Ashley D. Kelley and the company of Bella; photo by Joan Marcus


Paolo Montalban and Ashley D. Kelley; photo by Joan Marcus


The company of Bella; photo by Joan Marcus


Ashley D. Kelley, Kevin Massey, and the company of Bella; photo by Joan Marcus


Ashley D. Kelley, Natasha Yvette Williams, and Kenita R. Miller; photo by Joan Marcus


Kirsten Childs photo by Zack DeZon

Bella: An American Tall Tale

Mainstage Theater

Book, Music, and Lyrics by Kirsten Childs
Directed by Robert O'Hara 
Choreographed by Camille A. Brown

Playwrights Horizons Commission
Co-World Premiere

All aboard for a Western musical adventure the likes of which you’ve never experienced. As a wanted woman of mythic proportions looks to begin life anew out west, Bella takes us on the trip of a lifetime to escape her scandalous past and bounce into the arms of her awaiting Buffalo Soldier. Rowdy, wild, and hilarious, Kirsten Childs (Bubbly Black Girl…) infuses this tall tale with soulful tunes and madcap antics aplenty. Giddy-up to our get-down!

Marinda Anderson — Ida Lou/Aunt Dinah
Yurel Echezarreta — Diego Moreno/CP Conyers
Brandon Gill — Nathaniel Beckworth
Olli Haaskivi — Gabriel Conyers/Scooter
Ashley D. Kelley — Bella
Kevin Massey — Snaggletooth Hoskins/Bonny Jonny
Jo’Nathan Michael — Mr. Dinwiddie/Scumbucket
Kenita R. Miller — Miss Cabbagestalk/Mama
Paolo Montalban — Tommie Haw/Skeeter
Clifton Oliver — Aloysius T. Hunnicut
Gabrielle Reyes — Mrs. Dinwiddie/Nurse
NaTasha Yvette Williams — Grandma/Spirit of the Booty

Scenic Designer: Clint Ramos
Costume Designer: Dede M. Ayite
Lighting Designer: Japhy Weideman
Sound Designer: Lindsay Jones
Projection Designer: Jeff Sugg
Hair, Wig and Makeup Designers: Dave Bova and J. Jared Janas
Orchestrations: Daryl Waters
Vocal Arrangements: Kirsten Childs
Music Direction and Additional Arrangements: Rona Siddiqui
Music Coordinator: John Miller
Production Stage Manager: Erin Gioia Albrecht

Design Team Bios

Bella: An American Tall Tale was commissioned, developed, and produced through the Playwrights Horizons Musicals in Partnership Initiative, with leadership support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Bella: An American Tall Tale was supported in part by the National Fund for New Musicals, a program of National Alliance for Musical Theatre, with funding from The Hollywood Pantages, in honor of the late James M. Nederlander — 

Additional support for Bella: An American Tall Tale was provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, the 21st Century ILGWU Heritage Fund, the May and Samuel Rudin Family Foundation, and the Rodgers & Hammerstein Foundation.



In Process: Kirsten Childs on Bella

The writer and mythical mind behind ‘Bella: An American Tall Tale’ gives us the scoop on how the big-booty Tupelo gal was born, and why it's so important to see characters like Bella.

Playwrights' Perspectives

Playwright's Perspective: Bella

This musical is the result of something I experienced while coming home to my apartment one bright, sunny day. A young African American couple was ahead of me, walking in the same direction. The woman was short and voluptuous, her most outstanding feature her gloriously shaped Venus Hottentot behind (Google it on your iPhone). As I walked behind the couple, the most amazing thing happened.


From the Artistic Director: Bella

Not everyone loves musicals. Tell some theater-goers you are doing a musical, and they’ll reply automatically, “I don’t like musicals,” kind of like in La La Land when Emma Stone’s character shrugs, “I don’t like jazz.” I get it.


The American Voice: Reclaiming the Myth

A very personal search for identity wrapped in traditional musical comedy structure, the piece plays fast and funny, drawing on musical idioms that span the American canon, including musical theater, jazz, and ’60s-infused R&B. Bubbly Black Girl takes to heart the old adage “write what you know.” Kirsten explores just what it means to be a musical theater writer, as well as how her own search for identity might have larger meaning.