1776 heating up courthouse

The Granbury Theatre Company has a pretty good thing going with what is now annual performances of “1776 The Musical” at the historic Hood County Courthouse.
Sure, it can get a little warm in there when it’s packed, and with performances as good as this, it should stay packed. The secret is to move to the back seats under an air-conditioning vent, like I did for Act 2 – of course, if everyone did that, it might get a little crowded back there.

And yes, the seats can get a little hard after you’ve sat on them a while. No matter where you move, that is a constant.
I only mention these so the viewer is forewarned. But believe me, it is worth these minor inconveniences to sit through one fantastic show.
Like the name says, the action takes place in 1776, when America was on the verge of becoming a free and independent nation. The setting is in the congressional hall in Philadelphia as representatives from the 13 colonies debate how or if that is to become a reality.
I enjoyed this show very much when it debuted in 2012. I enjoyed it even more this year. Perhaps it was the familiarity of the cast with each other, but there appeared to be a tad bit more energy – and there was plenty of energy before.
Many of the roles are reprised, including Ben Lokey as John Adams. Lokey brings a presence to the show that is both commanding and soothing. Adams is annoying, hard for his fellow congressmen to work with, and yet has the biggest heart in the group.
Lokey’s chemistry with Tony Hedges as Benjamin Franklin drives the show. Hedges plays Franklin with a zest that, while often funny, also brings a balance to Lokey’s no-nonsense Adams.
Andy Looney, as congressional president John Hancock, manages to keep an order all the while pressing the urgency to take some kind of action. And Brian Lawson is once again outstanding as South Carolina representative Edward Rutledge, whose biggest argument against voting yay for independence is the proposed abolishment of slavery.
Thomas Jefferson (Kevin Poole) had it in his original Declaration of Independence, and Adams was its staunchest supporter. But in order to move forward with the nation becoming independent, freedom for slaves had to be stricken from the original document. As we all know, it was not to be addressed and rectified until nearly a century later under Abraham Lincoln. This showdown between Rutledge and Adams is one of the show’s dramatic highlights.
Director Andrew Barrus does a fantastic job of keeping the suspense constant, even though we all know the eventual outcome. I’ve always considered this one of the most challenging of tasks for a director – and one of the most impressive feats when pulled off successfully – the ability to keep an audience interested when they know the end of the story.
Much credit must go to the actors as well, a sterling cast indeed from the lead roles throughout all the supporting cast. The two ladies in the show both give strong performances in limited appearances, Amy Atkins as Abigail Adams (whose interactions with John via “letters” are always moving) and Kat Ewing as the somewhat feisty Martha Jefferson. Barrus also provides some of the show’s most comical moments as representative Richard Henry Lee.
At well over an hour, the first act is too long, no debating that. By the time intermission arrives, I was more than ready to get up and walk around a bit. Still, it is consistently entertaining. The second act is much shorter and lifts the tension to its highest level.
So use your program as a fan if need be. Bring a seat cushion. But take a little time to celebrate this country’s freedom and enjoy the story of how it all got started.

Who: Granbury Theatre Company.
Where: Old Granbury Live building on the square.
When: Now through July 6.
Showtimes: Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday matinees at 3:30 p.m.; Fourth of July matinee at 3:30 p.m.
Tickets: Adults $20, seniors (65 and over) $17, students (high School or college) $17, children (12 and under) $15.
Contact: www.granburytheatrecompany.org or 817-579-0952.