Gilbert & Sullivan Set Me Free by Kathleen Karr; narrated by Carmen Viviano-Crafts and the Full Cast Audio Family, c2003, p2004.
Why is Libby Dodge in prison?
She is apparently educated, smart and only 16 years old. What could she have done to land in the Sherborn Women's Prison in Boston. Some of the other women there have committed heinous crimes while others are victims of the brutality and poverty of the early 1900s. With names like Second-Story Sal and Kid Glove Rosie, the women's stories are interwoven in the plot. An older woman, Ma McCreary, is part mother figure and part best friend to Libby.
The conditions in the prison are harsh but the arrival of Mrs. Wilkinson, the new chaplain, transforms their lives. Now a widow. her husband was a member of the D'Oyle Carte Opera Company and she is determined to bring music into the lives of the women of Sherborn. Ma and Libby are the first to join the new choir and the Easter performance of Handel's "Messiah" is so uplifting that the whole prison community is eager to support their next project, Gilbert & Sullivan's “Pirates of Penzance.”
This is Libby's story though and as she confronts her past, she learns to look toward the future and the places her beautiful singing voice might take her. I was pleased with Libby's happy ending.
The whole story has a feel of the fantastic but it is a true story. This NY Times article from 1914 must have been part of Katherine Karr's inspiration for this book.
The Full Cast Audio performance is very well acted and rich with Gilbert and Sullivan's music which made this G&S fan very happy.