Theater Info for Maryland

The Milburn Stone Theatre 1776

By • Jun 25th, 2013 • Category: Reviews
The Milburn Stone Theatre: (Info) (Web)
The Milburn Stone Theatre, North East, MD
Through June 30th
2:20 with one intermission
$18/$15 Students, Seniors/$10 Children 12 and under
Reviewed June 22nd, 2013

The signing of the Declaration of Independence is a moment in history that feels larger than life in all of our hearts and memories. The men involved are true superheroes, giants in our minds. So, the musical adaptation of that moment in national memory has to also be larger than life and unforgettable. With a breathtaking set and colorful, delightful costumes, Milburn Stone Theatre’s 1776 captures that spectacle. It is a solid production with the trim of professionalism that sets it slightly above the average community theatre.

The production is not perfect. It does suffer from some problems either with the lighting design or execution that left some faces in shadows throughout the evening. The large, live orchestra is sometimes impressive, and sometimes thrown by a sour note, and sometimes so loud that the singer(s) cannot be heard over the volume level. However, the set and costumes are flawless, which creates a real visual awe.

The performances are, for the most part, excellent. At the center is John Adams (Ken Kemp), who fights with everything he has for his dream of American Independence. Kemp is obnoxious and disliked, yet underneath there is passion and heart. Coming beside him on his quest is Benjamin Franklin (David Wills). Wills is silly and fun as the never-serious doctor. He is an excellent foil to Adams, and the two men have great chemistry together. With Thomas Jefferson (Matt Pearson), they form an unlikely trio. Pearson appears to be often uncomfortable, and it is not always clear is this is Pearson or the muddled execution of a character choice.

The two strongest performances, however, come from the “villains.” As South Carolina’s Rutledge, David Allen is part gentile gentleman and part spoiled young man. It works perfectly. He has interesting and ultimately effective take on “Molasses to Rum.” Alive with passion for squashing the Declaration is Dickinson (Scott Mason). Mason gives a powerful performance that commands the stage in every scene.

The leading ladies are a bit more of a mixed bag. As Abigail Adams, Kati Donovan has beautiful vocals but she is a little too playful and lacks some of the composure and maturity expected in Abigail. As Martha Jefferson, Amy Luchey is really just forgettable. Her vocals lack strength and her acting is stifled. It is hard to believe that these were the best choices available for a show with only two female roles.

On the other hand, taking a role and making it shine was Chandler Smith as the courier. His hauntingly beautiful vocals in “Mama Look Sharp” was the best moment of the entire production. Also standing out in smaller roles were Phil Hansel as McNair, Brian Drake as Livingston, Ryan Milliner as Wilson, and Ralph Denton as Hopkins.

1776 is an awesome show. This is a solid and enjoyable production filled with all the spectacle that is to be expected and is perfect for this time of the year as we think about American Independence.

Photo Gallery

Ken Kemp as John Adams and Matt Peterson as Thomas Jefferson Chandler Smith as the Courier
Ken Kemp as John Adams and Matt Peterson as Thomas Jefferson
Chandler Smith as the Courier
Scott Mason as John Dickinson
Scott Mason as John Dickinson

Photos by Jacob Watkins


  • Dr. Josiah Bartlet: Raymond Von Whald
  • John Adams: Ken Kemp
  • Steven Hopkins: Ralph Denton, Sr.
  • Roger Sherman: Joseph Bradley
  • Lewis Morris: Richard Colon
  • Robert Livingston: Brian Drake
  • Rev. Jonathan Witherspoon: Matt Watkins
  • Benjamin Franklin: David Wills
  • John Dickinson: Scott Mason
  • James Wilson: Ryan Milliner
  • Caesar Rodney: Ryan Taylor
  • Col. Thomas McKean: Mike Ware
  • George Read: John Lasher
  • Samuel Chase: Mathew Wolffe
  • Richard Henry Lee: Jamie Mikijanic
  • Thomas Jefferson: Matt Peterson
  • Joseph Hewes: Jeff Gorcyca
  • Edward Rutledge: David Allen
  • Dr. Lyman Hall: Matt Tart
  • John Hancock: Richard Waterhouse
  • Charles Thompson: John Mulvey
  • Andrew McNair: Phil Hansel
  • Abigail Adams: Kati Donovan
  • Martha Jefferson: Amy Luchey
  • Leather Apron: Silas Taylor
  • Leather Apron/Painter:Trevor Korn
  • A Courier: Chandler Smith

Production Staff

  • Director: S. Lee Lewis
  • Musical Director: Marji Eldreth
  • Additional Staging: Marshall B. Garrett, Eyvo Johnson, Maren Lavelle.
  • Costumes Provided By: A.T. Jones and Sons
  • Lighting Design: William A. Price III
  • Properties Design: Eyvo Johnson.
  • Stage Manager: Serenity Rowland
  • Assistant Director: Maren Lavelle
  • Assistant Stage Manager: Alli Graham & Kelly Wolffe
  • Master Electrician: Tyler Bristow
  • Costumiere: Gay Lynn Price
  • Sound Engineer: Alex Paul
  • Light Board Operator: Serenity Rowland
  • Fly Rail Operator: Tom Collins
  • Scenic/Lighting Crew: Shawn Allbright, Richard Colin, Matt Peterson, Matt Wolffe, Kelly Wolffe, Rob Snyder, Tom Collins, Alli Graham


  • Conductor/Key Boards: Marji Eldreth
  • Violin 1: Lingchin Liao
  • Violin 2: Julia Hacker Smith
  • Cello: Csilla Lakatos
  • Percussion 1: Stephen Tipping
  • Percussion 2: Colin Bunnell
  • Trumpet: S’aeed Abuwi
  • French Horn: Tyler Bjerke
  • Trombone 1: Tony Ohannessian
  • Trombone 2: Tim Plimpton
  • Reed 1: Anna Thompson
  • Reed 2: Tim Dolzine
  • Reed 3: Kati Lockwood

Disclaimer: The Milburn Stone Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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has been involved in theatre in the state of Maryland and DC for most of her life. She has acted, directed, choreographed, stage managed, and held a million other odd jobs. She has a B.S. in English from Towson University, and is currently pursuing her Master's Degree to become a Reading Specialist. She is a Maryland State Certified English, Theatre, Elementary, and Mathematics Educator. After teaching English and Drama for many years, she now teaches 6th grade Language Arts at Magnolia Middle School in Harford County, Maryland. She wrote the curriculum currently used in Prince George’s County Public Schools for Drama I and Drama II. She now writes and directs plays and musicals for use in church.