Skip to content
Home » Production History » 2023 Productions » Shantytown


The Ballad Of Fr. James Cox.

Book, music and lyrics by Ray Werner
Composer and Music Director: Dwayne Fulton
With arrangements by Mike Gallagher, Bruce Foley, Jerry McCarthy & Walter Woodward
Directed by Gregory Lehane
Ran March 17th – 26th, 2023
At Madison Arts Center, 3401 Milwaukee Street

A new musical about the amazing Pastor of Old St. Patrick’s in The Strip who fed over 3 million meals to the homeless during The Great Depression.

“Shantytown: The Ballad of Father James Cox, with a book and lyrics by Ray Werner, is a premiere musical history lesson that would seem to be a must for Pittsburghers of any age. It’s all there and more, brimming with sincerity and healthy skepticism.’
– Sharon Eberson, onStage Pittsburgh

This production ran approximately 90 minutes, with no intermission. Read the online program here.

Reviews: Pittsburgh Owlscribe, OnStage Pittsburgh

“A winning production!” – Pittsburgh Owlscribe


Michael Fuller

Joseph McGranaghan*

Dominique Briggs

J. Alex Noble*

Sam Lothard

Chris Cattell

Michele Bankole

Charles E. Timbers Jr.

*Members of Actors Equity Association

Some facts about Fr. James Renshaw Cox

The youngest pastor of the smallest and poorest parish in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. The Pastor of the Poor and Mayor of Shantytown.
Fed 2 1/2 million people in about 3 years. Raised 3 million dollars.
Invented food stamps (food script, he called it).
Was the first preacher on national radio, station WJAS.
First priest to run for President of the United States.
Led 40,000 jobless on the first jobless march on Washington, about 20,000 made it.
First priest to get a Masters degree from the University of Pittsburgh.
Volunteered for the First World War (called The Great War back then).
Fought antisemitism and railed against antisemites Fr. Charles Coughlin and Henry Ford.
Went on trial for conspiring to fix a lottery and federal mail fraud; saved by Henry Ellenbogen and a hung jury.
He died in 1951 at the age of 65. There were 4 simultaneous funeral masses, and 10,000 mourners poured out onto 17th and Liberty.

About Ray Werner

Ray Werner (book, music, lyrics) is an author, musician, artist, Irish culturalist, and former ad agency executive. He is one of Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company’s most produced playwrights. On Saturday, March 11, before Shantytown’s opening night, he will serve as Grand Marshal in Pittsburgh’s 2023 St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The parade ends downtown at The Red Door on the Boulevard of the Allies.

About The Red Door

The Red Door, operated by the Diocese of Pittsburgh, first began its service to feed the homeless in 1929, and continues this important work today. In recognition of and thanks to all who serve the homeless at the Red Door, there will be an auction after every performance of Shantytown to win a gift certificate from various merchants in The Strip, and with all proceeds from the auction donated to The Red Door. Merchants include Penn Mac, Papa J’s, Bar Marco, Roland’s, The Harp and Fiddle, Penn Ave Fish, and others. Learn more about the Red Door and support them here.