‘1776’ – John Adams: “One useless man is called a disgrace; two are called a law firm; and three or more become a Congress.”

This afternoon, my 16 year old son, Quintin, and I drove 35 miles to Wilmington, Ohio to see Wilmington College Community Summer Theatre‘s production of  ‘1776.’  One of my Ball State University friends, Timothy Larrick, was to perform as Roger Sherman – “the simple cobbler from Connecticut.”

I was slightly hesitant when I read it would be a concert version, that several women would portray the delegates, andthat the director was also performing the role of John Adams.  I am always slightly leery of productions where directors involve themselves in the actual production.  Actually, I find it a tad bit on the tacky side.  Either direct the production, or perform in the production – do not attempt to do both as it seldom works, nor plays well.

The concert version was outstanding!   The focus was on the delightful script and music!  It was refreshing, to say the least.  I did not miss the costuming, the lighting, the scenic designs, etc..  The limited staging was most effective, and kept the show moving.

And the women?  Fantastic!  They blended in with the male ensemble, and carried their male-roles very well.  Stephen Hopkins, portrayed by Claudia Fowler, was not less funny, or growling.

I must say that I was pleasantly surprised with Steven Haines’ performance, and directing of this production which I found to be even more powerful, and poignant in the staged-concert setting.  Mr. Haines never once let me down for a second in his portrayal of one of my favorite presidents, and musical theatre roles.  As for directors performing in their own productions on purpose, Mr. Haines is a rare exception.

There were so many memorable performances…

Timothy Larrick as Roger Sherman…  Tim Brausch as Benjamin Franklin…  Wayne Dunn as John Dickinson…  Dean Feldmeyer as Richard Henry Lee…  J. Wynn Alexander as Thomas Jefferson…  Jack Filkins as Charles Thomson, secretary…

Bryan S. Wallingford mastered the role of South Carolina’s, Edward Rutlegde, so well, that I was actually despising the character as he attempted to squelch the movement.

Tricia Heys gave Abigail Adams an incredible multi-dimensional quality, and by the time we arrived as “Yours, Yours, Yours,” I was a tad damp around the eyes.  Her voice was lovely, and powerful to match John Adams’ mainstay, and her acting and beauty pulled you even closer to the patriotic-duo that helped lay the foundation of this country.

The last two-quarters of Scene Seven – the ending of the show – were incredible.  When the delegates had abandoned John Adams at the eleventh hour, I was on the edge of my seat with my stomach in a knot.

This is damned good theatre!  It was like seeing TITANIC… I know how the story ends, but if the production does what it should, I am pulled into their moment on the stage while abandoning any knowledge of history.  ‘1776’ certainly did the job!

As we were leaving, I told one of my friends, Aaron Jacobs, that this production had given me a fine dose of Vitamin-T (theatre) that I’d sorely been missing.  I felt rejuvenated, fulfilled, appreciative of the creators, appreciate of the WCCST, and most certainly, grateful for those true founding parents who stepped into treasonous roles knowingly fully well they were merely experimenting with a belief that they could succeed.

Ironically, I recognized a number of similarities between the portrayed Continental Congress, and our current Congress.  Nothing is ever accomplished quickly, and without agendas.

I wish there was a second weekend of WCCST’s “1776” as I would be shooing folks from The Miami Valley down to Wilmington this coming weekend.  And I would be returning, myself, to enjoy this production – again!

The company is listed as a community theatre; however, they were quite a notch above typical community theatre.   This was not community theatre.

This was DAMNED GOOD THEATRE!

Please be sure to check out Wilmington College Theatre Department and WCCST on Facebook.

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