My theatre day started at Crossley Theatre, which is in Hollywood very near to the Write Act (where I saw "It Came From Beyond" almost exactly two years ago.) I'd never been to this theatre before, but was pleasantly surprised. Like the Write Act, it's held within a church, but was rather large in size and was able to accommodate an orchestra as well as a pretty good sized set and audience.
Those who know me, know that 1776 is one of my all time favorite musicals and I've seen several different versions of this show - so nothing pleased me more than getting to see yet another interpretation of this incredible show.
The Show Itself
One thing I loved about this production's interpretation was that although it was smaller (in scale) to those that I had seen in the past, that didn't prevent them from adding their unique touches to make their production special. The show starts off with the courier playing drums and, in his way, introducing the action that is yet to follow and pulls the curtain open on the Continental Congress set. Conversely, at the end, after the signing of the declaration scene, he ends the show by pulling the curtain closed giving the final pose a painterly look - which is replaced by a projection of the declaration signatures on the curtain. I've seen it done in a lot of different ways, but appreciated a different take on it
- Bruce Ladd was a great John Adams. To me, the Adams needs to be, above all, a great actor with the ability to create an endearing "obnoxious, but disliked" Adams - someone who holds our interest and has the ability and charisma to lead this musical down the path that it takes - very secondary is it of importance that the Adams be an exceptionally strong singer. I enjoyed Mr. Ladd's interpretation of the role - he played it passionately, and gave the role a lot of heart.
I have to mention Donn Robb as Stephen Hopkins. He was INCREDIBLE in the role and quite possibly my favorite Hopkins that I have EVER seen. The things that made his performance so special were mainly little things he added to his portrayal while the focus of the attention wasn't on him. For example, as Hancock was speaking and swatting flies and flicking them off his desk, Mr. Robb looked down into his rum as if Hancock's actions had caused dead flies to fall into his mug of rum. :) It was hysterical. Normally the Hopkins just IS in a show of so many main characters, but my gosh, Mr. Robb made the characterization incredibly entertaining to see.
Mark Kinsey Stephenson was an entertaining Richard Henry Lee. I think that I'm a bit biased, though because the Lee that I have seen the most is John Scherer and he was AMAZING in the role. The one thing I love about Scherer's interpretation is that even though he's comical and slap-stick at times, he gave a real dignity to the role - I think the challenge for any person playing Lee is not to turn the role into a caricature.
Larry Lederman, as Ben Franklin was funny and surprised me as being much more suited to the role than I expected. My previous two favorite Franklins (Conrad John Schuck at Music Circus & Orson Bean at Reprise) both played two rather extreme versions of the role... Mr. Bean played the role more grandfatherly and Mr. Schuck played the role more playfully - (for lack of a better word) almost "dirty old man-ish" - but still very endearing. While Mr. Lederman was wonderful in this production, I didn't get a real feeling for any deeper subtext than what was written in the actual script.
The Thomas McKean (Michael Mulligan) was unusually young (but very easy on the eyes) :) Because he was tall and thin, he had to change his line about being hanged ("Read (referring to George Read) here will be doing a jig long after I'm gone") to reference Livingston (who was played by Markus Parker and who was decidedly smaller in size) instead of George Read.
Leslie was a wonderful Abigail Adams - she has a beautiful voice and it's always a pleasure to see her in anything that she does. I found it interesting how and where each show places their Abigail in the staging in relation to the John Adams. In this case, Leslie stood on one side of the stage, while the Adams occupied the other end. I think this works well - only once have I seen the Abigail way out in the audience and the John speaking to and directly facing her (at Music Circus) which I liked - additionally the Music Circus production was the first that I had seen who actually had the Abigail and John touch during "Compliments" in the second act.
One of my favorite, unsung characters of the show, Thomson was played well in this production by Ronnie Steadman. I liked him and he evoked a lot of emotion in his last dispatch, but I feel my views are biased since I've seen Larry Cedar play the role at Reprise and it's incredibly hard to beat his portrayal.
I'm not too sure who played McNair at the performance that I saw (there was a replacement that was announced, but no understudy slip in the program.) He was much younger than I was used to seeing of McNair. His "Sweet Jesus!" proclamations seemed out of character for someone so young...
And finally the eternal question of Barlett stopping "Molasses to Rum" with his "For the Love of God, Mr. Rutledge,...Please" Didn't care for it in Sacramento - it seemed too bold and angry there... The Reprise Barlett said it more in a way that expressed defeat and shame. This Barlett (Markus Parker) was somewhere in between. I'd rather see it portrayed in the defeat and shame way - but that's just me.
Ironically, my favorite Sherman was Richard Israel in the Reprise production - who directed this production of the show. :)
All in all it was a very good small scale production of the show and I'm so glad that I got the chance to see it.
If anyone is interested, here are my impressions of the Music Circus production I saw in Sacramento last year.
I have so much more to write about, most notably my views on Misty and her performance in "Twice Upon A Time" last night in Redondo Beach, but I have to get going and run some errands before I rush out to the matinee of "Orson's Shadow". Tonight I have the evening performance of Nick's show "Thrill Me" at the Hudson Backstage.
Hope you're all having a nice weekend! Big HUGS to you all. :)