The Courtyard Theater's presentation of the musical "1776" caused quite a stir this past weekend. Audiences seemed to love the Sherman Edwards Tony award-winning musical and admired the cast as they performed in colonial garb and sang the score with gusto.
But the play had one problem not anticipated by Producer Art Lieberman and Director Bob Taylor. The play had never been played at a mall where the operating hours of the mall cause problems.
For the past 7 shows presented at the theater, the intermission of the evening show usually occurred at 8:30 so that the audience could use one of the bathrooms in the adjoining or nearby stores. But "1776" has a long first act and it usually ends at around 9:00 PM, just the time the mall stores close. With the exception of Garfield's Restaurant and the mall's bathrooms located adjacent to the mall office, audience members had no place to go. The Courtyard Theater does not have a bathroom that patrons can use since it is in the dressing room.
Furthermore, some audience members complained that sitting in the seats of the theater for 2 hours straight became an uncomfortable experience. Previous shows had only 1 1/2 hours of the play, before the intermission.
So Bob Taylor made a decision to shorten the first act, ending it prior to the script's format and to lengthen the 2nd act, thereby slightly increasing the second act by 20 minutes but raising the audience's comfort level substantially.
"Our prime objection in the theater is the enjoyment of our audiences, which tend to be more mature than movie patrons and where the entire movie tends to be only around 2 hours in length."
"With the exception of the length of the first act, audiences at the theater loved the play", said Lieberman. "They laughed at Ben Franklin (Isaac Conner) whose wisecracks were right out of the writing of the patriotic genius - and they liked the romantic scenes involving John Adams (Nick Buckman) and his wife Abigail (Davena McCabe) and the scenes between Martha Jefferson (Natalie Wagner) and Adams and Franklin as she explains in song that one of the reason she loves her husband Thomas Jefferson (Tim Vasey) is that ‘He Plays the Violin’.”
In the second act, South Carolina delegate Edward Rutledge (Matt Fulkerson) stops the show with the dramatic song "Molasses to Rum to Slaves". Fulkerson's rich tenor has been heard before on the Courtyard's stage as the title role in "Sweeney Todd" and as one of the leads in "Rent", two earlier plays presented at the theater.
But the exiting audience primarily complimented the entire production from the cast to the costumes to the phenomenal set created by Bob Taylor. "It was almost like being in Federal Hall in Philadelphia", one audience member remarked.
"1776" has six performances remaining in the next two successive weekends, June 20th - 22nd and the 27th - 29th, with Friday and Saturday performances at 7:00 PM and the Sunday Matinees at 2:00 PM. Tickets can be purchased by calling 570-374-0060 weekday from 9:30 - 5:00 PM or by logging in to the theater's website at www.thecourtyardtheater.com and hitting the "tickets" tab. Tickets are also available 2 hours before every performance.
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