Monday, May 23, 2011

REVIEW: Liberty Smith (Washington DC)

Ford's Theatre (Washington DC), Monday May 2

Imagine Forrest Gump set in the 18th-century. While Forrest Gump was portrayed as a simpleton romping his way across the world, influencing pop culture and experiencing some of the major events in the 20th century, Liberty Smith in the musical Liberty Smith was pretty much in the same template except that this character is simple but not a simpleton and driven. He didn’t travel across the world but he experienced some of the major events in American revolutionary history. The musical was made to please and entertain; and there was no attempt for innovation and depth. Mind you, there is nothing wrong with that, the USA has a huge market for that. In fact, this story about ‘self-fulfillment shouldn’t be equated to achieving popularity’ has no better market than this reality-TV-obsessed country (though they name THE bell after him). Looking at the bus loads of kids in the theatre, Liberty Smith might just have found their target audience.

Liberty Smith’s story was set off by the mean Martha Washington, played by Lauren Williams, who wantonly promised to return Liberty’s love only when America gained independence. From there on, Liberty serendipitously met and “helped” a string of legendary figures. It was amusing at most but not amazing. For some reason, The Muppet Show came into my mind when I was watching it.

The book aside, the songs (music by Michael Weiner and lyrics by Adam Abraham) were tuneful and pleasant; and they were rigorously performed by a magnificent cast. Geoff Packard’s Liberty was charismatic and very well-sung. Playing opposite Packard is Kelly Karbacz’s Emily Andrews, a character with more depth and portrayed credibly.

What really impressed me though was the scenic (Court Watson) and costume (Wade Laboissonniere) design. While the set may look more like a ship, it didn’t take much before one start believing the actions were taking place in a pub, in the garden, in European court or in a workshop. The costumes were not only gorgeous and glorious, they were also practical.

Liberty Smith in Ford’s Theatre in Washington DC was a lovely evening of entertainment for a tourist like me… and nothing else.

Liberty Smith
Music by Michael Weiner
Lyrics by Adam Abraham
Book by Marc Madnick, Eric R. Cohen and Adam Abraham
based on an Original Story by Marc Madnick and
Eric R. Cohen
World Premiere (Opened in Ford’s Theatre on March 23 2011)

Creative Team:
Director ... Matt August
Choreography ... Denis Jones
Music Director ... Jay Crowder
Scenic Design ... Court Watson
Costume Design ... Wade Laboissonniere
Lighting Design ... Philip S. Rosenberg
Sound Design ... David Budries

Cast Includes:
Old Liberty Smith … Stephen F. Schmidt
Liberty Smith … Geoff Packard
George Washington ... Gregory Maheu
Martha Dandridge ... Lauren Williams
Emily Andrews ... Kelly Karbacz
Betsy Ross ... Donna Migliaccio
Benjamin Franklin ... Christopher Bloch
Benedict Arnold ... James Konicek
Paul Revere ... Richard Pelzman
Samuel Adams ... Matthew A. Anderson

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