From Fort Sumter to Appomattox

Blue Songs, Gray Songs

Adaptation, musical arrangements, and musical direction by Bryan Williams
Direction and musical staging by Lance Hewitt
Isle of Shoals Productions, Inc.
Pantheon Theater
Non-union production (closed)
Review by Seth Bisen-Hersh

Blue Songs, Gray Songs is a collection of prose, poetry, and songs from the Civil War. Seven actors sang many medleys, read through some actual writings, and recreated moments from this pivotal time in American history. There were many good moments in the show, but there were far too many moments overall, and they failed to create a momentous evening.

The show opened with male voices singing fragments from various Civil War songs. These voices came from every direction, and then the women came on stage and sang the only original song of the evening, "The Blue and the Gray." What followed was many little medleys depicting different aspects of the war, from volunteering to be in the army, to being in the army, to writing home, to the war's ending, to slavery ending, to Lincoln's assassination. Familiar songs include "Goober Peas," "Aura Lee," "Free At Last," and "When Johnny Comes Marching Home."

The medleys were very well arranged. Bryan Williams did a great job with the vocal arrangements -- the harmonies were all solidly constructed. The modulations between songs were completely musically sound, which was marvelous to hear. Unfortunately, there were far too many medleys. The letters read could possibly be moving but weren't in their presentation. There is no story arc. There is no moral. There is no message. And the show is far too long for its lack of content.

There were no outrageously bad performers, although some were better than others. The standouts were Chazmond Jerell Peacock and Amanda Adair Brown. Peacock was hilarious in a few numbers. He used his voice and his props well for comic effect. With some vocal training, he could sing on Broadway. Brown had great facial expressions and determination on stage. Her voice was beautiful and was a pleasure to listen to.

The direction by Lance Hewett felt somewhat cramped. His set and costumes fared better. The set was minimal but cute. Hewitt's costumes were quite nice. Michael Abrams's lighting design highlighted some of the touching moments of the show well.

Blue Songs, Gray Songs definitely had good moments, a few good cast members, and excellent musical direction, but mostly felt long and tedious. Without a message, what is the point of creating a show?

 Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Set: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2003 Seth Bisen-Hersh