1776 from Mind’s Eye Theatre Company (2016)
By Kate Barry
Entire contents are copyright © 2020 by Kate Barry. All rights reserved.
As we find ourselves moving towards summer and transitioning into Healthy-at-Work, I continue to discover new shows. Well, new to me. With all these findings, I have had to come to terms with the fact that I simply cannot listen to every single cast recording ever made. While I have listened to several Andrew Lloyd Webber and Stephen Sondheim tunes, I know I won’t be able to spend time with shows like The Beautiful Game, Anyone Can Whistle, or Pacific Overtures. Regretfully I will not be spending time on Ghost, The Bodyguard, SpongeBob SquarePants, or shows who made their debuts this year like Jagged Little Pill and Mrs. Doubtfire. Of course, if we experience quarantine again, I might explore Wildcat, Wonderful Town, Steel Pier, or examine why sequels like Annie Warbucks and Come Back Birdie were necessary for Broadway. I honestly considered giving Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark a chance but I had to draw the line somewhere.
1776: Produced by Minds Eye Theatre Company a few seasons ago, this concise musical re-enactment of the signing of the Declaration of Independence explores the debates and arguments that went into creating a nation, with John Adams as the central protagonist of the piece. “But Mr. Adams” and “He Plays the Violin” fit into the musical theatre tradition but “Momma Look Sharp” and “Molasses to Rum” provide pivotal moments within the era of which it was written juxtaposed with the era in which it is set.
Runaways: I found this show to be one of the more eclectic and individualized pieces so far. A show comprised of interviews by runaway youngsters living on the street, the play is written and performed by children of the 1970s. “Every Now and Then” “Undiscovered Son” and “Song of a Child Prostitute” were raw, honest displays of the fragile innocence.
Follies: This Sondheim musical stood apart for me. Bouncing between the past and present of a recently condemned theater and its resident company, the relationships are complex and run deep. I went into this one completely unaware of the songs or story, having only known it beat Once on this Island and Miss Saigon for a Tony. “I’m Still Here” is a standout moment within Sondheim’s catalog while “The God Why Don’t You Love Me Blues” channels an older Broadway flair while remaining within its time.
The Drowsy Chaperone: I literally kick myself for never seeing this show. The music is wholesomely hilarious as characters experience mix-ups and mayhem. It is my opinion that what would make a staging of this show, is a strong narrator who explains significant tropes, throws around anecdotes and theatre jargon, and stumbles over the political correctness of the phrase “gay wedding.” Needless to say, I will be certain not to miss it next time.
Come From Away: It is a cruel twist of irony that the Broadway in Louisville stop for the national tour had to be canceled because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Set in the days following 9/11, this brilliant musical follows a small group of travelers abandoned in a Canadian airport as they cope with tragedy and prepare for what, if anything, will come next. A song like “Blankets and Bedding” resonates with the urgency of our current crisis as the phrase: “are we going to be ready” echos throughout the opening of the show.
Jekyll and Hyde: While I have never been a fan of scary or thrilling works, I was very enthralled by this one. The drama and fear are non-stop in this familiar tale of a man who transforms himself into a monster. And with a score that delivers emotionally charged power ballads like “This is the Moment” and “Someone Like You,” the shows sinks its claws in you and keeps rolling till the chilling conclusion.
Nine: I have been curious about this show since it made its way to the silver screen in 2009 with Daniel Day-Lewis as its star. I checked out the original 1982 cast recording which contains an impeccable performance from Raul Julia. While I was intrigued by the transformation and inspiration of Fellini’s 8 ½ retold in song, I found this exploration of a creative mind in midlife crisis interesting at best; nothing stood out in terms of song.
And now for some honorable mentions…
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels: Based on the 1988 comedy, these bad guys make for a downright entertaining show.
The Scarlet Pimpernel: This one is foppish and adventurous with a musical blend of contemporary pop seemingly inspired by Gilbert and Sullivan.
Man of La Mancha: This epic of a mad prisoner lost in his own imagination is beautiful and fantastic.
Stop the World- I Want to Get Off: Seriously, what even was that?
Kate Barry earned her Bachelors in English with a Theater minor from Bellarmine University in 2008. She has worked with many different companies around town including Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, Bunbury Theater, Louisville Repertory Company, Walden Theater, Finnigan Productions and you have probably purchased tickets from her at that little performing arts center on Main Street as well. In 2012, her short play “PlayList” won festival favorite in the Finnigan Festival of Funky Fresh Fun. She has written for LEO Weekly and TheatreLouisville.com as well. Thanks for reading!