1776: The Musical is among the most treasured historical musicals ever created. This musical is a love letter to the Declaration of Independence that doesn’t shy away from its ironies. If Hamilton comes into mind when hearing this, 1776 is one of its inspirations and predecessors. This musical opened the door for other historical musicals to flourish and is worthy of continuous celebration through different generations. As modern society progresses to have inclusivity and diversity, this musical is revived to cater to such changes. Similar to Hamilton, this musical is a “story of America then told by America now.” The American Airlines Theatre lets you experience this soaring musical. This is worth seeing!
“1776 IS INDESTRUCTIBLE.” — TheaterMania
“This “1776” pulsates with energy, snaps with attitude, and enlivens history.” — Variety
Several American Revolution musicals were created during the early 20th century, including “Dearest Enemy” (1925) and “Arms and the Girl” (1950). In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Sherman Edwards, a writer of pop songs, spent several years developing lyrics and libretto for a musical based on the signing of the Declaration of Independence. “I wanted to show [the founding fathers] at their outermost limits. These men were the cream of their colonies. … They disagreed and fought with each other. But they understood commitment, and though they fought, they fought affirmatively,” Edwards imparted in an interview. To do this, he made sure not to glorify the founding fathers and portrayed them with rawness. To refine the story, he collaborated with librettist Peter Stone (co-writer of the Audrey Hepburn film Charade) on the musical’s book.
The story revolves around John Adams, the outspoken Massachusetts delegate who sought to persuade all 13 colonies to vote for independence. Difficulties arose when no one listened to him. To convince everyone, he approached Thomas Jefferson to write a Declaration, who was a skillful writer. However, Jefferson was reluctant to do the work at first. Complications and conflicts took place afterward, and they scrambled to push through such a crucial historical document.
Act 1 tells course of the votation about the proposal of independence. As the story progresses, Act 2 recounts the revision and signing of the document. Overall, the musical focuses almost exclusively on Independence Hall and the delegates’ debate.
Unlike other historical plays that portray the founding fathers, 1776 is praised for not shying away from pressing issues during the period. In his Washington Post article, writer Zachary Clary praised the musical for not shying away from showing the “centrality of slavery to White Americans’ wealth, power and freedom.” The play may not have portrayed the founding fathers perfectly, but it did tackle necessary issues like racism and slavery head-on with more passion than was mustered by even liberal White chroniclers of early America at the time. A villain in “1776,” Edward Rutledge was a South Carolina delegate to the Continental Congress who revealed the crucial role slavery played in the early American economy. In general, 1776 was able to present important issues, including the apparent conflict between the assertion of fundamental human equality and the promise of the economic benefit of slavery. Thus, it does not romanticize the period, giving it more depth and meaning.
“A WIN FOR LIFE AND LIBERTY!” — Entertainment Weekly
The original Broadway production of 1776 came into fruition in 1969 at the 46th Street Theatre, now known as the Richard Rodgers Theatre. It ran there for three years and closed after 1,217 performances. In 1972, its film adaptation came out and was a box office hit. During the 1969 Tony Awards, the musical bagged three awards, including the most coveted “Best Musical” award.
In 1997, a Broadway revival premiered by the Roundabout Theatre Company. After 333 performances and 34 previews, it closed in June 1998. This production won the Drama Desk Award for “Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical” for Gregg Edelman’s performance as Edward Rutledge.
In 2020, another revival was developed under the direction of Diane Paulus. Unlike its predecessors, this production features a female, trans, and non-binary cast. This non-traditional casting was from Paulus’s desire to leap, showcasing the relevance of the musical’s story. “Now you’re going to watch this cast, literally and metaphorically, step into the shoes of the Founding Fathers and … enact this history,” Paulus said in an NPR interview. Although the script remains the same, the staging, musical arrangements, and choreography have been reimagined. In 2023, this production will commence a national tour that will visit 16 cities. As of this writing, the musical will be presented at the American Airlines Theatre.
“A revival of the musical about the Declaration of Independence underlines the gender imbalance among the Founding Fathers.” — The New York Times
This thrilling and energetic musical is as alive as ever in its newest production. The show runs beginning on September 16, 2022 to January 8, 2023. Witness it at the American Airlines Theatre in New York City. An outstanding performance from the all-female, trans, and non-binary cast will be expected. The cast includes Gisela Adisa as Robert Livingston of New York, Nancy Anderson as George Read of Delaware, Carolee Carmello as John Dickinson of Pennsylvania, Allyson Kaye Daniel as Abigail Adams, and Rev. Jonathan Witherspoon of New Jersey, Elizabeth A. Davis as Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, LeCroy as Martha Jefferson and Dr. Lyman Hall of Georgia, Kristolyn Lloyd as John Adams of Massachusetts, Liz Mikel as John Hancock (President of the Congress), Patrena Murray as Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania and many more.