for musical and theatrical works about the black experience in American life. It’s a vibrant, energetic, music-filled piece that stands on its own as exciting theatre–with the added bonus of being historically important...Each of the numbers in 'Cross That River' is distinctive and evocative of the old West, and each matches the action of the plot perfectly...A gentle but effective corrective. What’s more, its end game is healing." Full Review

Berkshire Fine Arts

"Maya Azucena belts out her songs, drawing us in as she expresses the pain not only of black women, but of Indian women as well...'Cross That River' is full of pleasing music, evocative of the west as it rolled out...This is a concert version of the musical, but director Regge Life succeeds in bringing much movement from the seat, and generous use of hand and arm expressions. It is a fun and moving evening of entertainment." Full Review

The Huffington Post

"Exhilarating songs...Aside from Harris’s score, the highlights are the singers...Whether soloing or supporting, the four sound glorious, their acting also enhancing...The drawback is the overall presentation, which is outrightly presentational. Through both acts, Harris and crew sit facing the audience and in front of the musicians. The implication is that Harris’s work is really a song cycle. Indeed, it threatens to remain that, since Blue’s recollections are sketchier than might be desired." Full Review

The New York Times

“A showcase for its music above all else...As likable a yarn-spinner as Mr. Harris is, the yarn itself has its flaws. The show uses its songs as a framework then connects the dots in between, but the result is disjointed, with a story that presumes to be about Blue but veers off into other tales of the West. 'Cross That River' ends up presenting a historical fiction without engaging with the full context of that history...'Cross That River' goes too easy on the more complex story of America." Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

“There is a lot to like about this show, but there are also problems with this piece. Harris, a talented composer and actor, doesn’t know how to edit...Another problem with the show is Act One feels like you are in church, where almost everything being said or sung is being preached...I found the book by the Harris’s to be manipulative. There are moments that the piece is touching and 'Cross That River' is timely, but we miss so much of the time period." Full Review


"The show's music is its strong point...The music's impact, however, is blunted by Allan and wife Pat's lyrics, which are cluttered with clichés...Thankfully, the lyrics' shortcomings don't stop the actors from singing with conviction...Still, all the virtuosity on display can't hide 'Cross That River's' unwieldiness. Characters barely have any personality beyond what the score's music supplies...Allan and Pat Harris's message rings false." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"The live equivalent of the concept albums that songwriters like Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice used to put out to popularize a score in advance of a production. The book is barely a book at all...The songs, which have some pleasant, MOR-style melodies by Allan Harris (too many in fact; they blur together), don't really advance the story, since there really is none...The cast does whatever can be done with such material." Full Review

Relevant, Great singing, Great acting, Absorbing

See it if You would like a jazz, soul and gospel inflected country & western score told more like a concert version of a play told through song

Don't see it if You are looking for a more traditional musical theater staging

Also The story of a runaway slave named Blue and how he crosses the river i... Read more Read less

Great on stage band, Entertaining, Uplifting, Great singing

See it if You enjoy story telling through music; you appreciate superb musical and vocal talent

Don't see it if You need a splashy broadway show instead of an intimate presentation

Resonant, Absorbing, Delightful, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if You enjoy great singing and animated voices in an intimate setting with a socially conscious story

Don't see it if You do not like to hear beautiful voices singing a poignant tale of a segment of US history.

Great writing, Entertaining, Great singing, Refreshing, Resonant

See it if Great night in theater if you love music and talented musicians relating a story through song. An original production. Extraordinary talent.

Don't see it if You expect a big “old time” Broadway style musical .. don’t like lively multi talented musicians & singers..aren’t flexible re music genre

Moving, significant, beautiful music, poignant, inspiring

See it if You want an uplifting, if at times painful, stories about 19th C America with relevance to the present day, you like stories about old West

Don't see it if You don't like 19th C stories, or want to avoid stories about America's dark past (slavery, Native Americans).

Also This is a gem of a musical. Allan Harris' narration begins on a Louisi... Read more Read less

Very loud, Intense, Great writing, Great singing, Great acting

See it if Very talented performers (musicians and singers/actors) succeeded with aplomb to present the storyline based on an incredible true story

Don't see it if if you have historical amnesia about slavery

Also of one man's fight for survival and freedom, in the pre-Civil War year... Read more Read less

Terrific score, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if you want to hear one of the best scores being heard today, on or off Broadway.

Don't see it if you want a full blown musical. This is more of a Concert/Cabaret with a weak book used to tie the songs together.

Thought-provoking, Great staging, Great singing, Great acting, Entertaining

See it if you like interesting unusual provocative theatre

Don't see it if you prefer the usual play

Slow, Romantic, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if if you want to see a cowboy musical with a mix of musical styles that you don't typically hear in broadway shows.

Don't see it if you don't like shows that are little more than concert versions of a show.

Disappointing, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Great singing, Entertaining

See it if You want to see a show with beautiful music and a good story. However, the ending ruins all that went before it.

Don't see it if You want to see a fluffy musical

Great singing, Refreshing, Entertaining

See it if If you enjoy music that tells a story.

Don't see it if If you want scenery with your story. A little slow the first act.

Too long, Historical, Entertaining, Ambitious, Great singing

See it if Interested in black cowboy history

Don't see it if The music is not to your taste

Not a musical show - a cabaret

See it if you like very well sung music with fairly ordinary lyrics

Don't see it if you expected to see an actual musical

Also This is a cabaret/concert. Several very accomplished musicians and 4 v... Read more Read less

Slow, Great singing

See it if You want to hear some catchy original music sung well.

Don't see it if You want to see a show with a compelling story or any staging to speak of - essentially a concert and it moves way too slow for my taste.

Enchanting, Exquisite, Delightful, Absorbing, Entertaining

See it if You love great music (of multiple genres), Broadway-caliber talent, and you want to hear a true American story that most people don't know.

Don't see it if You're narrow-minded and don't enjoy music.

Entertaining, Great singing, Thought-provoking, Romantic, Absorbing

See it if You want to be absorbingly entertained for a couple of hours, captivated by powerful acting and incredible vocals.

Don't see it if You're not a fan of live music.

Brilliant, Absorbing, Entertaining, Ambitious, Clever

See it if You like an amazing variety of songs sung by great singers and a fantastic band. It's also a moving story rooted in history.

Don't see it if You don't like musicals

Cast & Creatives (19)