I was mainly in town to see 1776, which is my ALL TIME favorite musical. I've seen the show a total of 12 times and have seen 5 different productions and I ALWAYS love seeing new interpretations with different casts. This production, staged by the fabulous Musical Theatre West and directed by the infinitely talented Nick DeGruccio was one of the best that I've seen to date! To contrast, here are my reactions of the last few times I'd seen the show - in Sacramento in 2007, in Hollywood in 2008 and at Paper Mill in 2009 (it seems I see one production a year) :)...
THE SHOW ITSELF:
As with all Musical Theatre West productions, the set and feel of the show are always extremely professional and are nothing short of astonishing. The Continental Congress set was great & reminded me a lot of the congressional set from the recent Paper Mill production that I saw. Like the Paper Mill set, the only drawback was that chairs on the outer edges had to be taken in when the set changed. The nice difference was that instead of random actors moving the chairs (like at Paper Mill), it was McNair and the leather apron moving the chairs (and to give them more purpose, McNair even swept up the floor in one scene while moving the chairs to give it more believability... a seemingly small detail, but as a long time viewer of the show, I really appreciated this little addition.) Must've been a Nick addition... he is truly an amazing director!
John Adams - Steve Glaudini, is, BY FAR, the best, most moving, most affecting John Adams that I have had the good fortune to see! His performance was SO heartfelt and passionate. I've seen many John Adams - from Roger Rees to James Brennan, and out of all the Adams that I've seen, Steve was the most likable, the most emotional, and the most affecting. Some of the Adams that I've seen in the past seemed a bit too distant (for lack of a better word... aloof, maybe?) at times, but what I appreciated about Steve's Adams was that he completely wore his heart on his sleeve and SO effectively showed his vulnerability...
My absolute FAVORITE moment in his portrayal was when Martha approaches him to dance in "He Plays the Violin." When he lowers his head shyly before she grabs his hand... I truly think that was one of the most touching moments in the show. I actually got teary... and it was at that moment that I knew that I was witnessing one of the most beautiful characterizations of Adams that I have ever seen! Steve brought something entirely new to Adams that I'd never seen before... his Adams was SO human and vulnerable at times that we rooted for him, not because he was leading the "good fight", but because we all wanted him to succeed on a personal level. SO. INCREDIBLE.
Abigail Adams - Tami Tappan Damiano... what can I say? Not only does she kill it, vocally (is there anything this woman can't sing? She's AMAZING!) but her portrayal was deeply moving as well. Other Abigails that I've seen were prim and proper and yes,... beautiful sopranos, but Tami was more realistic and I could really feel her chemistry with Steve. It's funny,... I always marvel at the different ways the John & Abigail are staged... I've seen them touch in Sacramento, on opposite sides of the stage facing the audience at Reprise, but the simple staging of having them speak TO each other, but never quite touching was the most heartbreaking of all... and that was in this production. Heartbreaking and beautiful. I cried whenever they were on stage together... My favorite John and Abigail, by far!!
Edward Rutledge - Robert J. Townsend. I have to start off by saying that I haven't seen anyone (prior to this production) that has even come close to Kevin's Rutledge... until seeing Robert. I think the Rutledge I've seen the most (aside from Kevin) is James Barbour, and though James had a strong voice, his ultra slow delivery of his lines had me gritting my teeth the whole time and made an already unlikable character even harder to take, IMO... Robert, on the other hand, was able to balance the darkness of the character with a sense of integrity... Rutledge is obviously not a character I agree with, but in Robert's hands I respected him and that, to me, is the key to any great Rutledge portrayal.
Thomas Jefferson - John Bisom. I liked John's performance, but, to me, the role is all about that silent strength that I always associate with Jefferson. Thomas Ian Griffin was my favorite Jefferson of all time... he had the silent strength down perfectly, but was still able to be funny. Matthew Ashford played the role a little too bold in Sacramento. I liked John Bisom's Jefferson because he wasn't too bold, but sadly he ended up somewhat getting lost in the shuffle of the other performances. I think the Jefferson needs that silent strength, but needs to fully command the moment when he is speaking,... because he rarely does. But that's just me being picky. John Bisom was great, please don't get me wrong!
SOME OTHER THINGS:
With the AMAZING Steve Glaudini (John Adams)
With the INCREDIBLE Tami Tappan Damiano (Abigail Adams)
With Robert J. Townsend (Edward Rutledge)
With Damon Kirsche (Dr. Lyman Hall)
With Todd Nielsen (Thomson)
I adore this show so much and I always cry near the ending - from the arrival of the gun powder (or salt peter) up until curtain call... Watching this production, however, I was IN TEARS nearly the entire show. The lady who was sitting next to me (who I'd gotten to know throughout the season because I sit next to her all the time in my subscriber seats) wondered at intermission why I was teary. Pretty simple, I love the show SO MUCH that seeing it staged and performed so beautifully is EXTREMELY gratifying for me...
What an AMAZING production. Just. Incredible.