How can you not watch “1776” on the 4th of July holiday? It’s like not watching “A Christmas Story” or “It’s a Wonderful Life” on Christmas Eve!
Things were not going well in Philadelphia in the midsummer of 1776. John Adams had managed to annoy the entire Continental Congress and frequent dispatches from General Washington did not make things go any easier. In the 3 weeks leading up to the signing, backdoor politics, deal making, backstabbing and plain old self serving egos, almost got in the way of Independance.
“1776” was a Broadway musical before being turned into the film and many of the stars from the boards took to the movie set to complete the project. Since musicals are an entirely American form of theater, it is only fitting that the story of the beginning was set to music. Melody wise there are not the blockbusters of Oklahoma, Sound of Music, or South Pacific, but the lyrics are smart and funny and in many cases carry a very pronounced double entendre. “1776” has the dubious honor of having the longest spoken script between musical numbers ever for a Broadway play. Watch as Adams, Franklin and Jefferson wait like new fathers for the new nation to be born….
There is no lack of romance or poignancy either…both Abigail Adams and Martha Jefferson figure prominently in the story line, although the storyline that brings Martha to visit Thomas is fictionalized because we know from contemporary writing that Martha stayed in Virginia that summer after having suffered a miscarriage.
As we all know the story percolates along with troubles and conflicts being solved in draft after draft. Finally however the results come down to the question of slavery and we see the talented Mr. Rutledge, played on stage and in the movie by John Cullum (Northern Exposure, The Middle) remind all the gentlemen of money and influence in the room, that absolutely no one, no one is free of guilt in the ongoing slave triangle.
Finally, every draft is agreed upon and we see the “Miracle in Philadelphia”..
The Hubs and I have a special fondness for this musical as he portrayed John Hancock in 2005 in the Concord Players production of “1776”. I saw so many rehearsals and ran lines so many times with him, that I knew the script as well as the cast….