Review Roundup: Critics Sound Off On 1776 THE MUSICAL at La Mirada
Following the La Mirada Theatre engagement, 1776 THE MUSICAL transfers to the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts (The Soraya) at CSUN for four performances Friday, February 8 through Sunday, February 10.
Before Hamilton, there was 1776 THE MUSICAL, the electrifying musical about the founding of America. Featuring a thrilling cast, this Tony Award-winning smash begins with a deadlocked Congress - sound familiar? Its attempts to adopt the Declaration of Independence are boiling over in heated confrontations. Spoiler alert: by the evening of
July 2nd, the two sides are still miles apart!
But remarkably, these contentious Founding Fathers harness their shared determination to do the right thing for a fledgling nation. See how they get it done! Engaging, tuneful, witty and passionate, this Broadway musical shows us the likes of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson as we've never seen them before - with humor and humanity. Irreverent and topical, 1776 THE MUSICAL is the musical that celebrates what truly made America great...in the first place.
Let's see what the critics have to say!
Stage and Cinema, Tony Frankel: The "obnoxious and disliked" John Adams (the likable and stirring Andy Umberger) and Ben Franklin (in a non-literal yet endearing portrayal by Peter Van Norden) are having trouble getting a discussion on Independence off the ground, so they coerce Richard Henry Lee (a high-flyin' Michael Starr) to propose a vote on independence from Britain. Later, when a proposal to suspend discussion on independence is narrowly defeated, it leads to a walking-stick fight between Adams and Philadelphia's John Dickinson (Michael Stone Forrest, played with cool and stately provocation). A committee to write a declaration of independence is created and must deliver the document three weeks hence. Thomas Jefferson (Caleb Shaw) is selected by default in the delightful number, "But, Mr. Adams."
Dany Margolies, Whittier Daily News: Theatergoers may wonder why James Barbour, a superstar in any other production, would sit onstage with 23 other men, disappearing into the scenery for most of this musical. It's probably because he gets to play Rutledge, singing his showstopping "Molasses and Rum." It demands a huge, powerful range. It demands big acting and flamboyant vocals. And Barbour delivers and stops the show, though bookwriter Stone and director Casale wisely keep things moving by immediately sweeping Barbour off the stage. Unfortunately, otherwise, Barbour seems utterly bored.
Patrick Chavis, The Orange Curtain: There is a good balance between serious songs and fun, playful songs. One that really stands out among the pack of songs with a very serious message is "Molasses to Rum." "Molasses to Rum" is a song about the Triangle Slave Trade. Edward Rutledge, the representative from South Carolina played by James Barbour, sings about the hypocrisy of the north. What hypocrisy you may ask? Even though they didn't have slaves (at least not to the extent of southerners), northern colonies did profit from the slave trade and participated in some of the most dehumanizing practices.
Eric A. Gordon, People's World: A few other standout members of the current cast include Andy Umberger as John Adams from Massachusetts, the leading advocate for independence, Caleb Shaw as the blueblood Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, James Barbour as Edward Rutledge of South Carolina, and Teri Bibb as Abigail Adams and Ellie Wyman as Martha Jefferson. Unlike Hamilton, which was intentionally cast with non-Caucasian performers, this traditional 1776 has only one person or color in any named role.