A DUAL CRITICS REVIEW
Jacksonville’s Alhambra Theatre opened the Tony Award-winning musical “1776” on October 17, which will continue through November 18, 2018. The theatre is located at 12000 Beach Boulevard in Jacksonville, Florida. Visit alhambrajax.com or call 904-641-1212 for reservations.
The Alhambra’s timing for staging the production is notable, since our country is involved in mid-term elections which include extensive coverage of all things political by our newspapers and television commentators.
This 1969 musical by Sherman Edwards and Peter Stone is about the drafting, acceptance and signing of the Declaration of Independence, the cornerstone of our liberty. Director Tod Booth has a solid well-chosen cast of 25 to bring the story to life with factual characters, memorable songs, and lively wit.
The story takes us back to, of course, 1776, when delegates from the thirteen existing states met as the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia in the Pennsylvania State House during a sweltering summer. Their purpose was to formalize the union of the states and their separation from Great Britain. Many theatergoers will see the play as a sizzling recreation of our American heritage, which they learned about in less-lively history classes. And younger members of the audience will marvel at the period costumes, (brilliantly selected by the Costume Crew).
The Congressional leaders and the principals in the musical were John Adams from Massachusetts and his opponents. Adams was portrayed by Kevin Anderson, who has an extensive resume which includes Broadway, West End, television, and film productions. To the audience, Adams is marvelous; the delegates view him as obnoxious and disliked. He teams up with the chatty and amusing Ben Franklin (Mark Poppleton) to convince reluctant delegates to come to a unanimous agreement.
Adams has two principal opponents. Edward Rutledge of South Carolina (Andrew LeJeune) wouldn’t support an early draft of declaration until anti-slavery language was removed, while John Dickinson of Pennsylvania (Alexander Molina) objected to a reference to King George as a tyrant.
Though they make only two appearances, the two women in the cast are striking in both looks and songs. Did Martha Jefferson (Nicole Coffaro) cure the writer’s block experienced by her husband Thomas (Jake Delaney) with a song or with a night of passion? Abigail Adams (Katie Nettle) pops in to sing about her husband John in “He plays the Violin.”
Some of the songs are sad and moving including “Momma Look Sharp” by Rodney Holmes as the courier, and “Molasses to Rum” by Rutledge. Others are humorous. For example “For God’s Sake, John Sit Down” is an admonishment from the participants to Adams, “Piddle, Twiddle, & Resolve” is his response. The most amusing of the musical numbers was “The Egg,” related to the choice of the eagle as a national symbol. And although the musical is better known for its patriotic portrayal rather than its music, it did beat “Hair” for the 1969 Tony Award.
John Adams – Kevin Anderson
John Dickinson – Alexander Molina
Benjamin Franklin – MarkPoppleton
Thomas Jefferson –Jake Delancy
Edward Rutledge – Andrew LeJeune
John Hancock –Kurt McCall
Dr. Josiah Bartlett – Richard Magyar
Stephen Hopkins – Robin Keith
Roger Sherman – Alex Canty
Lewis Morris – Alec Hadden
Robert Livingston – Thomas Knightingle
Rev. Jonathan Witherspoon – Neal Thornburn
James Wilson – David Gowan
Caesar Rodney-Kevin Roberts
Col. Thomas McKean – Mitchell McCollum
George Read – Joey Swift
Samuel Chase – Lee Hamby
Richard Henry Lee –Travis Gerald Young
Joseph Hewes – Luke Holt
Dr. Lyman Hall –Tom Bengston
Charles Thomsom – Bryce Cofield
Andrew McNair – Kenneth Uibel
The production staff included Tod Booth (Producer/Director), Shain Stroff (Choreographer/ Stage Manager), Cathy Murphy Giddens (Musical Director), Dave Dionne & Ian Black (Set Designers), Pattie Eyler (Properties.)
You may have heard that “Hamilton,” another historical musical, recently won a Tony. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton,” which was inspired by “1776” will be coming to Jacksonville in 2020 as part of FSCJ’s Artist Series and the Alhambra’s “1776” is a perfect prelude to your historical musical theatre adventures. Don’t miss it.