Rehearsals began July 9 for a private New York reading of a new musical, Liberty Smith, a comic romp through the American Revolution, with Richard Kind as Ben Franklin, Mary Stout as Betsy Ross and Christian Borle as a young George Washington.
Brandon Wardell, of the Thoroughly Modern Millie cast, plays the fictional title character, a Virginia native whose boyhood pal was Washington — and whose future includes brushes with major historical events between 1740-1781. Darcie Roberts plays his love interest, Emily, also fictional.
The life and comic adventures of the unsung hero of the American Revolution will be presented in a July 22 reading at The Lamb's Theatre by Borle, Kind, Stout, Wardell, Roberts, Dwayne Clark (as Crispus Attucks), Laurie Gamache, Eddie Korbich (as Paul Revere), Garrett Long, William Parry (as Benedict Arnold), Josh Prince, Fran Prisco, Thom Christopher Warren (as Jefferson) and Michael Winther.
A cutting of the show was seen in 2000 at the National Alliance for Musical Theatre's Festival of Musicals, but co-librettist Eric R. Cohen told Playbill On-Line the work has been refined and revised since then. What exactly is Liberty Smith?
"We've strung a fictional character through the major events of the American revolution," Cohen explained. "He grows up an orphan on the Washington plantation, but he leaves Virginia and comes in contact with all the famous people you know about." Cohen bills the show was quirky and anachronistic. "We like to think it's an alternative take on American history — a comic retelling of everything you've learned," he said, adding that the show includes such events as the Boston Massacre, the French and Indian War, the Boston Tea Party, the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, the Shot Head 'Round the World and more.
Among the musical numbers are "The World's Youngest Old Maid," "Revolution Tomorrow" and "Truth, Justice and the New-England Way."
Cohen and writing partner Marc Madnick, of Los Angeles, first conceived the story as a screenplay. Their script came into the hands of composer Michael Weiner and lyricist Adam Abraham (who is also a film director), who suggested the yarn might make a buoyant stage musical.
The four of them further refined the script beginning in the mid 1990s, and the work emerged in the NAMT showcase. Weiner also penned Mystery of the Dancing Princesses (also seen in the NAMT fest) and scored an indie film, "Man of the Century," which lyricist Abraham directed.
The Manhattan reading is directed by Michael Unger (McCarter Theatre's A Christmas Carol, Off-Broadway's Retribution, and the St. Louis Muny's Meet Me in St. Louis). Michael Lavine is the musical director.
Industry folk interested in attending the Equity-approved reading may call (212) 613-1644.
— By Kenneth Jones