The Statue of Liberty, one of New York's most independent figures, has stood watch in New York Harbor for 130 years and welcomed millions of new Americans to our shores. "Liberty: A Monumental New Musical," is a family-oriented and historically-based off-Broadway production that celebrates this world-renowned icon, and the alchemy of the people who have made our state and country so unique.
The show fittingly opened on July 4, and follows the journey of a personified Statue of Liberty, as embodied by teenage actress Abigail Shapiro, who comes to America as a young immigrant. She is determined to stay in her new land and fulfill her purpose.
"Liberty" reminds us that the debate about immigration, so prevalent in our current election year, has burned bright for most of our nation’s history. Lest you think it is a political ploy of the moment, the show has been in development for more than 8 years. Knowing this fact may make it even more eerie to hear Liberty (Shapiro) tell the jingoistic New York Commissioner Francis A. Walker (Brandon Andrus), “You can’t put up a wall."
Other characters share their tales of strife and determination. Samuel Ferguson (C. Mingo Long), poignantly conveys the predicament of the descendants of slaves who did not emigrate of their own free will, and James Goodleaf (Ryan Duncan) represents Native Americans unceremoniously dispossessed of their lands and isolated on reservations, as both still struggle to earn a living wage and fit into mainstream society.
The play further tilts at the lingering stigma of immigrant roots, even among those with newly-achieved economic success, through such characters as Jewish poet Emma Lazarus (Emma Rosenthal), who penned “The New Colossus”, and Hungarian publishing baron Joseph Pulitzer (Mark Aldrich), who led a fundraising campaign for the Statue’s base.
The show's book, by Dana Leslie Goldstein, and music by Jon Goldstein (her brother), excel with wry humor and a variety of musical styles, and are brought to life by director Evan Pappas and his talented cast. Though the plot pulls no punches, it is an entertaining and important story for every generation to see, and may well inspire your own pursuit of liberty.
"Liberty: A Monumental New Musical" continues at 42West, 514 West 42nd Street, Manhattan; 866-811-4111, libertythemusical.com. Running time: 80 minutes.
Take a sneak peak at the show in this video: