logo2There’s no chance I’ll ever be mistaken for an art critic. Whether it’s film or tv or the paint splatters hanging on your wall, I don’t have an eye for brilliance or any philosophical insight to share. The same is true for theater. I wouldn’t know stage left from a stagehand. Simply put: I like what I like and that’s the only real evaluation I can offer.

That said, the following is my “review” of Footlighter’s current production, 1776, book by Peter Stone, music and lyrics by Sherman Edwards, directed by Michael Morehead and produced by Gary Wettengel and Cathy Lutts right here in good ol’ Newport, Kentucky at The Stained Glass Theater.

I loved it!

The film version is easily one of my favorite musical movies ever (perhaps runner up only to Grease and Much Ado About Nothing).


It might be kismet, as the movie was released to the world the same year I was! I was skeptical that anyone could rival those rousing renditions of But Mr. Adams and all the lovely interludes between Abigail and John Adams that bookmark the storyline. I had never seen it performed live and I was trying to keep my expectations in check.

How pleasant to be so completely wrong!

John Adams, played by Gary Rogers, serves as leader to the audience and the Colonies’ march towards independence and he is fantastic. I wondered this week if he would be similar to Paul Giamatti’s recent portrayal of Mr. Adams (in the HBO series) or William Daniels’ version in the movie. Thank goodness it was the latter. No offense to Giamatti of course, but his Adams is not the one I want imparting such charming verses like:

Mr. Jefferson, dear Mr. Jefferson
I’m only 41; I still have my virility
And I can romp through Cupid’s Grove with great agility
But life is more than sexual combustibility

No, Roger’s John Adams is spot-on: delightful and funny and what a voice! I enjoyed each and every minute he was on stage.

Turns out that Abigail Adams was played by someone I know and she was dazzling! Amy Waldfogle, who until last night I only knew as a fellow Mom and political agitator (love ya Amy!), was such a treat. It’s quite humbling to have associations with such talent and not be able to carry a tune in a bucket!

Write to me with sentimental effusion
Let me revel in romantic illusion

The entire cast was wonderful, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the chills I got when Jon Vader, as Mr. Rutledge, sang the intense opus as the question of slavery is debated. It must be difficult to turn an otherwise lighthearted production towards such a topic, all I can say is WOW! His performance was nothing short of amazing…

Who sails the ships out of Boston
Ladened with bibles and rum?
Who drinks a toast to the Ivory Coast?
Hail Africa, the slavers have come
New England with bibles and rum

Chills, still got ’em.

But don’t take my word for it, go see it people. The orchestra, the costumes, the stage, none of it will disappoint. The story can’t help but run a little long, there’s a lot of material to cover what with the formation of a new nation and all. Be prepared for the three hours. You still have a few more days and it’s quite a bargain (show closes on Saturday, February 21st). More info on the production can be found here in the Footlighter’s Newsletter.

Tell John and Abigail I sent you!