Bound to Rise, a musical comedy with a happy ending, is based on four of Horatio Alger's "strive and succeed" novels. The novels feature young protagonists who succeed against the odds in New York City during the 1890s. That decade was a time of robber barons, when thousands of children lived on the streets while the wealthy attended "poverty socials" dressed in rags and drank champagne out of beer buckets. It was an era of striking contrast between opulent mansions and the overcrowded tenements where three-quarters of the city's people lived. This musical portrait of New York 125 years ago looks all too familiar in our day and age of the "one percent" and billionaire bankers.
Bound to Rise was collaboratively created in 1984 by the Medicine Show Theatre company. Among those involved were Barbara Vann (director and dramaturg), Stephen Policoff (lyricist and book writer), and Bob Dennis (composer), who also wrote the music for Oh! Calcutta! and the Sesame Street song "Milk." Vann won an Obie Award for her direction.