On the 4th of July this year, I remembered all the overly sentimental television specials I used to love to watch as a child each year. (I particularly remember one that had a Claymation version of Mayor Koch and a musical number of “Earth Angel”, sung to the Statue of Liberty.) They no longer show specials like that—now, 4th of July television is all about the Nathan’s hotdog eating contest, so I always make it a point to find something old-fashioned, patriotic and educational to see on stage and, this year, that came in the form of Liberty: A Monumental New Musical (book and lyrics by Dana Leslie Goldstein, music by Jon Goldstein.)
The story begins in modern day Battery Park as a father and his young daughter look across the river to the Statue of Liberty, and we fade back over 100 years and meet up with the same father (Ryan Duncan) and daughter (Abigail Shapiro), now natives of France. Abigail says goodbye to her father and is put on a big ship to America, all alone. Soon we learn that Abigail is no ordinary little French girl. (See where this is going?)
The ship acts as a snow globe crash course in history, with a few familiar names in the mix, among them Emma Lazarus (Emma Rosenthal) and Joseph Pulitzer (Mark Aldrich). I particularly liked the character of Samuel Ferguson (C. Mingo Long), who reminds us that not everyone who came to America was looking for opportunity and freedom.
The story might be confusing to younger kids who don’t understand symbolism yet, but I found it very compelling and moving. Liberty: A Monumental New Musical is a charming musical that left me feeling patriotic and grateful to be living in a city so rich in United States history—I might even hop the ferry and visit Lady Liberty soon myself.