Saturday night a whole group of us went down to Martinsburg's Apollo Theatre to see Tod in "1776" The Musical.
All in all, it was a delightful evening. Central air in the theatre would have been a nice touch tho. By the end of the show I was sweatin like a whore in church. (which is kind of funny when you consider that I live in a church) The temperature did make the show very real for the actors. It adds a whole new dimension to the lyrics, "Would somebody open a window!"
I mentioned in a previous post how 1776 is my least favorite musical EVER! Don't worry, it still is. "Salt Peter" is a lyric that should never be repeatedly used in any song. I also bemoan the fact that there isn't a single "hummable" tune in the entire libretto. A musical HAS to have at least one song you leave the theatre humming to yourself or it really hasn't done it's job.
All of that being said, the production was wonderful. The sets were well executed. Very often in a community theatre production there is typically one set piece or decoration that tends to ruin the entire feel of the location. You know…they couldn't find a Louis the 16th armoire, so they painted something up to approximate it. Not so the case here, the color choices were correct and I was really impressed that they went to the trouble to construct an operational voting board…very nice touch. I even saw a production once where the windows weren't operational, totally ruining the "Will somebody open a window" gag.
The lighting served the production well. When dealing with such a large cast who are on stage together most of the show it can be hard task for the audience to know what to look and when. The designers use of follow and stationary spot lighting really helped the audience place their focus where it needed to be at any given moment.
Even tho I hate the music, it's direction was well done. I have worked with Alison Shafer myself, many times in the past. I know the care she takes in preparing the cast and choosing musicians.
I think that brings me to the cast. Casting in community theatre can be the crux of any production. These people are volunteers, not professional actors in most cases. The cast of 1776 was truly it's brightest shining star. Their individual characterizations and the way in which they interacted as an ensemble had me transfixed throughout most of the production.
What kind of BFF would I be if I didn't single out Tod. His John Dickinson, typically thought of as the villain of the show, was not just a venom spitting viper, but someone who's desire to wring the last drop out of his current way of life, made me a little sad when PA wound up voting for independence. Ben Franklin, played by Mike Reed was a delight and his interactions with John Adams (David Keye) were truly some of the highlights of the show.
I think what makes this show enjoyable (and it certainly isn't the music) is that it's a "Behind The Scenes" look at what led up to the creation of our country. In a society today, so obsessed with reality television programming, this peep, however loosely fact based satisfies our "need to know". It's our episode of Big Brother from the past, The Real World: Philadelphia with all the sex, drinking and fighting we have come to expect. Right up to the end we know the resolution for independence will eventually pass, but we still wonder who will become the Head of Household.