Ford’s Theatre in DC recently reopened after renovation, so it’s no surprise that Israel made it our first order of business to catch a show in the very place where John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln, and then broke his leg by tripping on a flag as he leapt out of the box onto the stage. . . something along those lines. (Izzy knows the story better than I do. One of my greatest successes in planning a date for him was the Lincoln Assassination Walking Tour, if that tells you anything. . . Or was it a success, since Izzy already knew all the details?)
It was enjoyable to see a show in the same theatre where presidents and statesmen have been theatregoers since a long time ago, but I wasn’t crazy about the show itself. The Civil War is a “free-form musical.” Instead of performing songs that were sung during the Civil War, or could’ve been (think Cold Mountain soundtrack), the ensemble cast and on-stage band used 20th century style music– country, bluegrass, gospel, blues, a little rock even– to tell stories of the Civil War. We were 20 minutes late to the show after being stuck in gridlock traffic, so that may have put me in a critical mood, but for whatever reason the whole thing didn’t really work for me.
The mix of old and new did work effectively technology-wise, I thought, as actual photographs from the war were projected to create different scenes and moods for different songs. I was moved by some of the songs individually, but not by the show as a whole. I wish it had more meat– more quotes from Lincoln, soldiers’ letters, journals, etc. I wanted to learn something and hoped it would be more of a stage version of Ken Burns’ The Civil War. Izzy felt bad for the kids in the audience who learned nothing and now have a really skewed sense of what the War of Northern Aggression was. (He’s always thinking of others!)
I also could’ve done without the cast’s odd mix of old-fashioned period garb with modern clothes. That is the artist’s prerogative, I suppose, but I find it distracting when the dude is wearing an American Eagle graphic tee.
And with that, I give you Izzy’s Favorite Civil War Movies:
- Gods and Generals
- Gone With The Wind
- Shenandoah— Jimmy Stewart in all his principled glory!