It was a world premier, and the tears of joy on Linda McInerney’s face as she stood introducing the show in the corner of the Academy stage showed how much this show must mean to her. It was, as she wrote in the program, the culmination of a big effort that began with a dream. An actual dream set right here, in the regal, spacious theater on Main St. As she gave her thanks to sponsors and supporters, I could feel how happy she was and how the Academy full of beaming faces must have made her heart swell.
This folk opera was a big undertaking….that was clear when the stage filled up with all of the actors, wearing their gorgeous period dress, a cross section of so many 1820s characters. Adding actors to the boxes adjacent to the stage made the scene even more dramatic, extending the theatrical magic to both sides off the stage.
Evelyn Harris, a veteran of the women’s acapella group, Sweet Honey In the Rock, has so many songs to sing, it boggles how she could ever remember so many lyrics…she’s on stage nearly the whole time. A fascinating sidelight to the dramatic presentation of Sojourner Truth’s life was the affection and admiration shown toward her by her master reminding me of Thomas Jefferson’s dalliance with Sally Hemmings. Her master keeps promising her freedom in ten years. Promises, promises.
John Thomas as Frederick Douglass was a dead-ringer for every photo I’ve ever seen of the famous abolitionist. A few of the bit characters, too, like the Pinkster King and the cop, looked perfectly the way I’d imagine them in a history book.
If you love big music, big staging, a full orchestra and costumes that truly bring you back two centuries, go see this production, it will run at the Academy through Feb 18.