live theatre, there's nothing like it
Last week we'd seen 1776 six times. One of the fun side effects of doing that is you get to see different things every night, because no two shows are exactly alike. Actors adjust to each other and the audiences. And occasionally **** happens.
For instance, all week James Barbour, as Mr. Rutledge, the delegate from South Carolina, was giving an exhilarating performance of the song Molasses to Rum to Slaves. The song reminds the delegates from New England, that they haven't had pristine hands as regards the issue of slavery, given many Boston merchants provided the ships for the Triangle Trade.
Click here for a sample of the song from the original B'way cast recording.
Usually, the way it's performed, Rutledge has a cane that he cracks two times across a desk mid song during the following patter:
Rutledge: "Gentlemen, you mustn't think our northern brethren merely see our slaves as figures on a ledger, oh no sir, they see our slaves as figures on a block..."
[explosive cane whack]
"Notice their faces at the auction, gentlemen, white faces on African wharves, 'put them in the ships, cram them in the ships, STUFF them in the ships' - well hurry gentlemen, let the auction begin"
Then the song continues with appropriate sound effects as the whip cracks.
Saturday evening the first time Rutledge smacked that cane he broke it right in half. Breath taking. Given the number of people on stage it was amazing he didn't manage to impale anyone. He calmly picked up the other half and for the second smack, cracked the two together.
Next night [God knows what they used to put it back together or if they gave him a new one] that first table "crack" had all the strength of a butterfly farting. My friend and I exchanged "notes" afterwards. Both of us had to stiffle a fit of the giggles. Most of the audience was none the wiser.
(Click here for photo credit and other photos.)