Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
"Sideshow," an original musical from Angelo State University of Texas, Monday night opened the 10th American College Theater Festival in the Eisenhower Theater. The first winner of both the ACTF playwriting and the David Library awards, Rick Smith's salute to a forgotten vice president John Nance Garner, was repeated in this alternating series yesterday afternoon and evening.
It's nearly 40 years since anyone spoke up for Garner about his break with Franklin D. Roosevelt when the latter's third term was a 1940 campaign issue. After seeming to skirt the issue, Smith makes an interesting case for the Texan who took 30 years to rise from freshman in the House to presiding officer of the Senate.
Writing book, lyrics and music, Smith uses the device of a circus sideshow to suggest the freakish aspects of politics. It introduces Garner to Washington; Siamese twin politicians who take both sides of all questions; a congenial Republican, Ohio's Nicholas Longworth; and Ettie, Mrs. Garner. Subordinating the specific to the general, Smith doesn't seem to be getting anywhere until he reveals FDR as a realist who conceives that friendship are deadweights in the race for greatness.
History has forgotten this clash. Perceiving its drama and lasting pertinency, Smith grasps it, though I wished he'd have come to the conflict sooner and more sharply. Though the songs suggest he's watched a thousand midnight movies, several of them are swinging, apt or touching.
Brent Scott is immensely awareness under buffon geniality, and Craig Torrence is amusingly sly as FDR. In one of composer Smith's best songs "The Second Oldest Living Human Being" Carlton Smith has a zany triumph and Larry Brown's music direction is skillful.
From the stage executive director Martin Feinstein and producing director David Young welcomed an audience that included two veteran Texas congressmen, Reps. George H. Mahon (D) and J. J. (Jake) Pickle (D) and Arts Endowment Chairman Livingston Biddle.