Nine Lives

by Chad Campbell, senior producer

During our most recent trip to New Orleans for the 2011 Jazz Fest, we spent one morning at public radio station WWNO hosted by general manager Paul Maassen and studio engineer Thomas Walsh. Bob interviewed Ruthie Foster (already aired), John Boutte (coming soon) and the creators of Nine Lives. Dan Baum was a staff writer for The New Yorker who reported on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina for the magazine. After meeting the locals and getting his bearings in New Orleans, Baum decided to write a 40-year history of the city bracketed by Hurricanes Betsy and Katrina. The result was a New York Times bestseller called Nine Lives. Songwriter Colman deKay read the book and instantly heard the stories as songs. Eventually he convinced his New Orleans friend Paul Sanchez that he’d found their next project. The result of their work is a CD called Nine Lives: A Musical Adaptation (Volume 1) - two discs of 12 songs each, featuring the characters and stories from Baum’s book. The night before our interview, we watched the singers and musicians perform the musical live at Le Petit Theatre in the French Quarter. The place was packed with Jazz Fest music fans and locals who got every New Orleans-centric reference. That performance is available on DVD. The producers would love to get the material on Broadway eventually, but they realize that’s a long shot. In the meantime, they’ll perform the show this weekend at Cafe Fais Do Do in Los Angeles.