Another [packed] show, another standing ovation. It's become a nightly occurrence for "The Civil War," an unlikely musical smash that has been wowing crowds for three years at this community playhouse in a strip mall beside a supermarket.In addition to Yankees and Rebels, a solid dozen black actors are needed in the production.
In a state where blacks comprise less than 1 percent of the population, the pool of experienced black actors is not deep. To recruit performers for the slave roles, McKay visited Baptist churches and even stopped blacks on the street. "It's not easy to go up to a black person and say, 'Hey, do you want to be in a show?'" he says. "And do you mind wearing chains?'"As to historic content, I see that
The musical climaxes with the battle of Gettysburg, which leaves "slain" soldiers strewn across the stage. An angel in white appears above the fallen men, inviting them to "sleep in my arms . . . all your pain is past." Sniffles ripple throughout the audience. This emotional punch may explain the enduring appeal of a story whose ending everyone already knows. Not everybody wants a history lesson, but almost everyone likes a good cry.