|Varris Holmes in Opus 1861|
★★★★ Nothing less than stunning:
The cast is amazing in their musical acuity as well as the emotional range and restraint in telling the soldiers’ stories. The letters to home and the sorrowful elegies to comrades killed before their eyes are interspersed with songs such as “When This Cruel War is Over (Weeping Sad and Lonely)” and “The Vacant Chair”. . . . I found new resonance in songs that were only known to me from history classes and elementary primers. . . . Many kudos to the talented cast of Stephen Barker, Erin Renee Baumrucker, Ryan Gaffney, Varris Holmes, Elizabeth Morgan, and Tyler Thompson. They are all in prime voice and carry the audience to another time and the present effortlessly. . . . This rich music will remain with you; the images of soldiers forever lost will haunt you.
. . . beautifully sung, with intricate harmonies and simple arrangements that never fail to achieve the desired effect, whether mournful or rousing.
Minutes can’t measure “Opus 1861: The Civil War in Symphony.” In only an hour and ten of them this commemorative offering devised by Elizabeth Margolius and Terry McCabe employs still-potent songs about the battlefield and the hearth to connect one war with another and both to us. . . . Simple and strong, this juxtaposition of letters written from soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq and of period songs from 150 years ago (beautifully arranged by Gary Powell) makes an eloquent argument that all wars are one truth. . . . Strangely, there’s more universality in City Lit Theater’s take on the Civil War than in Steppenwolf Theatre’s very specific The March depicting Sherman’s devastation in 1864 and 1865.
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