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Review Roundup: Broadway-Bound 1776 at A.R.T.; What Did the Critics Think?

Review Roundup: Broadway-Bound 1776 at A.R.T.; What Did the Critics Think?

Following its premiere at A.R.T., 1776 will begin performances in September 2022 at Roundabout's American Airlines Theatre.

The Broadway-bound production of 1776 began performances last month at American Repertory Theater at Harvard University. Jeffrey L. Page and A.R.T. Terrie and Bradley Bloom Artistic Director Diane Paulus direct a new production of the Tony Award-winning musical, reexamining this pivotal moment in American history with a cast that reflects multiple representations of race, gender, and ethnicity.

The A.R.T./Roundabout Theatre Company revival of 1776 plays through Sunday, July 24. Following its premiere at A.R.T., 1776 will begin performances in September 2022 at Roundabout's American Airlines Theatre in New York City before embarking on a 16-city national tour in February 2023.

They knew they would make history, but not what history would make of them. Fed up with living under the tyranny of British rule, John Adams attempts to persuade his fellow members of the Continental Congress to vote in favor of American Independence and sign the Declaration. But how much is he willing to compromise in the pursuit of freedom? And who does that freedom belong to?

Let's see what the critics are saying...

Bob Verini, Variety: This wide-open casting policy, to which "Hamilton" cracked open the door, is no stunt. Beyond offering prodigious talents some juicy roles traditionally closed to them (and inviting contemplation of other opportunities a boys'-club theater has jealously kept to itself), it instantly alienates us from any illusion that these characters are The Real Thing. Critics of "1776" have always argued that its efforts at realism are silly anyhow, with all the warbling and prancing going on. By setting aside verisimilitude, the production is freed up to contextualize the Continental Congress's machinations through their consequences over the ensuing 200 years.

Don Aucoin, The Boston Globe: Peter Stone's libretto is sturdy and sometimes witty but mighty talky. It dramatizes the debate among delegates to the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia in 1776 on whether the colonies should break away from Great Britain, with Massachusetts delegate John Adams (Crystal Lucas-Perry) a prickly and forceful proponent of independence. There are less-than-compelling stretches in "1776″ when delegates are lobbing barbs at one another while seated at their desks.

David Greenham, The Arts Fuse: Somewhere along the way the creative team driving this revival has lost sight of the story they're supposed to be telling. The production comes off as increasingly choppy. The original Stone/Edwards material is far from perfect. But the narrative's objectives were crystal clear. Page and Paulus are not sure how much spin they want to put on the material. Too critical for Broadway? Not critical enough? The result is that the musical's elemental through line is lost.

Jacquinn Sinclair, WBUR: Crystal Lucas-Perry leads an extraordinarily talented cast as the intrepid John Adams, who is the obnoxious, unliked Massachusetts congressman. Virginia's self-aggrandizing Richard Henry Lee (Shawna Hamic) - who is eager to sway other members of Congress in the fight for independence from England - is a delight to watch with her Southern drawl and charm in "The Lees of Old Virginia." The superb acting of Patrena Murray as Benjamin Franklin, and Becca Ayers, who is incredibly funny as Thomas McKean, adds to the show's pull. A band with keys, percussion and strings rounds out the show with grand accompaniment.

Erik Bailey, BroadwayWorld: The cast is led by Crystal Lucas-Perry who plays a commanding John Adams. Her voice is powerful and fills the room with every note sung. However, her Adams could stand to be more "obnoxious." The entire cast of this show works remarkably well together, truly making it an ensemble piece. No one faded to the back and everyone gave marvelous performances. The biggest stand out of the night was Shawna Hamic in the role of Richard Henry Lee. Her performance of "The Lees of Old Virginia" stopped the show before it even got moving. Her Lee was full of energy and humor.

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