Also see John's review of The Women
The Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre presents the award-winning musical 1776 with music and lyrics by Sherman Edwards and book by Peter Stone. This entertaining, patriotic glimpse at the birth of our nation is well timed, with our Presidential election just around the corner.
1776 opened on Broadway in 1969 and ran for 1,217 performances, winning three Tony Awards and four Drama Desk Awards. A 1997 revival by the Roundabout Theatre Company ran for 333 performances and received three Tony Award Nominations. A popular film adaptation of the musical was released in 1972 starring William Daniels, Ken Howard and John Cullum.
1776 vividly chronicles the drafting and signing of the Declaration of Independence in the turbulent summer of 1776. This story of a handful of heroic men forging the future of America, even amidst their own passionate differences, is one worth telling. It is in fact the differences between these men that make their collaboration both interesting and remarkable.
The majority of the action of the story takes place in what is now known as Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The set for this production by Sean McClelland is serviceable if uninspired. Costumes by Ellis Tillman are well done. The direction by David Arrisco is spot on. This is such an ensemble piece that finding the right balance within the cast is a real challenge. Allowing for moments in the story for actors to shine but not overpower one another or the story is artfully done.
Gary Marachek is a doggedly driven John Adams. Adams' relationship with his wife Abigail adds a surprising warmth to the character. Abigail is tenderly played by Colleen Amaya, whose singing voice is truly beautiful in "Yours, Yours Yours." Ken Clement shows wit and humor as Ben Franklin. Steve Gladstone is heartbreaking as the terminally ill Caesar Rodney.
A talented Jim Ballard goes through all the motions as the energetically quirky Henry Lee in "The Lees of Old Virginia", but doesn't seem to connect to the character. It seems as if he is doing everything just because he has been directed to do it. Javier Ignacio demonstrates a lovely singing voice in the emotional song, "Mama, Look Sharp." A tall David Jachin Kelley feels a bit callow as Thomas Jefferson. He is, however, very well paired with the diminutive and beautifully costumed Irene Adjan, who adds a needed female energy in "He Plays The Violin." Her only flaw is resorting to belting the last portion of the song in a broad style not ideally suited to the style of the musical.
While this production as a whole is well sung and acted, the highlight of the evening is a scene stealing performance of "Molasses To Rum" by Shane R. Tanner as Edward Rutledge. It is a memorable moment of fine singing, fine acting and fine directing. David Arisco and The Actors' Playhouse have created an evening of which to be proud.
The musical 1776 will be appearing October 3, 2008 - November 2, 2008 at the Actors' Playhouse. Actors' Playhouse is a Florida Presenting Cultural Organization and a nonprofit professional regional theatre hiring local and non-local Equity and non-Equity actors. In addition to its Mainstage season, Actors' Playhouse produces a year-round five-show season of Musical Theatre for Young Audiences, a National Children's Theatre Festival, and a Theatre Conservatory and Summer Camp Program. Actors' Playhouse is located at 280 Miracle Mile in Coral Gables, FL. Information and tickets may be obtained by contacting the theater at their box office at (305) 444-9293, or online at www.actorsplayhouse.org.
*Denotes a member of Actors' Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage managers in the United States.