BWW Review: CIVIL WAR VOICES at Gettysburg Community Theatre
As the story goes, James R. Harris discovered a diary that was kept by his great-great uncle, Joe Harris, during the Civil War. The diary serves as the cornerstone of storytelling in James Harris' musical, CIVIL WAR VOICES, currently playing at Gettysburg Community Theatre.
His conception of the musical began when doing readings from the diary, with music of the period arranged by Mark Hayes, adding to the indelible stain of humanity Harris wished to decree.
Harris wrote of the voices of several historical figures in addition to the voices of those representatives of our everyday lives during that period: Joshua Chamberlain (college professor turned war hero), Joe Harris (a cotton planter from Alabama), and Elizabeth Keckley (born a slave, bought her own freedom and that of her son's, and became a close friend to Mary Todd Lincoln, and lived in the White House as Lincoln's personal assistant), to name a few. It is the words of Joe Harris, at the end of the play, that plead for forgiveness and speak of reconciliation for our country, following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
Gettysburg Community Theatre's (GCT) production of CIVIL WAR VOICES is one of earnest dedication. The cast and production staff of the all-volunteer theatre takes an opportunity on this production, that has a timeless message for all to hear, and uses it as a vehicle that allows us to adhere to the proclamations that came before us and those that still lie ahead of us.
Under the direction of George Muschamp, and musical direction by Vanessa Rice, GCT's production is a polished gem. From the costumes to the simplicity of the set design and lighting, the audience is captivated by the intimacy of the dialogue, delivered wonderfully by the actors. The cast consists of actors of all ages and they do a splendid job of sharing the stage in a cohesive manner.
The voices of Rebecca Bowman as Elizabeth Keckley, Michaela Odian as Harriet Perry, and Ian Kress as Theo Perry, are ones that sooth the soul. The purity of emotion emulated by these three through song is offered with gentle appreciation. There were opportunities where they each could gather more emotion to effectively deliver the volatile subtext within the songs. Digging deeper, letting go and trusting their wonderful talents to lead a song, could only enhance their performances.
If there was ever a time to pause and reflect on our country's history and our humanity, and to allow ourselves time for moments of mindfulness and understanding, it is right now at Gettysburg Community Theatre. Their production of CIVIL WAR VOICES offers us the perfect opportunity to be still and listen to the heartfelt words that helped heal our nation in the past. And, it is a production that can do the same for our future.
CIVIL WAR VOICES is playing through July 30, and tickets are available at www.GettysburgCommunity Theatre.org or by calling 717-334-2692. Photo credit: Cindie Leer/Leer Photography