Music City Drum and Bugle Corps’ 2018 inaugural World Class program “Hell on Wheels: The Final Journey of Casey Jones,” will follow the last moments in the final trip of the famous Tennessee train engineer, who, in an attempt to beat a land speed record, seals his own fate.
According to Music City Program Coordinator Tracy Carter, the production will begin by introducing the protagonist as the train comes charging out of the tunnel into the performance arena. Led by the engine light, the corps will experiment with multiple staging and movements emulating the powerful motion of a train on its course. As the engine slows down to its final fuel stop in Memphis, a “shhhh” of the steam will be heard.
A color guard soloist emerges from the station intent on exploring the sights and scenes of turn-of-the-century Memphis. She will encounter various styles and characters building to a large cacophony of sight and sound, underscoring the internal monologue of Casey Jones and his quest for speed. The moment is abruptly stopped by the blowing of a train whistle and a loud “All Aboard.” Passengers rush to hop on the last leg of this ill-fated journey.
As the music and energy grows and the sound of wailing electric guitar cuts through with the familiar tune “Crazy Train,” the reality of the event about to unfold is apparent, and the mood is ominous. The train, too fast to control, crashes and breaks apart. With passengers and parts scattered about, one lone figure is spotlighted front and center. The spirit of our hero, Casey Jones, stands alone with a brake handle clutched in his hand.
The tune of “Hallelujah” begins to seep into the air. The passengers brush themselves off, rebuild, and rejoice in memory of the man who saved their lives from disaster.
This year’s production, which features original music and arrangements by Robert W. Smith, will create a connection between the strength of humankind and machine, Carter said. It is a celebration of the human spirit. It is a revelation of the connection between all of us, and ultimately, how we choose our fate. On the field and off the field, this year’s Music City Drum and Bugle Corps will write its own story and choose its own fate.