Opening nights have a special flavor and excitement to them. And last night was no different. Last night 1776 opened at the Palace to an appreciative crowd of about 120. Andrea and I had a girls date. Dinner at the Wildfire and then the show. We ate too much, spent too much and gabbed plenty. And the show, oh the show!
1776 is a little-known musical, but I don't know why. I love it. Of course in addition to being a theater lover, I am also a history lover. And early US history is my favorite period of study. So I guess I am just destined to love a musical that combines both these things. But more than that, I think it is well written, the music is catchy, lyrical, comedic and at times poignant and biting. The writers walked a fine line in keeping the subject matter fun and entertaining, but throwing in reminders that this was serious business and that these men were signing a treasonous document and that many, many people would lose their lives over the decisions that they made that summer in 1776.
But my real pleasure of the night was witnessing my husband's command performance. It is an established fact that David is a gifted actor and a beautifully talented singer, but this time he has shown more depth and range than ever before. He auditioned for this show feeling certain, because of his height, good looks and tenor voice, to be cast as Thomas Jefferson. A role he could have done very well and done it in his sleep. Instead, what he really wanted was to play Edward Rutledge, the continental congressman from South Carolina. It is a relatively small role, but a pivotal one. Rutledge is not the standard goofy guy/leading man type David usually plays. He is one of the dissenters. He steadfastly refuses to endorse the Declaration of Independence as long as it contains the abolition of slavery.
Not a historically popular stance indeed. But in the show Rutledge disdainfully rejects John Adams' and Ben Franklin's claims that slavery is a dirty southern custom and gets right to the uncomfortable truth that it was the northern sailors who went to Africa selling bibles and rum to buy the slaves in the first place. They may not have held slaves in their homes, but they profited greatly from the triangle trade. And this point he makes in a show stopping musical number called 'Molasses to Rum'. It is a creepy song, designed to make you uncomfortable, even though it is geniusly and beautifully written. And this is the song my husband desperately wanted to perform. It requires both a strong actor and a strong vocalist and holy shit did he bring down the house!
We have been wondering how the audience would react to the number. Would they be silent? Would they clap? Would they boo? Well last night they cheered and applauded. And with good reason. David was magnificent, adding the perfect expressions to throw the point into John Adams' face and the vocal dexterity he showed was the best I have ever heard from him on stage. We all know what a fabulous leading man he is, but after this show, he has proved his stellar chops include a depth and passion that everyone can appreciate.
I am so proud. Sigh.
Go see the show!!!