Sitting Bull's Last Waltz

sitting bull's
last waltz

a Post-Punk Musical about Sitting Bull’s final years and the events and characters that led to his tragic death,


was received at the Johnny Carson Theater, March 2017.
read the reviews

History / Inception

Sitting Bull’s Last Waltz is a Post-Punk Rock Opera about the fatal showdown between famed Sioux Leader Sitting Bull and Agent James “White Hair” McLaughlin at Standing Rock in the 1880s. The show chronicles Sitting Bull’s final years as a celebrity performer in the Wild West Show, his friendships with Annie Oakley, Buffalo Bill, and Catherine Weldon, his involvement with the Ghost Dance, and the struggle leading to his tragic end. The fact that Sitting Bull was gunned down while 'resisting arrest'--on charges that were never made clear--makes this story especially relevant to the forms of racially motivated violence our country is currently facing.

Shaman and Chief, Sitting Bull was also famous as a singer and songwriter among the Sioux, and used this gift of expression to rally and move his followers, so it was only natural that Sitting Bull’s Last Waltz was conceived as a musical, although in a non-traditional style that reflects the spirit of this man in our own troubled times. Anticipating strong protest singers to come, Sitting Bull spoke out on behalf of the disenfranchised, and continues to speak to us now, particularly in light of the recent resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock.

Sitting Bull's Last Waltz was written by Nebraska Native John Schliesser, and produced by Schliesser and his wife, Kathleen Dougherty. Presented at the Johnny Carson Theater, in the Lied Center For The Performing Arts, at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, the show enjoyed sold-out performances and strong reviews while sparking conversations across the community on such issues as environmental protection, human rights, and religious freedom.

Fascinated since boyhood by Sitting Bull and the story surrounding his death, Schliesser started working on the script and songs for Sitting Bull's Last Waltz in 2014, eventually approaching Iggy Pop and the Stooges guitarist and producer James Williamson for advice on musical direction. Seeing merit in the project, Williamson introduced Schliesser to Gregg Foreman of Cat Power for help in refining the score, and they began cutting demo tracks at Joe Cardamone's Valley Recording Studio in Burbank. This led to early collaboration with Sioux performers Zahn McClarnon and Moses Brings Plenty, and a stage debut at the Dragonfly Theater in Los Angeles featuring Brings Plenty as Sitting Bull. The subsequent Lied Center production of Sitting Bull’s Last Waltz was developed in coordination with Sioux Elder Wendell Bird Head, who advised on ceremonial aspects of the story and presented a blessing before each performance, and Sioux Liaison Michelle Sky Walker, who engaged tribal participation. The cast included Sioux performers Mark Crow Dog, Leo Yankton, Enzo Gladfelter, and the late Moody Plenty Wounds, supporting Native American actor Alan Tafoya in the lead role.

Schliesser is currently developing the story and script with Wendell Bird Head and coordinating with key tribal members and organizations through Michelle Sky Walker. This Spring, New York-based theatrical producers Rachel Sussman and Kyle Cadette joined the effort to elevate the show and find its next stage, with Ms. Sussman acting as its Executive Producer and Ms. Cadotte acting as its General Manager. Mike Echternacht continues to serve as the show's key legal, business, and organizational advisor.

take a listen

Creative Team

Script and Songs

John Schliesser

Additional Story & Script

Wendell Bird Head

Sioux Liason

Michelle Sky Walker

Executive Producer

Rachel Sussman

General Manager

Kyle Cadotte

Legal & Business Advisor

Mike Echternacht

“Sitting Bull’s Last Waltz” isn’t a play with some pop songs inserted to emphasize scenes and situations. Instead, most of the songs advance the narrative...The music is largely shimmering linear guitar rock... getting darker as the story progresses."

L. Kent Wolgamott

Lincoln Journal Star
“The punk-rock music is very enjoyable and appeals to people of all ages. The production featured an outstanding cast of Native Americans from Nebraska and other regions. The music and band was exceptional. Sitting Bull's Last Waltz is an outstanding musical that will enrich the lives of many and tells a very important story that everyone needs to hear."

William Stephan

Executive Director
Lied Center For The Performing Arts

"This Land is Part of Us"

written by John Schliesser
featuring
Joe Cardamone, lead vocals
Gregg Foreman, backing vocals, keyboards, guitar
Erik Paparozzi, bass guitar
Guy Blakeslee, lead guitar
Will Scott, drums and percussion

"The Nation Named Me"

written by John Schliesser
featuring
Joe Cardamone, lead vocals
Gregg Foreman, keyboards and guitar
Erik Paparozzi, bass guitar
Guy Blakeslee, lead guitar
Will Scott, drums and percussion

"The Messiah Question"

written by John Schliesser
featuring
Gregg Foreman, lead vocals (as White Hair), keyboards, guitar
Joe Cardamone, lead vocals (as Sitting Bull)
Erik Paparozzi, bass guitar
Guy Blakeslee, lead guitar
Will Scott, drums and percussion

Cast

Lied Center

Alan Tafoya
as Sitting Bull

Carolina Hoyos
as Seen-By-The-Nation

Carly Schneider
as Annie Oakley

Cork Ramer
as James ‘White Hair’ McLaughlin

Moody Plenty Wounds
as Bullhead

Leo Yankton
as Kicking Bear

Tom Gjere
as Buffalo Bill Cody

Angela Jensen Frey
as Catherine Weldon

Mark Crow Dog
as Red Tomahawk

Lorenzo Gladfelter
as Crawler

Tameem Sarwary
as Catch-The-Bear

Credits

Lied Center
Script and Songs

John Schliesser

Production

Kathleen Dougherty
John Schliesser

Direction

Lara Marsh

Musical Direction

Rick Avard (Rehearsals)

Erik Paparozzi (Show)

Guitar / Keyboards

Emeen Zarookian

Bass Guitar

Erik Paparozzi

Drums / Percussion

Ben Lecourt