Hundreds of Alexandrians gathered on Aug. 21 at Fort Ward Park to watch the Founding Fathers anguish as they struggled to produce a declaration of the colonies independence from England – in song and dance.
With The Little Theatre of Alexandria staging a free, outdoor version of its blockbuster hit musical 1776, the amphitheater at Fort Ward filled quickly on the unwontedly pleasant August evening.
An hour before the performance was scheduled to begin, the parking slots nearest the amphitheater were full. Picnickers chatted on the lawn or on the banks of seats that face the stage. The audience began filling in the cement risers, many with their soccer-mom chairs or blankets; others sat on the metal strips that edge the concrete. LTA volunteers distributed chilled bottles of water, courtesy of Whole Foods, and sound checks from the stage brought expectant silence.
LTA president Carolyn Winters introduced the performance and the vaunted production began (see Jeanne Theismanns review of July 31.)
Benjamin Franklin (Jim Carmalt) brought a warm round of applause early in the show when he said, Theyre warm-blooded people, Virginians.
Jon Keeling proved those words and more with his antic behavior as Richard Henry Lee, including his delightfully silly song about FFVs. (First Families of Virginia, for carpetbaggers.)
Difficult as it may seem to reduce the Constitutional Convention complete with updates on General Washingtons military campaign and a strong difference of opinion on the morality of slavery to a two-hour song-and-dance act, the open-air performance on an unusually pleasant August night in the Old Dominion held the more than 700 men, women and children in the audience riveted to their (concrete) seats, despite knowing that staying until the last name was signed meant joining the traffic trying to empty the narrow streets of Fort Ward after the performance.