The Oscar-winning movie “Lincoln” has renewed interest in the Civil War. While “Lincoln” was viewed by millions, one local theater is taking a more personal look at real stories from the Civil War.
The musical takes an intimate look at the lives of individuals from the Civil War era, using journal entries, letters and other primary-source accounts. Neal Johnson, the director, said the play interweaves real accounts from real people who experienced those events.
“The plot, though not continuous, leads you through the various vantage points of the three sides: Union, Confederate, and slaves,” Johnson said. “The show is mostly sung, and the lyrics are based on those letters, entries, etc.”
Enormous loss of life often clouds depictions of the Civil War, but Johnson said the over-arching theme communicates hope and a love of freedom.
“The events, though evidently tragic, speak of things besides the many deaths, but of the motivations behind the cost of freedom, true love and fighting for truth,” Johnson said. “As a director, I tried hard to make sure that the actors were believed as real people. I believe that they are all deserving of that truthful representation.”
Amanda Crabb is a BYU grad and faculty member in the music dance theater department. Crabb plays Mabel Cushman, a nurse in the show. Crabb said the production is unique because it incorporates real stories and real images from the Civil War.
“When Frank Wildhorn wrote it, he took excerpts of real journals, so a lot of the song lyrics are pulled directly out of Civil War journals,” Crabb said. “Neal, the director, also has done research and pulled photographs from the Civil War. During some moments in the show, you’ll see photographs of real men.”
The musical has no plot line but is a collection of vignettes of different individuals. Crabb, who plays a Civil War nurse, said she did additional research to make her character as real and individual as possible.
“The idea is that with these songs, which are representative of every soldier, we tried to make them more personal to one specific person,” Crabb said.
Bob Freeman, a professor of Church history and doctrine, will be presenting an exhibit titled, “Inspiring Profiles of Civil War Soldier Saints,” on March 15 in the Harold B. Lee Library. Freeman said experiences such as watching “The Civil War” give audience members the opportunity to remember a war that came at a high price for the American people.
“I think it is terribly important to preserve this history,” Freeman said. “As we do, three things happen. First, we become educated to the realities of war. Second, we pay tribute to those who sacrificed so much for us. Third, we deepen our gratitude for such service.”
To purchase tickets for “The Civil War,” visit www.haletheater.org.