Theatre Mirror Review>"1776"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2015 by Tony Annicone


Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The summer spectacular at Company Theatre is the 1969 smash musical "1776" with music and lyrics by Sherman Edwards and a book by Peter Stone. This rousing piece of legendary musical theatre puts a human face on the pages of history. It's the summer of 1776, and the nation is ready to declare independence, if only our founding fathers could agree to do it. The show covers the events leading up to the signing of the Declaration in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This musical ran on Broadway for 1217 performances, won the Tony Award for Best Musical. It was made into a film by the same name in 1972 and the revival starring Brent Spiner, won the Drama Desk Award for Best Revival in 1997. Hard working directors Zoe Bradford and Jordie Saucerman cast the best performers in these roles while musical director Michael Joseph taught the cast these intricate songs and conducts a fabulous sixteen piece orchestra. Choreographer Sally Ashton Forrest creates some inventive dances for them to perform. Their combined expertise produces another stunning epic musical masterpiece for Company Theatre. The tableau of the signing of the Declaration is breathtaking stopping the show with its majestic power and punch. A thunderous standing ovation is their reward for one of the must see shows this summer season.

This is the 12th year I have been reviewing their shows and they always do amazing work. My first review of their shows was "Ragtime" in 2003. Zoe and Jordie block the show wonderfully, obtaining stunning performances from their huge cast. Michael conducts a stunning orchestra while Sally supplies the show stopping dance numbers. The terrific set is by Zoe while the gorgeous multitude of costumes are by Brianne Plummer.The story is mainly about John Adams who is obnoxious and disliked by members of Congress. The heart and soul of this show is the relationship between Adams and his wife, Abigail which shows his softer humane side. These are some of the strongest moments of the show even thought they occur in his imagination. Bob DeVivo is splendid as John Adams. He handles the comic and dramatic moments splendidly. Bob captures the pathos and comedy needed for Adams and displays his strong baritone voice at the same time. He leads the chorus in the opening number "Sit Down, John" which stops the show. Bob shows his anger at congress for their do nothing attitude. The more things change the more they stay the same. This is seen in "Piddle Twiddle and Resolve" where they drag their feet in adopting the resolution, in "But, Mr. Adams" when he seeks someone to write the Declaration, in "The Egg" when he describes the birth of the nation and in the dynamic, gut wrenching "Is Anybody There?", his final impassioned exasperation at congress. Bravo!

Pretty brunette Stephanie Mann does a marvelous job as Abigail Adams, his muse for his conscience during the troubled times of the revolution. Their duets of "Till Then", "Yours, Yours, Yours" and Compliments" are poignant, leaving you in tears as well as displaying Bob and Stephanie's fabulous voices. They have a lot of chemistry together. Another dramatic song is done at the end of the first act. It is the anti-war song, "Mama, Look Sharp" where the Courier describes the deaths of his two friends and how their mothers go to find them. Finn Clougherty stops the show with his amazing tenor voice while Eric Daniels as McNair and John King as Leather Apron sing harmony with him in it. The show was written during the Vietnam War so it resonated with audiences then as it does now.

The biggest scene stealer in this show is Doug Jbara as Ben Franklin. He is hilarious as this crotchety curmudgeon with his many comic one liners and sexual innuendos. Doug makes each of them count, winning sustained laughter all night long. He displays his strong voice in "The Lees of Old Virginia", "But, Mr. Adams", "He Plays the Violin" and "The Egg" where he proclaims the turkey should be the national bird. It's great to see Doug back onstage in the area again, playing a role he was born to play. I last reviewed him in "Les Miserables" as Javert in 2013 as well as Jud in "Oklahoma" in 2010 and "Into the Woods" as the Baker back in 2009 at Reagle Music Theater.Matthew Maggio as Roger Sherman and Francis Sheehan as Robert Livingston do a marvelous song and dance to "But, Mr. Adams" with Doug and Trey as Jefferson.They stop the show with hilarity with their kickline. I have fond memories of this show having played Robert Livingston back in 1979. The main spokesman against independence is John Dickinson. Robert Case is excellent as Dickinson, giving the character the depth it needs as Adams' chief adversary. He leads his followers in "Cool, Considerate Men", an anthem to the rich landowners who felt we should stay with England and not upset the status quo. The song is reminiscent of "The Star Spangled Banner" and the men perform a comic minuet in it. This song is one my favorite ones in the show and it wins a thunderous ovation at their expert rendition. I first reviewed Robert as Gaston back in 2004.

John Colypoys delivers a dramatic moment near the end of the show as Judge Wilson. Throughout the show, Wilson has been Dickinson's flunkie who doesn't want to be noticed or stand out and he provides the ultimate solution to the problem.Another dynamic performer is Andrew Giordano as Rutledge. He stops the show with his impassioned "Molasses to Rum" with his phenomenal tenor voice. One of Dickinson's supporters Rutledge insists on deleting the passage against slavery in the document, claiming New England is as much to blame for slavery as the South is. Andrew is marvelous as this strong willed character. Another scene stealer in this show is John King as Richard Henry Lee. He brings the house down with his high energy "The Lees of Old Virginia" with Bob and Doug. They do a marvelous dance to it.Trey Lundquist is marvelous as Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson was a man of a few words but a tremendous author and lover according to this show. His powerful tenor voice soars in "But, Mr. Adams" and "The Egg." His argument scene with Bob as Adams is dynamic, too. The character comes alive with the appearance of his wife, Martha played wonderfully by Erin McMillen, a pretty red head. She plays the role with the spunk and charm it calls for and her beautiful voice soars in "He Plays the Violin" with Bob and Doug. Her kissing scene with Trey is hilarious, too. Kudos to everyone who makes this a show to be very proud of. Once again Company Theatre comes up a winner with an epic musical terrifically done from start to finish. Be sure to catch "1776" before time runs out. Tell them Tony sent. You will thoroughly enjoy this hysterical, historical musical treat.

"1776" (14 July - 16 August)
@ 34Accord Park Drive, NORWELL MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide