A New Era for "1776"

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The cast of 1776 To prepare myself for  "1776: The Musical," I listened to the 1969 original Broadway Cast recording. Then, I watched the 1972 movie adaptation starring William Daniels as John Adams.

I was not prepared.

"1776" tells the story of America's founding fathers as they debated declaring independence from Great Britain during the Revolutionary War. The story takes in Philadelphia during a sweltering June and July of 1776. Delegates represent all thirteen colonies, but the story focuses on John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson. 

The original production was good enough to win the 1969 Tony Award for Best Musical (it beat out "Hair" for the award) but lacked the staying power of other award winners. The performances on the soundtrack and in the film version were good but never great. However, the subject matter remains a fascinating topic. Numerous historians have analyzed how America became the first set of colonies to break away from its parent nation. The struggles of the young nation to find an identity is worth investigating.

Directors Jeffrey L. Page and Diane Paulus took the play to another level. They reimagined the founding fathers as women - often women of color. Only two minor characters in the play are female. Abigail Adams and Martha Jefferson were wives of statesmen, and their parts in the script were minor. But the actors portraying the men on stage were either female, trans, or non-binary. This casting brought a renewed energy to the performance. The ladies consistently referred to one another as "sir" and "he" and "him," despite the fact they were addressing actresses. 

The current production of "1776" breathed new life into a play that had begun to show its age.