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Theatre Mon Mar 03 2008

Get Your Patriotism On! 1776 at the Chopin Theatre

Presented by the Signal Ensemble Theater, a Chicago nonprofit professional company, this performance of the Tony Award-winning musical was commendable. The story is well known. It is the summer of 1776 and the Continental Congress is debating what will become the seminal moment of our nation: the signing of the Declaration of Independence. There is bitter division and political infighting. The outcome is unclear and the future of the colonies and a nation hangs in the balance.

What makes 1776 amazing is two-fold. The acting and singing in this performance were both strong and seamless. I was pleasantly surprised to see that neither the singing nor acting was compromised by the other. The performance was strong and engaging throughout the nearly three-hour event. I immediately connected with the plight of John Adams (played by Phillip Winston) as he struggles to convince the holdouts in the Congress to share in his ideal vision of a free America, all the while longing to be reunited with his wife Abigail (Lindsay Naas). Benjamin Franklin (Vincent Lonergan) added humor to the performance as well the pragmatism that Adams desperately needs. All of the actors were exceptional but there was a standout performance by Jeremy Trager who sang "Molasses to Rum" as Edward Rutledge of South Carolina. The song was complex, required a tremendous amount of range and energy, and Trager nailed it cold. Although the song was essentially a defense of slavery, it mas a moving reminder of what regrettably helped build this nation. I felt that the audience was uncomfortable with the subject, but that they, too, were amazed at the execution.

The venue was also integral to the performance. The intimacy of the Chopin Theater made me feel that I was a part of the action. The actors were so close you could see them sweat. They moved on and off of the stage via the audience entries, which made it feel even more familiar. This is a great way to see great theater.

 
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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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