n Part 2 of a series of interviews with the cast of McLean Community Players’ 1776, meet James Myers.
Joel: Please introduce yourself and tell our readers where they may have seen you perform on local stages and what roles you have played.
James: I’m James Myers and I most recently played the role of Max in Little Theatre of Alexandria’s production of Dial M for Murder. Shortly before that I played the lead role of Warren Ives in Little Theatre of Alexandria’s production of Ira Levin’s play, Cantorial. I have also sung as a member of Washington National Opera Chorus at The Kennedy Center and I sang solo supporting opera roles with the Mittelsachsiches Theater in Freiburg, Germany. When I’m not acting or singing, I teach private voice lessons through George Mason University’s Potomac Arts Academy. For those interested, please feel free to visit my personal website.
Why did you want to be part of McLean Community Players’ 1776?
I have always loved the show 1776 since I first saw the movie version on VHS tape in the fourth grade. I specifically wanted the part I’ve been cast in because of the powerhouse song, “Molasses to Rum.” It’s an epic ballad for an operatic sounding voice. This show doesn’t come up too often so as soon as it was announced with McLean Community Players I was very hopeful to take part in the production.
Who do you play in the show, who was your character, and how do you relate to your character? Does this character have any of your personality or character traits?
I play Edward Rutledge who is the representative in congress from South Carolina. My character is a pretty nasty person. In his main song he is describing the complicit actions of the north in regard to the slave trade. Mr. Rutledge believes very strongly in allowing the practice of slavery to flourish in the United States. So that’s a completely different perspective and certainly not a belief I hold! However, he has a very aristocratic background and he is for the most part very formal and polite in his interactions with others in congress which is what makes his big song about the slave trade so shocking to both the audience and the rest of congress. In that moment he breaks out of his cool exterior and celebrates the brutal nature of the slave trade. The only similarity Mr. Rutledge and I have is that we have similar sounding singing voices.
What have you learned about your character that you didn’t know before you were cast in this production?
My character Edward Rutledge probably wasn’t as evil as he’s portrayed in the musical. In 1776 I believe he symbolizes the evil nature of all those who sought to keep slaves in bondage. I suspect he was supportive of the slave trade but he also went on to fight in the American Revolution and he became a prisoner of war at one point.
What is your favorite song in the show that you sing and that someone else sings and why?
My favorite song I sing is “Molasses to Rum.” That’s the song where I describe in excruciating detail the brutality of the slave trade. It becomes very ugly when I pretend to be the auctioneer at a slave auction and begin yelling and beating the slaves. It’s an extremely difficult song to sing because it requires a very wide vocal range and a large operatic sound. It was made famous in the movie version by John Cullum who has a tremendous voice and is one of my personal heroes in the world of musical theatre. s challenging as the song may be, it truly feels tailor made for my voice. I love singing it.
My favorite song sung by another cast member is John Adam’s song “Is Anybody There”. His song follows Mr. Rutldege’s tirade and is the counterpoint arguing for freedom for all Americans regardless of color.
What have been some of the challenges you have had during rehearsals, and how did Director Annie Galvin help you with these challenges?
Our director Annie Galvin has been very helpful with helping me find just the right amount of menace present in Edward Rutledge’s singing of “Molasses to Rum”
What has impressed you most about your fellow cast members?
The cast is solid all the way through. Annie Galvin did a great job with casting. Everyone is very suited to play their parts in terms of voice type, acting style, and appearance. It’s rare when those things all come together for a show with a large ensemble cast!
Why do you think 1776 is still so popular after so many decades and what does it have to say to today’s theatergoers?
1776 is still so popular because it features characters everyone knows but presents them in novel and interesting ways. That and the fact that the music offers something for everyone from sprightly uptempo numbers to very dramatic ballads.
What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing you perform in 1776?
In terms of what audiences will take with them after seeing 1776, I’m always hesitant to say because the way a show strikes someone is a very personal situation.There’s a line from Ben Franklin explaining that they the founding fathers are not perfect demigods but men, no more, no less. 1776 shows the complicated process and sacrifice of building a new nation.
1776 is playing from February 5-21, 2016 at McLean Community Players performing at The Alden Theatre – 1234 Ingleside Avenue, in McLean, VA. For tickets, purchase them at the box office, call (866) 811-4111, or purchase them online.
Meet the Cast of McLean Community Players’ ‘1776’: Part 1: Brent Stone.