Review Roundup: 1776 Launches National Tour; What Do the Critics Think?

1776 officially opened on February 16, 2023, at the Forrest Theatre in Philadelphia, PA.

By: Mar. 08, 2023
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1776 officially opened on February 16, 2023, at the Forrest Theatre in Philadelphia, PA, and will make limited engagement stops at major cities across North America.

This production was developed and premiered by the American Repertory Theater at Harvard University before playing on Broadway with Roundabout Theatre Company at the American Airlines Theater.

The 1776 company includes Shelby Acosta (she/her) as 'Sec. Charles Thomson,' Gisela Adisa (she/her) as 'John Adams,' Nancy Anderson (she/her) as 'Thomas Jefferson,' Tiffani Barbour (she/her) as 'Andrew McNair,' Dawn Cantwell (she/her) as 'Col. Thomas McKean,' Julie Cardia (she/her) as 'Stephen Hopkins,' Amanda Dayhoff (she/her) as a Standby, Sara Gallo (she/her) as a Standby, Joanna Glushak (she/her) as 'John Dickinson,' Anissa Marie Griego (she/her) as 'Roger Sherman,' Kassandra Haddock (she/her) as 'Edward Rutledge,' Shawna Hamic (she/her) as 'Richard Henry Lee,' Lisa Karlin (she/her) as a Standby, Connor Lyon (she/her) as 'Martha Jefferson/Dr. Lyman Hall,' Liz Mikel (she/her) as 'Benjamin Franklin,' Oneika Phillips (she/her) as 'John Hancock,' Lulu Picart (she/her) as 'Samuel Chase,' Kayla Saunders (she/her) as a Standby, Ariella Serur (she/they) as 'Judge James Wilson,' Brooke Simpson (she/her) as 'the Courier,' Sav Souza (they/them) as 'Dr. Josiah Bartlett,' Lillie Eliza Thomas (she/her) as a Standby, Tieisha Thomas (she/her) as 'Abigail Adams/Rev. Jonathan Witherspoon,' Jill Marie Vallery (she/her) as 'Caesar Rodney,' Zuri Washington (she/her) as 'Robert Livingston,' Gwynne Wood (she/they) as 'George Read,' and Candice Marie Woods (they/them) as 'Joseph Hewes.'

Read the reviews below!

Philadelphia Reviews

The Philadelphia Inquirer

Chicago Reviews

Dennis Polkow, New City Stage: Not everyone will be crazy about the way that much of the music of "1776" has been rethought here. "Momma, Look Sharp" is no longer a tender ballad of loss and sacrifice but a show-stopping anti-war power anthem. "Molasses to Rum," which indicts the North for its enabling of the slave trade, is staged by having cast members auctioning off other cast members. Thought-provoking choices, to be sure.

Steven Oxman, Chicago Sun Times: The biggest numbers go to the biggest opponents of independence, with Joanna Glushak, as Dickinson, mixing comedy and earnestness in "Cool, Cool Considerate Men," and Kassandra Haddock, as slavery-defending Southerner Edward Rutledge, turning from charming to accusatory with "Molasses to Rum," the most elaborately choreographed number (by co-director Page) in a show that could use more creative movement.

With its high-concept take on Stone's effective narrative, the show overall is enjoyable if spotty. To me, this "1776" feels like a rough draft of what it ultimately wanted to be, but still has moments of bracing inspiration.

The Chicago Tribune

Des Moines Reviews

DC Felton, BroadwayWorld: The non-traditional storytelling doesn't end with the director's approach to acting. The set design by Scott Pask and projections by David Bengali work together to give a modern reimaging of Independence Hall. The set consists of pieces that can be moved around, sometimes within scenes, to provide different perspectives of the discussions onstage. The design also uses fabric drapery along the back and front, which allows for the use of projections and video that celebrates some of the conversations America has had and is still having.

Denver Reviews

John Wenzel, The Denver Post: Based on the 1969 Tony-winner, the latest version of "1776," which runs through April 2 at the Buell, feels just as socially relevant. It swaps its traditionally all-white, nearly all-male cast with a diverse group of female, transgender and nonbinary actors, whose multiracial presence relentlessly interrogates the ways in which they were cut out of the process of this country's founding.

Jon Bee, BroadwayWorld: The standout element, creatively, was the choreography by Co-Director Jeffrey L. Page. Who knew dancing could be so articulate? It was so moving and perfectly told the story Page aimed to tell accented further by the lighting design by Jen Schriever. Set Design by Scott Pask was the one creative element that seemed to take a back seat to everything else. The projections were great and a nice way to incorporate newer technology in an older show, but the base level scenic design was less impactful.

Los Angeles Reviews

Evan Henerson, BroadwayWorld: Entertaining and occasionally exciting, this 1776 most decidedly is. Foundation-rattling, not so very much. The creators can argue until they are red, white and blue in the face that theirs is not an effort to capitalize on the approach and popularity that Lin-Manuel Miranda's HAMILTON's used to such musical theater (and historical) game-changing effect. And, yes, while there is a time period overlap, this is a different story, different spin. But as we watch a Black actor (in this case Gisela Adisa) playing John Adams passionately arguing to the actor (Kassandra Haddock) portraying South Carolina delegate Edward Rutledge that people should no longer be property, the desired effect may not be what Paulus and Page intended.

Margaret Gray, Los Angeles Times: At least in terms of drama, that project starts with getting the white guys out of the picture. They might as well leave their clothes behind, though. After appearing in modern dress, the all-female-identifying, nonbinary and transgender cast members slip on frock coats, pull their white socks up to their knees and step into buckle shoes to become Colonial Americans, only deconstructed and in full color. Emilio Sosa's costume design brings "Hamilton" to mind, inevitably, as does the nontraditional casting. The process has been fraught: Shortly after the 2022 Broadway production debuted, cast member Sara Porkalob publicly criticized the musical's treatment of race and gender, especially with how the number "Molasses to Rum" transpired.

San Jose Reviews

Linda Hodges, BroadwayWorld: At base, 1776 asks us to consider what freedom and independence truly mean in the year 2023 when the rights that we've fought for and the gains we've made are being summarily stripped away, taking us back, if not to 1776 then surely to 1964, before the Voting Rights Act and to 1972 before Roe was the law of the land. LGBTQ rights and interracial marriage are also being targeted.

Lily Janiak, Datebook: The whole concept also works as a contemporary indictment. Scanning the ensemble, you can’t help but note that in nearly 250 years, Congress has never looked the way it does on this stage, and then wonder if it ever will. And as our own legislature deadlocks over the once-routine matter of raising the debt limit, “1776” looks timelier still. 

Durham Reviews

Suzanne Magnuson, Splash Magazines: What makes it so thrilling is not only the incredible ensemble singing, and new arrangements of familiar songs, but the way that the changing of the gender and the integration of the cast members allows new context to be brought to this very familiar show.  I don’t want to spoil the incredible impact these moments have on you, but listening to the arguments about why the South won’t join the new country unless they get to keep their “property” hits a lot different when it’s being said in a room that includes black and brown folks.  And this show gives you many, many moments like that.  And there are a few deliberate new additions and changes, added with the blessings of the estates of the original creators, that also bring new context to this story of our nation’s founding.

Nashville Reviews

Jeffrey Ellis, BroadwayWorld: My rather simplistic take on this “unique experiment”? Imagine walking into Jackson Hall on opening night, as I did, thinking, “Why did the directors reimagine this pleasant, if somewhat plodding, old-school musical with an ensemble of multi-ethnic women, trans and non-binary actors cast in the roles of America’s founding fathers?” Then leaving the theater after the final curtain wondering, “why on earth would anyone ever feel the need to cast the roles with men?” and reveling in the fact that 1776 tapped into my heart in unexpected ways, eliciting an emotional and, I daresay, patriotic response.

Washington, DC Reviews

David Friscic, BroadwayWorld: Racism, authoritarianism, discrimination, and hatred of “the other” still run rampant in our struggling democracy and this vigorous ensemble of artists who identify as female, trans, non-binary and nonconforming all vividly bring to life the “living human history” which is the struggle of keeping democracy alive.

Houston, TX Reviews

D.L. Groover, Houston Press: In this hot new adaptation, 1776 is thrilling in its theatricality and bold in its casting. As history, it's fairly accurate, which should make us forever grateful that these distrustful, argumentative delegates in Philadelphia created the best government in the world. That's something to sing and dance about, whatever gender you are.

Seattle, WA Reviews

Dusty Somers, The Seattle Times: In a vacuum, this version of “Molasses to Rum” is a stunningly harrowing piece of theater, but it hits especially hard because most of the rest of the show is mired in its own exercise of cognitive dissonance, layering revolutionary aesthetics over a fundamentally stodgy work. With a diverse cast of female, transgender and nonbinary actors, this revival successfully reminds us of the people who weren’t given a seat at the table in the formation of this country. Reframing “1776” at a deeper level proves difficult.


Review Roundup: 1776 Launches National Tour Photo
Review Roundup: 1776 Launches National Tour

1776 officially opened on February 16, 2023, at the Forrest Theatre in Philadelphia, PA, and will make limited engagement stops at major cities across North America. Read the reviews for 1776 on tour here!

Photos: Go Inside Opening Night of the 1776 National Tour Photo
Photos: Go Inside Opening Night of the 1776 National Tour

Get a first look at opening night red carpet photos of the new national tour of 1776!

Photos: Get a First Look at the National Tour of 1776 Photo
Photos: Get a First Look at the National Tour of 1776

Get a first look at production photos of the national tour of 1776!

Elizabeth A. Davis Welcomes Baby Girl the Day After Closing 1776 Photo
Elizabeth A. Davis Welcomes Baby Girl the Day After Closing 1776

Elizabeth A. Davis, who performed pregnant during the entire Broadway run of 1776, gave birth to a baby girl one day after the show's closing! 



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