Monday, November 7, 2016

reviews - 1776 - Zao Theatre Company

the cast of 1776
photo courtesy of Zao Theatre
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

Click here for more information on this production that runs through November 19th.

".I have to believe that before Hamilton became a worldwide phenomenon there were many people who thought turning the story of Alexander Hamilton into a musical sounded like a crazy idea. I'm sure that forty years ago many people had the same thought about musicalizing the battle for United States' independence, which features such fellow founding fathers to Hamilton as Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Fortunately, just like Lin-Manuel Miranda didn't let anyone dissuade him from writing his musical, composer/lyricist Sherman Edwards and librettist Peter Stone didn't let any naysayers persuade them to stop working on their show, and the 1969 Tony winning musical 1776 was born. Even though we know going in what the outcome will be, Edwards and Stone have written a riveting show and Zao Theatre's solid production has an exceptional cast who bring this famous story and these iconic individuals to life in vibrant fashion....Stone's book is expertly written with characters and situations that are full of life, plus an element of suspense, even though we obviously know that the motion for independence did get approved. ...The dialogue is smart and funny but also poignant, with an ending that is moving. Edwards' music is light and lively, with echoes of the period evoked in several fife and drum inspired arrangements, as well as a couple of moving and deeply emotional songs. Zao's cast is uniformly top notch. While Jack Pauly isn't the strongest singer, he does fine with his songs and is quite good in showing the agitation Adams feels for his fellow constituents....He and Lizz Reeves Fidler, who is simply radiant as wife Abigail Adams, exhibit a deep, personal connection to each other. ...Fidler clearly portrays Abigail as a smart, loving and caring woman and her singing voice is simply luminous, with notes that have a beautiful sheen. Tim Fiscus makes for a superb Benjamin Franklin....Jeff Montgomery is quite good as the quiet yet very smart Thomas Jefferson, and Rebecca Bryce is vibrant and charismatic as his wife Martha...Peter Cunniff and Bryan Stewart deliver strong portrayals of the show's two antagonists, John Dickinson and Edward Rutledge. ..They also get two of the best songs in the show....Director Mickey Bryce does an excellent job in showing Adams and his small gang's relentless pursuit of independence with refined performances across the large cast and effective staging that makes the most of the large space...Louise "Alli" Alexshonis' costumes, almost all of which were designed for this cast, are simply exquisite. 1776 is a thrilling musical that shows the struggles our Founding Fathers endured to gain our independence. With a talented cast, very good creative aspects, and assured direction, Zao Theatre delivers an impressive production of this very inspiring show. " -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

"Opening with a snapping snare during our nation's first Continental Congress, ZAO Theatre in Apache Junction added timely historical perspective with their current musical production of 1776. The reminder of how to affect political change during divisive times was soothed and strengthened by music that seeped deeply into crevices of judgment and doubt this weekend. Focuses largely on John Adams' (Jack Pauly) efforts toward America's independence from Britain with important contributions from Franklin (Tim Fiscus) and Jefferson (Jeff Montgomery)... Under Mickey Bryce's direction, Zao's presentation offered a moving demonstration of patriotic effort....Adams' best moments were when he was joined by wife Abigail (Lizz Reeves Fidler). In a show with a scarcity of women, the two present on Apache Junction's stage added exponentially to the evening.  Martha Jefferson (Rebecca Bryce) and especially Fidler's vocal quality as Abigail melted the big government work into personal and human messages. ...Tim Fiscus veritably embodied Ben Franklin, a gently wise and affable statesman, with uncanny timing. Richard Henry Lee (Kellen Garner) garnered applause for his high-stepping impish fun in "The Lees of Old Virginia," while the Courier's (Tyler Galley) somber rendition of "Mama Look Sharp" broke hearts....Forming the famous Declaration signing tableau as they each cast their yea vote for independence presented an excellent conclusion to the Zao's show.  During the rhythmic gavel strikes while the music continued to rise, the cast in Apache Junction delivered an emotionally charged blueprint for us today.  1776 offers the historic hope that when we are most divided, we are able to most profoundly unite.-- Jennifer Haaland, PHX Stages (click here to read the complete review)

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