Curtain rises on Fife homecoming for Carnegie and his lineage

Andrew Carnegie's great-great-great grandson Joe Whiteman (centre) and Ian Hammond Brown (second right), writer of Carnegie the Star Spangled Scotchman, join some of the cast in performing songs from the show at the launch at the Dunfermline Carnegie Library & Galleries. Pic: ASM Media & PR.
Andrew Carnegie's great-great-great grandson Joe Whiteman (centre) and Ian Hammond Brown (second right), writer of Carnegie the Star Spangled Scotchman, join some of the cast in performing songs from the show at the launch at the Dunfermline Carnegie Library & Galleries. Pic: ASM Media & PR.

A new musical about the life of Andrew Carnegie is being performed in the Scottish industrialist’s hometown of Dunfermline this weekend and features his great-great- great-grandson in the lead role.

The production stars Joe Whiteman as Carnegie, who emigrated penniless to America in the 1840s but went on to become the world’s richest man, dominating the country’s iron and steel industries.

Joe Whiteman will play the lead role in Carnegie: The Star Spangled Scotchman. Pic: ASM Media & PR

Joe Whiteman will play the lead role in Carnegie: The Star Spangled Scotchman. Pic: ASM Media & PR

‘Carnegie: The Star Spangled Scotchman’ has been developed over the last six years by Ian Hammond Brown, co-writer of ‘Whisky Galore: A Musical!’, who won a development grant for it from Creative Scotland in 2013.

It enjoyed its first successful run at the 2016 Fringe, with Joe Whiteman playing his ancestor for the first time.

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It’s hoped the new run, ‘in concert’, will help gain interest in a full production from producers.

The musical, which has an 18-strong cast, tells the story of Carnegie’s life from the perspective of a steelworker killed in the controversial homestead steel plant dispute of 1892. He has returned from the afterlife to decide on Carnegie’s eternal fate in the last two hours of the millionaire’s existence.

Fife-born Carnegie was a celebrated philanthropist and gave more than $350m of his fortune to good causes before his death in 1919. He also funded the construction of Carnegie Hall, New York’s world famous music venue.

Joe, who was born in Aberdeen, impressed the show’s producers after responding to a casting call advertised on Facebook. During the audition, he informed the show’s writer and director that he was also a direct blood relation of Carnegie.

He said: “I thought I might as well go for it and because of the connection, and they were quite pleased when they found out.

“It is a great role and I get to sing lots of songs; it has also been very special to reconnect with my roots. I didn’t know a great deal about him before taking on the part, just the basics so I did a lot of research.”

He added: “I’m delighted to be revisiting the role of Andrew Carnegie and cannot wait to perform in the town where my ancestor was born, and in the theatre named after him.”

The production, which also stars Fifer Donna Hazelton (Chicago West End, Musicality) as Margaret Carnegie, is at Carnegie Hall tomorrow (Friday) and Saturday at 7.30pm.