The story of how the Statue of Liberty came to New York, and the debate of the country’s immigration policies of the late 1880’s is playing out on the delightfully intimate theatre stage of 42West. It’s a perfectly timed production that opens on our country’s birthday, July 4th, but also during the height of the national debate on the issue of immigration.
Liberty: A Monumental New Musical includes a cast of outstanding veteran actors from Broadway and national tours who portray a selection of witnesses to the Statue’s arrival in New York. Through the stories of newly arrived immigrants, and those of high society who feared the numbers of immigrants, we learn that history does repeat itself, as we continue to grabble today with the numbers of immigrants still struggling to make America home in 2016, just as in 1886.
Abigail Shapiro as Liberty
Adapted from the musical, Lady of Copper by Dana Leslie Goldstein, Jon Goldstein and Robert Bruce McIntosh, the story begins in France, as the statue’s sculptor Bartholdi (Ryan Duncan), completes his design and ships the statue to America. The statue, however, is in the form of the talented Abigail Shapiro, 14, (Cindy Lou Who in Broadway’s Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas) but her arrival is anything but monumental.
Emma Rosenthal and Nick DeVito
In fact, the financing for the building of the statue’s pedestal has not materialized, and the country is in recession. It takes the help of newspaper publisher, Joseph Pulitzer (Mark Aldrich) to use the power of the press to encourage donations from the wealthy and middle class. Through the plentiful musical numbers (17 in all) we also watch the poet, Emma Lazarus, (Emma Rosenthal), receive the inspiration she needs for her epic sonnet, “The New Colossus,” which will find its place on the bronze plaque at the base of the statue. It is her words that we repeat even today, to remind ourselves of the promise we made to the world.
Ryan Duncan, Tina Stafford and Mark Aldrich
The talented voices of Brandon Andrus as an immigration commissioner who wants to send the statue back; Tina Stafford who enjoys her two roles, that of the Jewish lady selling knishes on the street and the wealthy Regina Schuyler who promises to fund the commissioner’s campaign; do their characters’ justice and are a joy to watch. We have Nick DeVito who represents Italy; Patrick McKay, the Irish; C. Mingo Long, African-American; and Ryan Duncan, the Native American, who are all looking for their place in the new world. All bring a dignity, and a desperation that touches our hearts.
Cast of Liberty
Liberty is fun for all, and a clever way to impart a little history lesson to us all as we celebrate our country’s 240th birthday. And when the show is over, it’s another perfect time to head on over to the west side, grab a Water Taxi or the Circle Line and go for an up close view of Lady Liberty.
42West is located at 514 West 42nd Street, between 10 and 11th Avenues. The show runs through Labor Day, with performances Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday at 3pm & 7pm; Thursday at 12pm at 3pm. Visit Liberty the Musical website for more information.
Photos by Russ Rowland
Top photo: Abigail Shapiro and Brandon Andrus with the cast of Liberty.