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1776 THE MUSICAL, (A Review)
Michael J. Herman  -- Mr. Motivation -- The World's Biggest Motivational Force Michael J. Herman -- Mr. Motivation -- The World's Biggest Motivational Force
Granada Hills, CA
Friday, April 28, 2023


By Michael J. Herman Executive Editor/Entertainment Beat

A romping, good time.

A musical extravaganza.

A veritable Slice of American Pie wrapped up in song and dance. Your toe will not stop tapping and you will find yourself (as I did) singing out loud with every musical number.

The common thread is they describe 1776, the new musical that opened last week at The Ahmanson Theater in Downtown Los Angeles. More than a musical, 1776 revives the spirit of the 1972 feature film by the same name penned by Peter Stone and directed by Peter Hunt.


The film recollects the musically fictionalized facts surrounding the writing and signing of the American Declaration of Independence. From opening curtain to its conclusion, the show is riveting. Beyond educational, it's inspiring.

However, this interpretation is new. Besides hosting a cast of women, transgender, and nonbinary actors in traditionally understood male roles, the cast is as diverse as a tossed salad. Tall, short, fat, thin, young, old, Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, and whoever else was tossed into the mix. It stands as a resounding testament to the talent that is waiting in the power of multicultural and multi-racial casting. Beyond that, it testifies to the quality of the script.

Its importance as a production exceeds the usual value of theater. In a time of extreme social intolerance, and intellectual schism nationwide, 1776 ignites the badly needed patriotism this country so desperately needs.

When peoples of every race and gender can come together to wave a flag and stomp their feet, or sing a song to shout about ­­­ our great country, we as a people move closer to healing the divides that separate us. The irony though cannot be overlooked that the actors on stage would not have had that luxury at the time when the play takes place. While women were held higher than property, Blacks and other minorities were not. In this regard the show is a triumph.

Donald Gordon, the president of the MLK Committee once said: "There are more things that unite us than divide us." The current run of 1776 indubitably proves his thesis.

The musical arrangements and orchestrations were outstanding bringing the packed house to a climactic crescendo. The vocals were quite excellent, as well.

However, this is not a whitewash review. I had specific issues with the performance.

*The stage direction was poorly executed and needs improvement if it is to sustain a long run before live audiences.

Off Broadway definitely, but Broadway, I'm not sure.

Throughout the performance I found myself craning my neck to see who was hiding stage right behind the pillars and the curtains that hide the wings? I heard disembodied voices at crucial moments not knowing from where they were emanating? I noticed this also to be true stage left.

Normally good seats even in the front row were denied significant portions of the performances by actors hiding in blind spots. For me this was a major faux pas that should have been worked out well before Opening Night. If you're singing, dancing, or acting on stage, then come out on stage. This isn't Macbeth. I can listen to the soundtrack if I can't see you live.

*Most of the cast was unquestionably outstanding as singers and even actors, but others were not of equal strata. Ben Franklin (Candice Marie Woods), John Adams (Gisela Adisa) and Stephen Hopkins *Julie Cardia) were superb and it's no exaggeration to observe that Franklin and Stephen Hopkins (carried most of the show. Many of the performances were quite good and yet, the ones that were weaker, (much weaker) should not have shared the stage.

I could complain how with the budget a production like this carries, the staging, i.e., sets, backdrops, props, scenery, and transitions were, well… inadequate. The most elaborate sets were 3 large tables representing Independence Hall. Perhaps due to Opening Night Jitters, lines were swallowed and stepped on on a fairly consistent basis, and midway through the play a digital slide projection was used and used well, but thrown in without context.

It was reintroduced without explanation towards the end of the evening. Using this technique could have proved significantly powerful in conveying the horrors of war and the ravages of sacrifice.

On a very personal note, the actress who played Thomas Jefferson (Nancy Anderson)  was probably no more than 5' 4" whereas Thomas Jefferson stood more than 6' 2". She was clearly cast for her red hair and not her stage presence, singing, or dancing chops. I do believe there are more talented redheads in Musical Theater who could have filled the role.

Perhaps my biggest gripe is the choreography. It was amateurish and at points laughable. It seemed to me to be choreographed by a high school theater student.

With the complaints I have about 1776, it is still a great time at the theater. The Ahmanson is one of Los Angeles' premier and venues and seeing a musical like 1776 makes me excited for the coming of the July 4th Holiday.

1776 runs through May 7, 2023. Tickets start at $27. Curtain is at 8:00 PM.

Michael J. Herman covers Entertainment and Business for Luxury Media Group. You can follow his editorial @michaeljhermasn and on Substack.

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