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Onstage: 1776

By Mark Sterner · February 9th, 2009 · CityBeat Recommends

1776 isn't your typical Broadway musical. It’s a re-enactment of the Second Continental Congress in the days leading up to the severing of the formal ties between the U.S. and Great Britain. The cast is comprised of historical characters such as John Adams and Ben Franklin as well as a chorus of lesser-known people.

Composer-lyricist Sherman Edwards, a New York City high school history teacher, brings this unique take on the founding fathers to life complete with singing, dancing and much joking around, but he retains enough insight and intensity to make it strangely compelling.

It’s not an easy show to pull off.

Written primarily in short segments, private wish-fulfillment scenes take place among the major characters and some long-winded debates within the congress itself. Thus when Adams privately loses faith in the ability of congress members to act, he meets Franklin behind the scenes, who proposes that the politically correct thing would be to get a Virginian to come up with a proposal for independence — cuing in the excitable Richard Henry Lee and the rollicking song-and-dance number “The Lees of Old Virginia.”

Wednesday-Sunday through Feb. 21 at the Stained Glass Theatre in Newport. Read Mark Sterner's full review of the play here.



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