Singing in pub: Musical ‘Rip Van Winkle’ tale takes over a bar

Sing a few bars: Actors James Scheider, Mark Montague, and Charles Ouda play 18th century townsfolk in “Impossible but True,” a musical adaptation of the Rip Van Winkle tale playing at the Franklin820 bar on May 7, 14, and 21.
Brooklyn Paper
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Stop in for a Rip-roaring show!

A Crown Heights bar will host an immersive, musical version of the Rip Van Winkle story for three performances this month. “Impossible But True,” showing at Franklin820 for the next three Mondays, serves up Washington Irving’s 1819 short story about a Dutch farmer who falls asleep for 20 years and misses the Revolutionary War, with happier ending and a twist that considers the nature of belief, said the show’s creator.

“He’s a time traveler who goes asleep in one era and wakes up in another,” said Dan Furman, who lives in Prospect Lefferts Gardens. “He sees all these changes in the world around him that he wasn’t around to see, and he’s unsure of it — and in order for something to be possible, you have to believe in it.”

The musician and composer first wrote the musical a decade ago, but dusted it off after catching a show performed in several locations of Green-Wood Cemetery. Furman adapted his show so that it could take place in a tavern — a location particularly apt to the story because of Van Winkle’s fondness for a drink, and for several scenes that happen in an 18th century taproom, said Furman.

“There are a lot of bar scenes in the story because back then they drank a lot and they didn’t drink water — they drank beer,” he said.

In one scene, members of the 12-person cast also sing the praises of a colonial beverage called flip, made with beer, rum, cream, eggs, and molasses, and stirred up with a hot poker, in a tune that Furman re-wrote to match the new setting.

“We remade one song they sing about drinking, called ‘Flip,’ where they’re making a drink called flip and asking people to try some flip,” he said.

A modern version of the flip — minus the red-hot poker — will be available to purchase during the show.

The bar setting also helps the audience to engage with the production, said Furman.

“You’re a part of the show without a role — and it’s kind of like being at a rehearsal and right in the middle of the action,” he said. “It’s better than seeing it from afar. The show opens up and tries to include everyone in the room.”

Furman says the free, barroom show makes for a one-of-a-kind production for the audience.

“I hope they have a good experience of theater in a place where they didn’t expect it,” he said. “There’s a certain experience to expect when you go to Broadway, but being involved in this it’s going to be different.”

“Impossible but True” at Franklin820 [820 Franklin Ave. at Union Street in Crown Heights, (718) 708–4113,]. May 7, 14, and 21 at 7 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at Follow her on Twitter @AS1mon.
Updated 5:45 pm, July 9, 2018
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