Ripley-Greer Studios Ripley-Greer Studios, Manhattan

Although only a reading of a work-in-progress, the show had us singing along during the performance and well into the evening.

By Andrew Andrews

As a reviewer, the best way to celebrate the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday is to attend a performance that highlights the life and achievements of the honoree.

That wasn’t an option for us this year, so we got as close as we could get: a staged reading of a story about a man who fought for civil rights a full century earlier than the Reverend Doctor King.

We’re speaking, of course, of Frederick Douglass, and a new musical by Quill Entertainment Company about the meetings he had with political frenemy Abraham Lincoln over the progress of emancipation during the years of the Civil War.

Knowing that this would be a reading of the musical, we weren’t expecting a full-blown production with costumes, sets and memorized lines. But we were nonetheless impressed by how well-prepared the cast was to deliver the performance, with near-perfect recitations and powerful renditions of the nearly two-dozen songs by playwright and lyricist Granville Wyche Burgess.

With Mario Claudio and Ali Coopersmith staring as Douglass and Lincoln, respectively, and an ensemble featuring Teisha Duncan, Victoria Sasso, Ethan Ness, Sam Stone, Tommy Walker, Joseph Cordaro, Maurio Brown and Akeil Davis, the show delivered Broadway-friendly numbers with roots in spirituals and jazz, plus ballads and duets just right for the genre.

Directed by Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj and featuring music and musical direction by Stan Wietrzychowski, the show had us singing along during the performance and well into the evening.

With a little more time in the workshop, we can see this show becoming a huge success on the Great White Way.

If you caught this special one-time reading, let us know what you thought of it!

Andrew Andrews attended COMMON GROUND at Ripley-Greer Studios Ripley-Greer Studios in Manhattan on Monday, January 21, 2019 @ 7:00pm to write this review.