Hudson – Presidents’ Day may be just around the corner and with it will come recounting legends filled with cherry trees and humble log cabin beginnings, but for a more in-depth tale of how our nation’s forefathers fought for the creation of the country we cherish today and what exactly (or not-so-exactly) transpired behind the closed doors of a fledgling Continental Congress, the cast of 1776 has more than a few thought-provoking, inspiring and, above all, entertaining answers.
Presented by The Hudson Players, the musical will be staged through February at the Barlow Community Center, located right across from the fire station on Oviatt Street in Hudson, and draws talent from several area communities with actors and crew members from Hudson, Stow, Kent, Cuyahoga Falls and Tallmadge lending their voices, dancing, costume design and set creation skills to the cohesive collaboration directed by Twinsburg resident Claudia Lillibridge. The cast is anchored by a feisty John Adams, portrayed by Mark Durbin who has experience in various local leading roles (such as Tevye for Aurora Community Theatre) and successfully serves as the central cog around which the rest of the characters (sometimes reluctantly) revolve.
With the majority of the scenes taking place in the Continental Congress chambers, the action there is artfully set against the backdrop of their lives as a whole, intertwining political ambitions of the stocking-and-wig-wearing men arguing it out in Philadelphia with the responsibilities awaiting them in their individual states – duties of home and family that the audience sees are never far from their thoughts.
What better way to spend Valentine’s Day weekend than witnessing the sweetheart exchange between Abigail Adams and John Adams (Jessica DeFrange joining Durbin) in a time well before email, text messaging and even phone calls were ready forms of communication. Or understanding the frustration of a young Thomas Jefferson (Michael Guffy) who finds himself with the duty of writing what would become one of the most important documents in the history of the United States, while all he wants to do is go home to his beloved Martha (Jessica West).
Set in the summer of ’76 (the eighteenth-century one, that is), this award-winning work credited to Peter Stone and Sherman Edwards focuses on the events that led up to the debating, drafting and eventual signing of The Declaration of Independence. Political alliances, duels with canes and lessons in ego-management are woven into a script that at some points is reminiscent of modern day governmental meetings, rife with personal agendas and priorities that differ, depending on which family member you ask. Audience members will find out if saltpeter or straight pins are more important to the war effort and just how much of a balancing act it can be to ignite a revolution. Definite highlights of the show are the delectable period costumes, deliciously delivered dialogue and delightful musical numbers supported by a live orchestra ensemble. One of the most amusing songs is “The Lees of Old Virginia” which sets up the basis for at least one of the story’s longest-running jokes and tells quite a lot about the inflated expectations of entitlement of the time. Even more telling is the heartfelt and haunting “Momma Look Sharp,” a stark reminder that even desired change comes with a price of sacrifice.
Remaining dates for the show are February 12, 13, 19, 20, 26 and 27 at 8 p.m. or a 2 p.m. matinee on February 21st. A special feature of the performance on Saturday, February 13th will be the presence of American Sign Language interpreters to assist those who are hearing impaired to enjoy the production. (Please make these reservations by phone to request seats in the designated viewing area.) Tickets for all performances are $14 each and can be purchased online at www.hudsonplayers.com or by calling (330) 655-8522. Special rates are available for students, seniors and groups as well.
Once the final curtain falls on this retelling of an important American chapter and the storyline is wrapped up for the final bow, at least for 2016, the troupe will next travel even further back into time, a few more centuries or so, to explore what happened to Friar Laurence, otherwise known as The Man Who Killed Romeo and Juliet! More information on that offering will be available soon.
But for now come be a witness for the evening and catch a glimpse of what could be the most poignant political, patriotic and penmanship-poetic moment in our country’s collective past and perhaps take a little bit of the mystery out of America’s history.