Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
The musical by Michael Weiner (music), Adam Abraham (lyrics), and Marc Madnick, Eric R. Cohen, and Abraham (book) is not a seamless piece of work. The gags range from easy laughs (Samuel Adams runs a small brewery; the town crier, Mr. Fox, provides "fair and balanced" information) to rather obscure references, and the songs are tuneful but not especially memorable. That said, the performance is a lot of fun as a cast of good singing actors rampages through history.
The story begins with a few performers retelling the legend of young George Washington chopping down the cherry tree. An elderly man (Drew Eshelman) interrupts them to share the real story, which he knows because as a young man (Geoff Packard) he was a close friend of George himself (Gregory Maheu). This is Liberty Smith, and if this framing device is a little peculiarthe year is 1859, which is never mentioned again, and the old man is 127 years oldit soon becomes irrelevant.
In this fractured fairy tale of early America, Liberty is a poor, orphaned farm boy who adores wealthy Martha Dandridge (Lauren Williams). Martha, who prefers George because he's a member of her social class, puts off Liberty by saying she will marry him only if he can achieve the impossible task of freeing the 13 colonies from British rule. He sets off to work in Philadelphia ("If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere," he says in only one of the script's anachronisms) and soon wanders into the orbit of Benjamin Franklin (Christopher Bloch).
As Liberty strives to be worthy of Martha, he becomes friendly with proto-feminist Emily Andrews (Kelly Karbacz), who wants more out of life than either marriage to creepy but wealthy Benedict Arnold (James Konicek) or joining her aunt Betsy Ross (Donna Migliaccio) as a seamstress.
Remember how Franklin captured electricity by flying a kite in a lightning storm? Remember the heroic ride of Paul Revere (Richard Pelzman)? Remember how Thomas Jefferson (Bobby Smith) struggled to write the Declaration of Independence? Liberty played a pivotal role in all these events, at least when he tells the story. And why do you suppose the early patriots called themselves "Sons of Liberty"? That's in here, too.
Packard's last role in Washington was as Candide for the Shakespeare Theatre Company, and the role of Liberty is another that allows him to show off both his guilelessness and his soaring voice. Karbacz is a good match for him, strong and sensitive, and the rest of the cast is like a roster of Washington all-stars.