Theater Review: THE RIGHT IS OURS! (Sierra Madre Playhouse)

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by Nick McCall on September 11, 2023

in Theater-Los Angeles


The Right is Ours!, a world premiere new musical which opened yesterday at the Sierra Madre Playhouse, tells the story of the friendship between women’s rights pioneers Elizabeth Cady Stanton (Emily Abeles) and Susan B. Anthony (Anna Mintzer), starting with their meeting in 1851, and concluding with their deaths over 50 years later. Keeping the discussion of women’s rights focused, Adryan Russ (music and lyrics) provides a satisfying variety of songs that includes anthems, power ballads, and some lighthearted fun.

Emily Abeles, Anna Mintzer (in black)

One of the pleasures of director Lloyd J. Schwartz’s book is that he includes Stanton and Anthony’s own words. Remember, these are very opinionated women. Though Schwartz doesn’t quote the wilder things they said about Blacks, there’s enough to suggest that they were extremely controversial. (Renowned abolitionist, women’s rights activist, and feminist biblical commentator Stanton wrote about black male suffrage: “It becomes a serious question whether we had better stand aside and let ‘Sambo’ walk into the kingdom first”, while her compatriot Anthony said of the Fifteenth Amendment, “I will cut off this right arm of mine before I will ever work for or demand the ballot for the Negro and not the woman.” Can you imagine if there was Twitter back then?)

Paige Berkovitz, Jacquelin Lorraine Schofield, Carlin Castellano

There are five players, but it’s really a two-person show with chorus, as the other three women (Paige Berkovitz, Carlin Castellano, and Jacquelin Lorraine Schofield) have no lines to speak of. About forty minutes in, after Schofield powerfully delivered “Ain’t I a Woman?” — a song about Black women’s contributions — it seemed that the other two women of the chorus would also get parts to play, but they never did. It felt unbalanced. Assisted by Music Director Gregory Nabours, Abeles and Mintzer sang with clarity and conviction. Both gave committed performances that showed the women’s tender affection for each other, and Mintzer’s slightly comic take on Anthony was notable.

Paige Berkovitz, Emily Abeles, Carlin Castellano,
Anna Mintzer, Jacquelin Lorraine Schofield

With orchestrations by Kat Sherrell, recorded music was used instead of live musicians. However, the instrumentals lacked life and dynamics. Played through speakers hanging over the audience, the audio threatened to drown out the actresses, but the balance improved throughout the performance. Too often, it felt like the recording was holding the singers back from really selling the songs. Schofield was the only one to rise above the anemic recording.

Emily Abeles, Anna Mintzer

For 90 minutes without intermission, the musical breezes through more than a half-century, and there are plenty of pleasures along the way. So many, in fact, that I sometimes wished for the show to slow down. In one jarring instance, at the start of the Civil War, 1861, Stanton and Anthony argue about the morality and utility of the war in pursuit of equal rights. Less than a minute later, they sing about the passage of the 13th Amendment in 1865.

Anna Mintzer, Emily Abeles

In the absence of a set, projected historical photos by Rick Simone were used, which is fine when on a budget, but one of the pictures was stock-photo watermarked, the short-throw projector was unevenly focused, and set designer Gregory Crafts‘ screen was wrinkled and without masking. Kay Cole‘s choreography was simple yet effective, but Schwartz’s blocking was occasionally an issue. Stanton and Anthony are often shown center stage giving speeches to the chorus, seated directly in front of them. From where I was sitting in the center of the second row, all I saw were the backs of the chorus, which blocked my view of the speakers.

Anna Mintzer

Except for the two leads, Vicki Conrad‘s costumes were frequently wrinkled. This was especially noticeable during a sprightly song about bloomers and the comfort and freedom they gave. The bright white bloomers were full of hard folding creases and wrinkles. And some of the wigs by Dylan Pass did not quite fit — when it came time for Mintzer to be gray as the aged Anthony, her wig was crooked, revealing her own dark hair.

In spite of the production’s shortcomings, the musical kept our attention throughout. This part of our past isn’t taught in school. Schwartz hopes that it goes on to play theaters all over the country. Not a bad idea.

photos by Berrie Tsang

The Right is Ours!
Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd. in Sierra Madre
Fri and Sat at 8; Sun at 2; Sat at 2 (Sep. 24, Oct 1 & 8 only)
ends on October 9, 2022
for tickets, call 626.355.4318 or visit Sierra Madre Playhouse

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Adryan Russ September 15, 2023 at 11:15 pm

Thank you, Nick McCall for your review. Great to have you there to see our show give birth. Your perspective gives us food for thought on how to get our child to adulthood.
Adryan Russ


Michael M. Landman-Karny September 18, 2023 at 12:19 pm

The wrinkles on the backdrops clearly show in the stage photos. Not a good look!


Denise Luckhurst September 21, 2023 at 12:26 pm

A few wrinkles or an off-kilter wig are minor issues. I am more concerned that this review referred to the song “Ain’t I a Woman?” as merely “a song about Black women’s contributions.” The song’s lyrics were adapted from a famous historical speech delivered by Soujourner Truth in 1851 (though I totally agree that the song was very powerfully delivered by Ms. Schofield!).


Laura Ford October 12, 2023 at 1:22 pm

The song Anna Mintzer (Susan B Anthony) sings to Elizabeth’s children about David and Goliath was one of my favorite songs, and sung beautifully, but the backdrops of the modern coloring book photos behind her were simply awful. I think overall the direction was weak and should not have been done by the writer. An opportunity to get a new show on its feet is also a chance to clean up what does and does not work in the writing. Something I’m afraid Lloyd J. Schwartz did not have the impartial prospective to do. The cast was wonderful, especially Mintzer and Abels, and the music was also very good and showed off by the beautiful voices of the leads! But the book needs work. Still it was worth the trip — if only for the music and two leads.


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