Andrew Lippa’s “I Am Anne Hutchinson” and “I Am Harvey Milk.”
Whew! How to describe the show this evening.
I have all sorts of superlatives I can lavish on it. Amazing, Spectacular, Magnificent – those apply. The choruses outdid themselves. And both Chenoweth and Lippa brought their A-game vocally. Really, I am used to being blown away by Ms. Chenoweth, but I must say after hearing Andrew Lippa sing when we were kids and after singing with him in production after production in high school, I am blown away by how his voice has grown and improved over the years.
But let me get down to the nitty gritty.
The piece is hard to pin down. It doesn’t fit any one mold, and I love that!
It is not an opera though it has some of the characteristics of one. It is not an Oratorio, though it has many characteristics of one. It is not musical theatre, either. But, it takes elements of all of them and spins them into its own, new musical experience. So, it is worth it to see it just because of the innovation in composition, directing, and structure that Lippa (and the production team) brings to these two one-acts, that are also tied together thematically and in little ways lyrically.
In the two works, he explores themes of freedom, identity, courage, and perseverance. He lets us witness people who are greater than they are allowed to be, by being just that way. By virtue of their courage, we see them break barriers and surprise even themselves with what they achieve.
There is a line in “I Am Anne Hutchinson” that has stuck with me. I keep mulling it over in my mind as likely the strongest line in that piece.
Anne Hutchinson is singing to her accuser (the man who accuses her of stepping beyond her bounds as a woman by reading from and even teaching from the bible) and she says, “Is that what you fear? A woman? An insignificant woman? Being significant.” And that moment is breathtaking. In part, Ms. Chenoweth’s delivery makes the line a strike at the heart of the patriarchy. But the line itself is poignant, mesmerizing, and worth more study.
There are many moments like that in “I Am Harvey Milk.” That entire piece makes you want to stand and cheer. And dance. How we were expected to sit still through “Friday Night At the Castro,” is beyond me.
The delivery of “Thursday found me on my knees,” that leads the song into its explosion of sound and celebration had me laughing and crying at the same time.
“You are Here” is another gem. There are many. I could extoll their virtues, but I will leave it at encouraging you to see the show if/when it comes on tour.
In the end, tonight was a joyful celebration of a friend’s creation, in the best way possible, with other good friends.