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Mountain Days: The John Muir Musical

A Special Musical Production

Mountain Days is a production of the Willows Theatre

The exciting life story of John Muir has been made into a wonderful Broadway-style musical, which played for several seasons in Concord and Martinez, California. The musical is based on a concept by director Richard Elliott, of the Willows Theatre Company of Concord, California.

Stage Scene of Mountain Days

With an original score by award-winning composer Craig Bohmler and lyrics by Tony-nominated playwright Mary Bracken Phillips, Mountain Days boasts a cast of 80 performers, 28 symphony musicians and a 50 person chorus. The passionate, turbulent, glorious life of John Muir is told on stage, with an emphasis on music, from his youth in Scotland and Wisconsin, to his famous 1,000 mile walk down the Eastern seaboard, to his arrival at the bustling wharfs of San Francisco in 1868, to his travels in Yosemite and his persistent efforts to protect Yosemite and the glorious Hetch Hetchy Valley from destruction.

Concept and Origin

With a cast of 85, Mountain Days premiered in October 2000 at the Chronicle Pavilion in Concord for four performances with an attendance of nearly 10,000 and earned high critical praise. The original concept called for presenting the show as an annual event, so the 1,100 seat outdoor John Muir Amphitheater was constructed in the Martinez Waterfront Park for the 2001 presentation. Since then, the musical has been performed both there and at indoor locations.

"Historical dramas are common place in the mid-west and the east, but we have very few in California and none in Northern California," Elliott explains. According to Elliott, John Muir is a natural choice for northern California. "After all, he did most of his writing and fought his major environmental battles from his ranch in Martinez, which is now designated a National Historical Site."

The Production

Muir and Roosevelt - in Mountain Days

Mountain Days is John Muir. You will follow his journey from boyhood in Scotland to a farm in Wisconsin; from ingenious inventor to determined preservationist. You will take his 1000 mile walk with him, and see Yosemite Falls through his eyes. As Muir develops from an inventor into a crusader determined to preserve the natural beauty of the land for future generations, historical luminaries such as Teddy Roosevelt and William Keith appear. "A Valley has a Soul" portrays Muir's successful drive to have Yosemite declared a National Park, and his unsuccessful attempt to keep the beautiful Hetch Hetchy Valley from becoming a "water tank" for San Francisco. Not forgotten is the passionate and tender love story between Muir and his devoted wife Louie Strenzel, with the soaring lyrics of "Love is Knowing When to Let You Go." Songs such as "The Political Waltz" give hilarious insight into the politics of the day. The finale is a spirited reprise of "Climb the Mountains" which brings the beauty of the Sierra Nevadas into range, and tears to your eyes.

Mary Bracken Phillips, who wrote the Irish musical "Brimstone," penned the book and lyrics for the Muir extravaganza. Previously, Phillips had been nominated for a 1992 Tony Award for her lyrics in the Broadway musical "Metro."

Craig Bohmler composed the music for Mountain Days. A composer/pianist/conductor, Bohmler has performed throughout the United States and Canada including three performances at Carnegie Hall. His musical "Enter the Guardsman" took first prize in the International Musical of the Year Competition in Denmark and will open off-Broadway in May, 2001 and has been included in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's 2000 season. His other works include "The Achilles Heel" (winner of the National Opera Association competition), and "Gunmetal Blues" (National Theater Conference selection).

The Not-Too-Distant Future

Several years of a summer-long production of Mountain Days at the John Muir Amphitheater since 2000 were presented. In 2008, the Willows Theatre plans a multimedia musical celebration of our nation, featuring a concert presentation of John Muir's Mountain Days.

For additional information about Mountain Days, please contact:

Willows Theatre Company
1425 Gasoline Alley
Concord, CA 94520

2009 Update: Mountain Days was presented by Theatre-Hikes at The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois from June 6 through June 28, 2009. Watch a YouTube video of photos taken during this presentaitlion. The video is accompanied by instrumental piano music from the musical.

More about Mountain Days:

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