Review: ‘19’ at Through The 4th Wall

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The road to freedom is never easy. Often that road is fraught with several steps forward and several steps back. Marginalized groups must face pressures from without and within. The in-workshop, original musical 19, tells the story of the struggle for women’s suffrage from the perspective of Women’s Rights Activist Alice Paul (January 11, 1885 – July 9, 1977). Thanks to Writer/Lyricist/Directors Jennifer Schwed and Doug Bradshaw and Musical Director Charlie Barnett, 19 is a rousing, ovation generating musical, full of history and dance.

The cast. Photo courtesy of Through The 4th Wall.

The show’s title references the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, that gave women the right to vote, the centennial of which is in 2020.  Through The 4th Wall has done many extraordinary productions, including A Dream Within a Dream: Madness. The musical was narrated by the fabulous Tameka Taylor, who portrayed Women’s rights icon Susan B. Anthony. Taylor had a wonderful solo in “So Easy”.

Katie Ganem, as Alice Paul, lent her emotional vocals to songs such as “Gift or a Curse (Am I Blessed or Will I Make Things Worse?)”, in which she soloed; “We Won”, and “No Matter the Price”, which featured her spoken-word rant.

The earthy-voiced Millicent Scarlett, as Ida B. Wells, provided powerful highlights to the show in songs like the stirring “Put Yourself in My Shoes” and “Dainty”. Wells, a famous Black Civil Rights activist was at odds, due to opposition from Southern women, with Alice Paul on whether she could march at the head of the Women’s Suffrage Procession of 1913. That procession was a model for later marches on Washington. Scarlett and Ganem emotionally sang back and forth to each other throughout “Put Yourself in My Shoes” about Paul’s dilemma.

I enjoyed Maria Ciarrocchi, as Carrie Chapman Catt, who sang a rousing solo in “I’m Prim So What”. Katherine Boulter excelled as Lucy Burns and in songs like “We Won” and “Dainty”. The elegant Elizabeth Keith effectively portrayed Inez Milholland, and Paul Caffrey played several male characters, including President Woodrow Wilson and police Chief Sylvester. “The War at Home,” sang by the cast, was unforgettable.

The dancing was all jazzy hoofing, and physically mirrored the tone of the scenes and songs, thanks to Choreographer Kathy Gordon. The dance troupe, the Silent Sentinels, was headlined by the spectacular dancer and actress Kristen Briscoe, who was excellent in A Chorus Line. The Silent Sentinels were rounded out by Keith, Danielle Marquis, Angela Norris, Olivia Parker and Jessi Rexroad.

The Cast. Photo courtesy of Through The 4th Wall.

The uncredited stage design consisted of a three-quarter-thrust stage on the second floor of the grand, historic Lyceum in Old Town Alexandria, and Barnett on piano. The actors and dancers made use of the audience space, and there was some audience interaction. The uncredited costume design consisted of t-shirts and jeans; for instance, Caffrey’s t-shirt simply had the word “man” printed on it. 19 is an edu-taining look at history, with superior singing and dancing. I look forward to the full production.

Running Time: 90 minutes, with no intermission.

19 plays through November 3, 2017, at Through The 4th Wall performing at The Lyceum, 201 South Washington Street, Alexandria, VA. For tickets, call (202) 251-5545, or purchase them online.