The full title of this show is Liberty: A Monumental New Musical. The word "monumental" is a reference to the monument that is the Statue of Liberty of course, but the adjective most definitely applies to this wonderful new musical that is being produced by the Warner Stage Company prior to the New York City run. The production marks the first time that the performers, musicians and technicians of the Warner have worked side by side with a New York based creative staff to develop a new production that will have a life after it leaves their stage. Executive Director John Bonanni expects this to raise up the reputation of the Warner. How fortunate Connecticut audiences are to have the opportunity to see this .
Liberty is essentially the story of the iconic copper symbol of freedom, but more importantly it is a story of, in the words of Mr. Bonanni, "the American experience with a contemporary perspective." In the musical, the character of the Statue of Liberty is personified as a copper-haired French immigrant arriving in America in 1884. Billed as sculptor Bartholdi's daughter and played by the young and beautiful Madeleine Brewer, Liberty interacts with a small group of international immigrants and immigration officials in her struggle to rise upon her platform. Two years pass in the course of two days.
Director Igor Goldin has done an amazing job in his staging choices. Every scene is riveting. Actors awaited their entrances seated on a long bench offstage left. The only word to describe the set and props designed by Josh Zangen is stunning. The costumes by Olivera Gajic fit each character's bio perfectly, with Liberty's copper skirt and Emma Lazarus' skirt and blouse the most lovely.
I have heard that lighting is at its best when the audience doesn't notice it. The lighting in Liberty is so amazing that one would be hard pressed not to notice it; Lighting Designer Cory Pattak has brought the Warner stage to a new level. It was hard to believe that a crew of seven was able to pull it off.
The music by Jon Goldstein is good enough to stand on its own, but mixes with the book and lyrics by Dana Leslie Goldstein to yield a wonderfully cohesive musical. The voices blended beautifully as a chorus for the stirring and often contemporary-sounding musical numbers. The four-piece orchestra conducted by Jeffrey Lodin sounds like many more. Some of my favorite pieces were "Gift for Words," "Huddled Masses," and "Making History." The "Horizon Finale" literally gave me chills.
The cast is, without exception, outstanding. Ms. Brewer glows as the title character; her lovely voice soars throughout the huge Warner Theatre. Jamal Ford-Bey sings beautifully as stonemason Samuel Ferguson. I knew that Bif Carrington () could act, and he certainly does here as the pompous bureaucrat "Francis A. Walker," but he is also a wonderful singer and tango dancer in "The Charity Tango."
Brian Dann (full disclosure: I was Brian's first grade teacher many years ago) is very convincing as a mustachioed Irish construction foreman and has a wonderful voice as well. He actually thanks his mother ( partner Agnes Dann) for "being the best person alive." His friend Stephanie Haring plays the poet "Emma Lazarus" and calls Mrs. Dann "her Connecticut Mom." I would call Ms. Haring a young lady to watch; I was so glad that she got to show off her lovely singing voice in several numbers.
The always wonderful Mary J. Cantoni Johnson ( at the Phoenix, at the Warner) is the Russian Olga Moscowitz, a pushcart peddler, and she almost steals the show with her perfect comic timing. I especially enjoyed her duet with Mr. Dann on the comic "We Had It Worse." Bartholdi is played by the multi-talented Meric Martin ( at Seven Angels, and at the Warner) and in this performance sports a French accent.
Vincent D. McCoy plays an immigration official and newspaper publisher "Joseph Pulitzer;" this character and the scaffolding on set were reminiscent of . James Francis McKirdy is perfect as "James Goodleaf," a Mohawk Native American iron worker. Maureen Pollard plays the snooty "Regina Schuyler" and eighth-grader Timothy Perry () plays a young Italian boy "Giovanni Ferro." Lynn Paullela-Beard plays an immigrant woman.
The audience at this red carpet opening performance (for which I had complimentary tickets) clearly appreciated the power of this amazing production. The program contained a survey that production team will use to help them prepare for the NYC premiere. It is the perfect show for Independence Day week and a privilege to see a New York preview that most of us will not soon be able to repeat. I will be saving my program.