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The story of Boston's molasses flood disaster is becoming an off-Broadway musical

The 1919 molasses flood that devastated Boston is the backdrop to a new musical that will premier this spring.
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Twenty one people were killed on Commercial Street in the North End when a tank of molasses ruptured and exploded in 1919. Photo: Boston Public Library Flickr

Most Bostonians know the story of the 1919 molasses flood, but now the bizarre disaster will get a broader audience through an off-Broadway musical.

Called "Molasses in January," the show will focus on an Italian immigrant family “who are literally swept up in the Boston Molasses disaster,” according to Broadway.com.

Here’s a refresher of the real story: On Jan. 5, 1919, a tidal wave of molasses — yes, the sugary syrup — crashed through the streets of Boston. A holding tank had burst, sending 2.3 million gallons of the sticky stuff surging through the city.

The rush reached heights of 15 feet, killing 21 people, injuring more than 150 others, leveling buildings and crushing cars and even part of a train platform around Commercial Street in the North End.

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The musical adaptation will take place between 1915 and 1919 in Boston's North End with the disaster as a backdrop to the tale.

“Molasses in January tells the story of Anna, a single mother doing her best to raise her children in a world caught up in the turmoil of the first World War,” Broadway.com reads. “As rumors grow about the potential construction of an enormous molasses tank that will be used to make liquor and gun-powder for the war, so do the hopes for potential prosperity.”

But then, the tank bursts and millions of gallons of molasses flood around Anna, and “her family discovers that life can change in a moment,” according to BroadwayWorld.com.

The musical, written and composed by Francine Pellegrino, will be performed in the “traditional style of the Great American Song Book,” similar to Fiddler on the Roof, and the cast features Lianne Gennaco, Anie Delgado, Grace Experience, Cali LaSpina, Joe Marx, Joe Redman, Daniel Artuso, Zachary Harris Martin.

Molasses in January will premier in the Jerry Orbach Theatre at The Theater Center, 1627 Broadway, this spring. Previews will begin on May 2 and the show will officially open on May 24. Performances will be on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 5 p.m. Tickets are $35 to $80 on Ticketmaster.