Theatre Mirror Reviews - "1776 Foxborough Orpheum"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 2001 by Larry Stark


"1776"

Book by Peter Stone
Music and Lyrics by Sherman Edwards
Directed by Judith Calabria Post
Musical Direction by Robert J. Goldman

Set Design by Neil A. Colvin, Alan R. Post
Lighting Design by Michael Teixiera
Costume by Design by John Ristano
Sound Designer & Engineer Barry Megquier
Production Stage Manager Jennifer Post

John Hancock..............................................Neil J. Colvin
Dr. Josiah Bartlett.......................................David Brenner
John Adams......................................Frederick E. Fairfield
Stephen Hopkins...............................................Paul Bono
Rodger Sherman......................................Steven Goldman
Lewis Morris.........................................Myron L. Schmidt
Robert Livingstone....................................Kevin Mischley
John Witherspoon........................................Owen T. Shea
Benjamin Franklin............................................Dick Steele
John Dickinson.........................................Daniel B. Kozar
James Wilson.................................................Greg Dutton
Ceasar Rodney...........................................Bruce J. Cohen
Col. Thomas McKean..............................John M. Ristaino
George Read..............................................Paul Fitzgerald
Samuel Chase.................................................Martin West
Richard Henry Lee.........................................James Lyons
Thomas Jefferson...........................................Alan R. Post
Joseph Hewes...............................................Chet Johnson
Edward Rutledge....................................Michael P. Dowd
Dr. Lyman Hall.......................................John Schumacher
Charles Thomson...............................................Stan Alger
Andrew McNair...............................................Bob Emery
A Leather Apron...............................................Ben Cohen
Courier................................................Craig J Szczepanski
Abigail Adams...Laura Rotondo Canfield/Judi Burns Kotta
Martha Jefferson..........................................Jennifer Payne

When we drove up to the spacious, leafy city's central square I was told, proudly: "The Arena's on the other side of town" --- and there it was. The world may think of Foxborough as the home of the Patriot's football stadium, but people like me think instead of The Orpheum Theatre, and there it was: a square, stucco sore-thumb-pink building next to a classic New England church, its re-created facade exactly as it looked in 1927 when it opened as a silent-movie house. Inside, The Actors' Collaborative was busy on a re-creation of their own: the fourth mounting of their original production "1776" as a twentieth year celebration of family and community involvement with live theater --- and with several members re-interpreting their original roles. I'd been picked up at Mansfield railroad station by the husband of "Abigail Adams" and would be driven right to my door by "John Adams" himself. So this may be less a review as a wide-eyed appreciation of an historic theatrical event.

Like every other community theater in this area, The Actors' Collaborative is unique.
They've done 32 shows since 1981, mostly well-known musicals, but though their fall production this year will be the unstoppable war-horse "Guys And Dolls" their Spring show will be "The Scarlet Pimpernel --- perhaps an area premiere. And they compete healthily with other Orpheum Theatre presentations such as professional touring companies. This was opening night of a big-cast show, but the hall was sold out --- and full of families. The spread of ages everywhere in the auditorium and in the church common-room next door at the gala after, was unlike any in Boston's Broadway houses. This is the crucible in which theatrically aware kids are growing up with an intense appreciation of live performances on stage.

And the sense of history in this show stretched beyond a reverence for America's founding fathers. Seven in the cast had done the show for Actors' Collaborative before: Bob Emery played McNair before; Paul J. Bono (Hopkins), Jim Lyons (Lee), and Judi Burns Kotta (Abigail Adams) were in the 1990 production; Michael P. Dowd (Rutledge) and Owen Shea (Witherspoon) were part of the original 1981 cast, and Chester G. Johnson was re-creating his performance as Hewes in that production, while Alan Post was doing the same with his Jefferson. And as John Hancock John Adams respectfully, Neil J. Colvin and Frederick E. Fairfield played these same roles in every one of the four A.C. productions --- with Director Judy Post calling the shots each time.

What brings people back year after year? The chance to walk around a while in someone else's skin, to bring a whole person alive on stage for the delight and appreciation of family and friends. Again and again at the gala, I heard people expressing a reverence for the patriotism, the heroism, and the humanity of the people they were playing.

Of course, I got to know "John Adams" best.
Frederick E. Fairfield had been a theater-junkie, had even toyed with accepting offers to make acting his profession --- but twelve years ago he gave it all up for family considerations and threw himself into his local contracting business. (His daughter, who works in his firm, did make-up for the show, and ran a follow-spot.) But when he heard about the new production --- even with his experience, he had to audition like everyone else --- and with another opening night under his amplifying belt he's burning to do more. And he will.

But how was the production, you ask. Was it better than the Broadway production I saw trying-out on its way to Broadway a quarter century ago? Was it better than Bob Eagle's Reagle Players production only a few weeks ago?
In the eyes of its audience: yes! For the families, friends, faithful subscribers and simply lovers of live theater, this show deserved its wall-to-wall standing-o. And the kids in that audience, and talking at the gala with actors still in costume, were glowingly aware that live theater is something compellingly different from anything crammed into that glowing fishbowl in the living-room at home. The Orpheum Theatre in Foxborough Mass may have opened in 1927 as a silent movie-house.
It's a theatre now, alive and well and continually filled with enthusiastic audiences..
It's still making history.

Love,
===Anon.


"1776" (29 June - 7 July)
THE ORPHEUM THEATRE
Foxborough Common, FOXBOROUGH
1 (508) 543-4434


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