Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

Asolo Repertory Theatre

Brandon Dahlquist, Andrew Boyer and
Bernie Yvon

The theater season on the West Coast of Florida is just beginning and I have just seen what will most likely be one of the best productions of a musical by a professional company this season: Asolo Repertory Theater's production of 1776, the 1969 Tony Award winning musical by Sherman Edwards and Peter Stone. I have a long history with this musical, and I think it is one of the 20 or so greatest musicals ever written, so Asolo starts with great material.

Frank Galati (The Pirate Queen, Seussical and Ragtime on Broadway) directs a crisply performed production. When the curtain rises after John Adams' opening speech, the audience sees an almost perfect replica of the famous drawing of the Continental Congress, aided by the spectacular setting by Russell Metheny. Equally spectacular are the costumes of Mara Blumenfeld and wigs by Michelle Hart.

1776 is an ensemble piece—the central role is John Adams, but there are other roles that are almost as important. The entire cast here is so strong that I hesitate to single anyone out, but Bernie Yvon as John Adams, Andrew Boyer as Benjamin Franklin (sounding exactly as I have always imagined he did, and completely irascible), Jeff Parker as John Dickinson, and Jay Lusteck as Richard Henry Lee are all outstanding. Jarrod Zimmerman as Edward Rutledge delivers the showstopping "Molasses to Rum" so intensely that it is a relief when one of the members of the Continental Congress interrupts the song for a brief moment, allowing the audience to catch a breath. Zimmerman's performance includes re-creations of several of the sounds described in the song to spectacular effect

Andrea Prestinario as Martha Jefferson and Abby Mueller as Abigail Adams supply the only female presence in this male-dominated show. All the singing, much of it as ensemble, is very strong, and beautifully supported by music director Michael Rice and his orchestra. This is a musical in which the music does a great deal of the dramatic work. For example, the song "But, Mr. Adams" tells how it came to be that Thomas Jefferson did the writing of the declaration.

1776 plays through December 22, 2012. It is too good to miss!

Asolo Repertory Theater presents 1776 through December 22, 2012, at the Mertz Theater in the FSU Center. 5555 N. Tamiami Trail. Sarasota, Florida. Box Office (941) 351-8000. For more information visit

Cast in order of speaking
Bernie Yvon*: John Adams
Abby Mueller*: Abigail Adams
Andrew Boyer*: Benjamin Franklin
Jay Lusteck*: Richard Henry Lee
Steve Hendrickson*: Andrew McNair
Don Walker: Dr. Lyman Hall
Joe D. Lauck*: Stephen Hopkins
Jarrod Zimmerman*: Edward Rutledge
David Lively*: Col. Thomas McKean
John B. Leen: Caesar Rodney
Jeff Parker*: John Dickinson
Bernard Balbot: James Wilson
Patrick Clear*: John Hancock
Jim Sorensen*: Charles Thomson
Brandon Dahlquist*: Thomas Jefferson
Ashley Richards: Dr. Josiah Bartlett
John Mark Jernigan: George Read
Rob Riddle: Roger Sherman
Cliff Roles: Lewis Morris
Paul Crane: Samuel Chase
Daniel Schwab: Joseph Hewes
Mitchell Walker: Reverend John Witherspoon
Jesse Dornan: Robert Livingston
Andrea Prestinario*: Martha Jefferson
Zachara Kenney: The Courier
Griffeth Whitehurst: Leather Apron

Directed by Frank Galati
Choreography: Peter Amster
Music Direction: Michael Rice
Set Design: Russell Metheny
Costume design: Mara Blumenfeld
Lighting Design: Paul Miller
Kevin Kennedy

* denotes Member of Actor's Equity

Photo: Asolo Rep

See the current season schedule for West Coast Florida

--William S. Oser

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