Presented by The Company Theatre
Music and Lyrics by Sherman Edwards
Book by Peter Stone
Directed by Zoe Bradford and Jordie Saucerman
Musical Direction by Michael V. Joseph
Staging by Sally Ashton Forrest
Review by Danielle Rosvally
(Norwell, MA) For a town that takes its history so seriously, Boston doesn’t give much love to 1776 (the musical). In fact, this was the first time I had ever caught the play staged. Of course I’m a devotee of the film, but I’ve always wanted to see a staged production of the show. When I moved to Massachusetts four years ago, I thought I would see it produced at least once a season but found myself sorely mistaken. So of course I leapt at the chance to see The Company Theatre’s 1776 and I am heartily glad I was in the audience to witness their triumph!
The cast is spectacular; there’s not a weak link in the bunch. This is particularly impressive due to 1776’s prohibitively large ensemble, but somehow The Company Theatre managed to find a herd of true professionals in the woodwork of the greater Boston area. Bob DeVivo carries the show (as can be expected) as John Adams, and Doug Jabara’s Ben Franklin looks so much like the part you’ll find yourself thinking he’s back from the grave. John F. King is a lovable imp as Richard Henry Lee, and Trey Lundquist’s Thomas Jefferson is everything a romantic hero needs to be. Andrew Giorano as Edward Rutledge performs the interminable second-act opus “Molasses to Rum” with more gusto than the repetitive song has ever felt (and certainly far more than it deserves… come on, Sherman Edwards, was that really the best you could do?). Dave Daly as John Hancock is natural and believable, and Stephanie Mann’s Abigail Adams and Erin McMillen’s Martha Jefferson are all the sweetness, light, and cunning you could want from these revolutionary ladies. I could go on gushing about every single individual in the cast, or you could just go see for yourself (and I hope you do).
Brianne Plummer’s costume design is on point to the last detail. Paul Vaillancourt’s lighting design was inconsistent… but I can’t say that it was bad. The first act was completely serviceable as realistic theatre and did everything it needed to do. The second act blew realism out of the water with spectacular slides, GOBO effects, and crazy lighting tricks that turned the show into a cinematic adventure. It wasn’t a huge problem (because really, who doesn’t enjoy a cool lighting effect?) just a strange quirk of the production.
The full live orchestra played the complicated score with gusto. Bravo to all involved parties.
The only true complaint I found with the piece was, unfortunately, a major one for me: despite the fact that a fight with weapons was staged (Adams and Dickinson take swings at each other with their ever-present canes during a particularly heated debate at one point), no Fight Director was credited for the production. Here I was witnessing two grown men swing bits of wood at each other (AND CONNECT WHILE DOING SO!) and couldn’t stop myself from being completely horrified the entire time. The safety connotations of this are remarkable; why is it that directors will ask actors to do things that they would stop children from doing? It seems only logical that people shouldn’t swing wooden weapons at each other without the proper training and supervision, but for some reason when actors are asked to do so it becomes “okay” or “acceptable”. As a concerned audience member, I beg The Company Theatre to consider hiring a professional Fight Director for future productions before one of their actors finds the wrong end of this poor decision in the worst way possible. I assure you, one afternoon with a fight director is far less expensive than the insurance implications of a major injury during a show.
Despite this major oversight, the play is a very good one. If you’re a history buff, or just someone who likes a good cheese-ball musical now and again, I would highly recommend the trip down to Norwell. It will definitely be worth your while.