CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Helping to connect West Virginia's Sesquicentennial celebration to Charleston's FestivALL is the Light Opera Guild's production of "The Civil War," which opens today at the Culture Center Theater.
The Tony-nominated show is an ambitious musical that features projected images from the time, as well as the words of some of the era's iconic figures, including President Abraham Lincoln, abolitionists, poet Walt Whitman and authors Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass.
Nina Pasinetti, the show's director, said, "It's a show unlike most musical pieces. It doesn't have a thread of characters with a lot of dialogue between each other. It's more of a thematic type of show that shows the experiences of the soldiers, leaders and the families left behind.
"It shows the effects of the war on both sides."
Pasinetti said the musical constructs a kind of memory of the past, using music interspersed with selections taken from letters, news reports, speeches and diaries.
"It's a very moving piece," she said. "I think no one who sees this will not be affected. I think it makes us remember the bloodiness of American wars."
"The Civil War" showcases the terrible loss of the conflict, Pasinetti said.
Among the various set pieces, there's a scene explaining the death of a soldier to a nurse who cared for him, another about the hopes of a slave wishing to find a husband who was sold on the auction block, and a scene of a son writing a letter to his father to tell him that he'd faced the enemy bravely and that he was going to die.
"It's a very poignant show," Pasinetti said.
Composed by Frank Wildhorn, with music and words by Jack Murphy and Gregory Boyd, the play was written to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Alley Theater in Houston.
Pasinetti explained, "They'd just come off the musical 'Jekyll and Hyde,' and Wildhorn wanted something more commemorative."
He also wanted something relatable to a broader audience and to connect them to history.