by Jan Davisson
Ah… Summertime and the living is easy, especially in managing to get tickets to some outstanding event. Who said that theatre dies when the season is over? You just haven’t been looking!
July kicks off with a Star Spangled theatrical experience at the Don & Ann Brown Theatre on Clematis Street in West Palm when Palm Beach Dramaworks presents the reason for the Independence holiday. It’s a creative version of the musical 1776.
The musical 1776 written by Peter Stone with music and lyrics by Sherman Edwards opened on Broadway in 1969 and garnered three Tony awards, including Best Musical. It takes place in Philadelphia as members of the Continental Congress fight, compromise and finally agree to the wording of the Declaration of Independence. It’s done with some great acting, songs and even creative dancing for our forefathers. It’s the story of the birth of our nation. It also points out that politics never change.
The production compromising started when Producing Artistic Director, William Hayes, contacted Clive Cholerton to direct a show for the month of July. Feeling that the political climate was ripe for a dip into how the political system works, 1776 seemed like the perfect show.
Upon reading the script, seeing the size of the stage and reviewing the budget, the two decided that it would take some creative ideas to make it work, starting with the cast of 26, which was cut down to 13 with most of the actors playing several parts. As Cholerton said, “Limitations can inspire more creativity.”
Next came the costumes designed by Brien O’Keefe… There needed to be designs that would make it easy to get into during the required five-second changes, yet still fit perfectly!
Last, but definitely not least, was the set design by Michael Amico. His challenge was to be able to get all thirteen of the actors on and off stage and create a non-intrusive set that changes the audience perspective of the entire Chamber of the Continental Congress. The results are pure magic.
According to director Cholerton, one of the biggest challenges was in casting each actor to create the persona of both a conservative and a liberal as most actors play several roles. The beautiful Laura Hodas, with her glorious voice, portrays both Abigail Adams and speaker of the Congress, John Hancock. If it sounds like a stretch, forget it, she handles it beautifully.
Both male and female actors have fantastic voices; however, one of the show stoppers was Shane R, Tanner as Edward Rutledge the Congressman from South Carolina. His booming rendition of “Molasses to Rum” is one of the highlights of the production. Note: I remember seeing him at the Wick Theatre’s production of Oklahoma where he played the villain, Jud, and I will never forget it.
On a lighter note, Nicholas Richberg as Richard Henry Lee provides lots of laughter with his high energy “The Lees of Old Virginia.” You will laugh…DEFINITE-LEE.
Carrying the load was Gary Cadwallader as John Adams, a brash and unlikeable character determined to get America its independence. Along with Allan Baker as Benjamin Franklin, you have a dynamic duo guaranteed to bring the play to life. And, of course, the charming love story of Thomas Jefferson (Clay Cartland) and his adorable wife, Mallory Newbrough, who sings like a dream, brought another dimension to what’s happening in Philadelphia leading up to July 4, 1776.
I’ve seen the show several times on large stages, but I never enjoyed it as much as on a small stage where I truly felt a part of it. To say that it is “brilliant” is an understatement.
Broadway might have its “Hamilton,” but we’ve got the original script about behind the scenes to get American’s independence…1776.
The Don & Ann Brown Theatre 201 Clematis Street, West Palm Beach. Box Office: (561) 514-4042 or visit www.palmbeachdramaworks.org. The musical 1776 is now showing through July 24.
To the north in Jupiter, Shakespeare by the Sea celebrates its 26th year of presenting unique versions of Shakespeare. This year it’s Shakespeare’s comedy, “The Taming of the Shrew,” which takes place in a Kentucky Derby setting. Directed by Trent Stephens with tech and scenic designer Daniel Gordon creating the vision for the audience.
Thanks to Kermit Christman’s perseverance, Jupiter has its own outdoor amphitheater in Carlin Park. Back in the early nineties, Christman decided to hold an event called Jupiter Jazz at the Carlin Park location. It turned into such a hit that he proceeded to work the Parks and Recreation Department, the Palm Beach Commissioners and every other political organization needed to help him build the Carlin Park amphitheater. It’s an amazing fete and one that is appreciated by a huge audience every year from all over Palm Beach and Martin counties.
Each production is set under the stars while people sit on the grass or in lawn chairs and devour whatever they’ve created for their picnic baskets. There is also a food truck if you prefer.
Shakespeare by the Sea, 720 South A1A, Carlin Park, Jupiter. The Taming of the Shrew, July 7 -10; July 14-17. Tickets are a $5 donation Information (561) 762-8552; www.pbshakespeare.org.
The Wick Theatre & Costume Museum in Boca Raton has a summer schedule sure to please everyone. Every Thursday join other sleuths for Murder at the Wick. A fun evening of dinner and figuring out “who done it.”
Saturday evenings are called Pancetta at the Operetta. Enjoy wonderful Italian cuisine and favorite songs from a variety of operas from Puccini to Gilbert & Sullivan.
The delightful musical Forever Plaid, brings back all those wonderful songs from the fifties when boy groups sang lovely songs in perfect harmony. Memorable songs such as Heart & Soul and Moments to Remember in four part harmony. It’s a flash back in time when life was so much easier without computer, I phones and constant intrusion into you daily living. Forever Plaid runs through July 24.
The Wick Theatre, 7901 N. Federal Hwy., Boca Raton. Box office (561) 995-2333 or www.thewick.org. Reservations are required for dinner events.
Back up to Jupiter, we find a variety of great shows for kids enjoy at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre. Nothing like getting them to fall in love with theater at an early age! The Conservatory of Performing Arts (COPA), an outreach program designed for young children and teenagers, has several upcoming shows.
Friday and Saturday, July 29 and 30 at 7:30 p.m., with a special performance on Saturday at noon, Disney’s Little Mermaid, Jr.
Little girls especially delight in visiting a magical underwater kingdom. Ask any little girl who Ariel is and you’ll get the same answer, a beautiful young mermaid.
What makes this production so special is that the COPA students star. It creates a true identification factor for the young audience.
If you’re not familiar with the junior version of plays, it’s an edited version of the original script that is cut down to run about one hour.
Back to school days are made a bit easier when kids can enjoy a special performance of Rhinoceros on Saturday, August 13 at 7:30 p.m. This play, written by French author Eugene Ionesco, has been translated into English by Derek Prouse. The show is being produced, directed and stage managed by teens. It’s a Youth Artists’ Chair Production.
Maltz Jupiter Theatre, 1001 E. Indiantown Rd. Box Office: (561) 575-2223 or go online to www.jupitertheatre.org. Disney’s Little Mermaid, Jr. July 29, 30; Rhinoceros, August 13.
Support your local theaters so that they can continue to provide year-round entertainment.
Cutline: Gary Cadwallader as John Adams and Allan Baker as Benjamin Franklin star in the Palm Beach Dramaworks production of 1776. The musical will be at the Don & Ann Brown Theatre, 201 Clematis St. in West Palm Beach through July 24. (Photo credit: Samantha Mighdoll).
Cutline: Cast members from The Taming of the Shrew produced by Shakespeare by the Sea in Carlin Park, Jupiter.
Cutline: Kermit Christman, founder of Shakespeare by the Sea, annually at the Carlin Park Amphitheater in Jupiter. The Taming of the Shrew opens July 7-10 and July 14-18.