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Review Roundup: 1776 Opens On Broadway- Critics Weigh In!

Review Roundup: 1776 Opens On Broadway- Critics Weigh In!

This is a limited engagement through Sunday, January 8, 2023 at Roundabout's American Airlines Theatre.

Roundabout Theatre Company and the American Repertory Theater's new Broadway production of 1776, directed by Jeffrey L. Page and Diane Paulus, opens officially tonight, October 6, 2022. This is a limited engagement through Sunday, January 8, 2023 at Roundabout's American Airlines Theatre on Broadway (227 West 42nd Street). Read the reviews!

The cast of 1776 includes (in order of appearance) Crystal Lucas-Perry as "John Adams," Gisela Adisa as "Robert Livingston," Nancy Anderson as "George Read," Becca Ayers as "Col. Thomas McKean," Tiffani Barbour as "Andrew McNair," Carolee Carmello as "John Dickinson," Allyson Kaye Daniel as "Abigail Adams/Rev. Jonathan Witherspoon," Elizabeth A. Davis as "Thomas Jefferson," Mehry Eslaminia as "Charles Thomson," Joanna Glushak as "Stephen Hopkins," Shawna Hamic as "Richard Henry Lee," Eryn LeCroy as "Martha Jefferson/Dr. Lyman Hall," Liz Mikel as "John Hancock," Patrena Murray as "Benjamin Franklin," Oneika Phillips as "Joseph Hewes," Lulu Picart as "Samuel Chase," Sara Porkalob as "Edward Rutledge," Sushma Saha as "Judge James Wilson," Brooke Simpson as "Roger Sherman," Salome B. Smith as "Courier," Sav Souza as "Dr. Josiah Bartlett," Jill Vallery as "Caesar Rodney," and Shelby Acosta, Ariella Serur, Grace Stockdale, Dawn L. Troupe and Imani Pearl Williams as Standbys.

The cast includes multiple representations of race, ethnicity, and gender; they identify as female, transgender and nonbinary.


Jesse Green, The New York Times: Underlining one's progressiveness a thousand times, as this "1776" does, will not actually convey it better; rather it turns characters into cutouts and distracts from the ideas it means to promote. The musical even shows us that. It's only when Adams stops yelling and starts plotting that he begins to turn the tide toward ratification. Just so, theater makers should have enough faith in the principles of equity and diversity to let them speak for themselves. Are they not, as someone once put it, self-evident?

Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly: At nearly three hours with intermission, the machinations of the last days leading up to July 4 begins to drag, unhurriedly circling the inevitability of that final, deathless Declaration. What colors and fills up the room is the vibrant, gifted cast, many of them making their Broadway or even theatrical debut: a mild loss for historical accuracy, maybe, but a bigger win for life and liberty, created equally. Grade: B+

Alexis Soloski, The Guardian: The joys of this production are Stone's vibrant book and the fun of seeing the cast play their way through it. Lucas-Perry is a dynamic Adams, Murray sports with the gouty Franklin. Carolee Carmello has swagger for days as John Dickinson, Adams's chief antagonist. If Elizabeth A Davis's Thomas Jefferson feels somewhat removed and empty, Jefferson was described as the American sphinx, so she may be responding to that. Page generates some nice moments, too, as with some under-the-table choreography for the congressmen's feet. But this conception offers something less than a full-throated revival of this musical, if indeed this musical needs to be revived at all. It has remembered the ladies. But it can't make them live.

Kelsy Chauvin, Queerty: The concept of Paulus and Page's 1776 is thrilling: to behold a diverse company portraying a story that's literally about the ideals and principles of white-cis-male politicians. From the opening curtain, anticipation runs high for a mind-blowing or at least inspiring show - probably, in part, due to the success of Hamilton and the sparse, dramatic, and surprisingly bloody 2019 revival of Oklahoma! But in reality, the onstage talent runs much hotter than the book, music and lyrics, and choreography can sustain. Led by Crystal Lucas-Perry in the lead role of earnest John Adams, along with Patrena Murray as feisty Benjamin Franklin, and two dozen other players representing the signers of the Declaration of Independence, 1776 rarely moves beyond the practical matters printed in our dusty history books to reach - or reveal - new territory.

James Frankie Thomas, Vulture: It wins you over in minutes. Though I spent the opening number puzzling over what the nontraditional casting was doing for the show - what statement it was making, how literally we were meant to interpret it, whether it was working too hard against the text - I soon ceased to notice it at all. The talent level is so high that the casting feels less conceptual and more incidental. Led by the charismatic Crystal Lucas-Perry as John Adams, the ensemble cast is a thrilling mix of Broadway veterans (including Carolee Carmello, resplendent in villain mode as John Dickinson) and newcomers. My favorites - it's the kind of show that encourages you to pick favorites - were Shawna Hamic, bombastic as Richard Henry Lee, Brooke Simpson, sparkly and adorable as Roger Sherman, and Patrena Murray, whose wry, understated performance as Benjamin Franklin feels definitive. But the shared energy and chemistry transcend any individual performance, and under the direction of Page and Paulus, everyone onstage seems to be having the time of their life.

Peter Marks, The Washington Post: The remarkable revival of "1776," cast entirely with female, transgender and nonbinary actors, is not as much about the pronouns as it is about a verb. Because the delightful ensemble owns the script and score of this 1969 musical as if the story of the signing of the Declaration of Independence were written explicitly about them. That sense of new ownership joyfully pervades this splendid production, which opened officially Thursday night at Broadway's American Airlines Theatre. Directors Jeffrey Page and Diane Paulus adhere to the philosophy of "Hamilton's" Lin-Manuel Miranda, the founding father of the proposition that all men (and women and trans and nonbinary people) are created equal when it comes to serenading us about the birth of the country.

Charles Isherwood, The Wall Street Journal: I'll admit to some worry that the radical casting would prove a distraction from the musical itself, which boasts a fine score, by Sherman Edwards, and a book, by Peter Stone, that ranks as one of the wittiest and most eloquent ever written for a Broadway musical. But the committed and engaging performances of the cast, and the astute, focused direction, won me over quickly. This "1776" is disarmingly odd, occasionally thought-provoking and an absolute delight.

Tim Teeman, The Daily Beast: The Broadway revival of the Tony-winning "1776" is best as a fascinating history lesson, and at its most dragging when the mostly-not-all unmemorable songs take us away from that.

Greg Evans, Deadline: But at its best, the Roundabout's production of 1776, opening tonight at the American Airlines Theatre, shakes off any undue weight of expectation, treating the audience to classic musical theater songs sung by voices that have never before been given access. That alone makes up for any shortcomings, notably in the acting of some of the smaller roles.

Adam Feldman, Time Out New York: 1776 succeeds where it counts: It sustains a sense of suspense about events whose outcome we know going in. You leave the production newly amazed by the radical contingency of history as we know it-how close it came to falling out differently, and what it cost to get there-and the prospect feels at once scary and freeing. The spirit of '76 still haunts America, for better and for worse. Who will step forward to channel it?

Matt Windman, AMNY: I admire the considerable thought and enterprise that went into creating this production, while still finding to be overwhelmingly problematic and frustrating, especially in the over-the-top manner that many songs have been reconceived. It is full of provocative images and questionable choices that are worthy of extended analysis and debate.

Frank Rizzo, Variety: Co-directors Diane Paulus and Jeffrey L. Page apply a bold Brechtian brush to this picture with its casting, staging, musical arrangements and design. Without changing the narrative, it adds layers of context that offer further shadings to the musical, even though at times the results are somewhat crude, clunky or overdone.

Jonathan Mandell, New York Theater: The "1776" revival has a minimalist design on a muted theme of Americana; the curtain suggests faded fragments of the red, white and blue - as if shying away from overt patriotism. Yet the show retains all 13 of Sherman Edwards' original, often bright and tuneful songs from the 1969 production, and also most of the sometimes goofy humor. At the same time, it makes some half dozen changes that sometimes provide a fresh perspective; most often offer a new emphasis on what's always been the strongest aspects of the musical; and only occasionally go too far.

Brian Scott Lipton, Cititour: One can quibble about many other things in this production - can anyone adequately explain the meaning of set designer Scott Pask's final image - but there's no question that "1776" speaks loudly and clearly to audiences in 2022.

Steven Suskin, New York Stage Review: Countering these assets is the staging. Nuance and subtlety have been discarded in favor of a brash, bold, hit-'em-on-the-head presentation. 1776 was written as a protest musical mixing a strong anti-Vietnam message with a bitter view of then-President Nixon and his administration, the successful implementation of which contributed to the musical's resounding success. "Momma Look Sharp," an outspoken folk-tinged pacifist dirge which stands out as a quiet change-of-pace moment in this relatively explosive musical, is here handed over to a stage full of black-cloaked, keening mothers. Effective? Kind of- but more effective than the authors' image of a lonely corpse lying forgotten in the tall grass in the meadow by the red maple tree?

Chris Jones, The New York Daily News: In short, then, you have a revival that wants both to revive the material and blow it up, even though "1776″ hardly was a crude work of musical triumphalism. Sure, "1776″ is problematic, not unlike most cultural entities from 1969, but if that it was it wanted to foreground, the production needed to have better sense of the irony of bringing it back to our attention. As distinct, say, from supporting a new musical by people of color about the complexities of American history.

Robert Hofler, The Wrap: John Adams may be the biggest bore ever to be the lead character in an American musical stage. He and others keep telling us what an insufferable pedant he is. Here, Crystal Lucas-Perry plays him as straight and humorless as any male actor ever has. Beyond the nontraditional casting, there's nothing very revolutionary about this lackluster "1776."

Elysa Gardner, The Sun: For starters, "1776" was, and remains, kinder to Adams than Lin-Manuel Miranda's blockbuster, which pretty much reduced our second president and this show's protagonist to a punchline. Like Mr. Miranda, though, co-directors Mr. Page and Ms. Paulus promote inclusivity not through finger-wagging but with a generous, uplifting spirit, and Stone and Edwards have left them the perfect vehicle for that mission.

Michael Musto, The Village Voice: Despite the occasional A for effort moments, the production still clocks in as a potent revival-something not easy to pull off, considering that the show has a lengthy Act One section where independence is discussed in the Congressional chamber and the politicos have the nerve not to bother to sing or dance at all! The sets are relatively uninspired (especially what looks like a big shower curtain with flag images on it, plus the humdrum-looking desks at Independence Hall), and the sudden use of contemporary activism videos at one point in Act II is jarring, but again, what propels this production is a bold willingness to take chances-and believe me, it resonates.

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