The exciting new version of 1776 at the Ahmanson Theatre from April 11 to May 7, 2023 is a re-birth of the original 1969 Tony Award winning show. It does not suffer through time but is enhanced under the capable and intelligent Direction of Jeffrey L. Page and Diane Paulus and the brilliant cast which brings a powerful edgy intensity and revelation to this new version. The original music, lyrics and concept by Sherman Edwards with book by Peter Stone, is amplified by casting multiracial females, transgender, and nonbinary actors. This decision has created an energy that attacks the material full on and reins in our collective consciousness far after the curtain goes down. It brings home the incredible drama that was to be the final decision that has echoed down through American history. There is no better way to examine that than putting it in the hands of those left out of the process, an aspect John Trumbull’s classic painting of the signing of the Declaration of Independence could never show.

Jeffrey L. Page

Jeffrey L. Page – Photo courtesy of the artist

Page’s choreography is not just steps but designs that impact and enhance each moment. The power of the staging along with the sensational costume designs by Emilio Sosa begin with a “reveal.”  All performers in White shirts, and black nickers, roll up their knee-high stockings, and together they don their buckled shoes, and multi colored Frock Coats of silks and velvets, lining up in proud defiance of their cause. The characters all breath and move in tandem under the luminescent lighting by the excellent Jennifer Schriever.

Paulus and Page’s direction takes in the dynamics between characters, weaving each individual with the other, and making personal their heightened intentions throughout. With that guidance, there are highlights of the show that need mentioning which has allowed us to finally feel the difference and be reminded of how life-changing this moment in 1776 actually was as it rings out in the present time.

The National Tour Cast of “1776.” Photo by Joan Marcus

The National Tour Cast of “1776.” Photo by Joan Marcus

Heading the cast is the tireless Gisela Adisa playing the Irascible John Adams who carries out the unrelenting plight both resisting and accepting the sage advice of the commanding Liz Mikel’s Ben Franklin. They are the through-line that helps tie together the difficult task of Thomas Jefferson’s written draft of the Declaration of Independence, eloquently played by Nancy Anderson.

Gisela Adisa as John Adams, Nancy Anderson as Thomas Jefferson, and Liz Mikel as Benjamin Franklin in “1776.” Photo by Joan Marcus

Gisela Adisa as John Adams, Nancy Anderson as Thomas Jefferson, and Liz Mikel as Benjamin Franklin in “1776.” Photo by Joan Marcus

The amazingly covered violence set free by Kassandra Haddock’s outstanding turn-around as the fine gentleman of South Carolina, Edward Rutledge, which explodes in Molasses to Rum.

Joanna Glushak’s intractable presence as John Dickinson of Pennsylvania, head of the Tory faction, creates powerful prominence making sure no one wanders away from that control.

A truly poignant and Gut-wrenching Mamma look Sharp by Brooke Simpson and the mighty cast allows us to feel what it took in that moment in time.

The humor of Stephen Hopkins from Rhode Island played by Dawn Cantwell never ceased to lighten the difficulty of trying to bring together oppositions. And the charming and titillating Connor Lyon as Martha Jefferson in He plays the Violin.

The cast of 1776. Photo by Joan Marcus

The cast of 1776. Photo by Joan Marcus

The expertise of 1776 design team includes Scenic Designer Scott Pask, Sound Designer Jonathan Deans, Projection Designer David Bengali each masters of creating a mood, a feel for the moment through sound, set and projection. And the outstanding work by the music team of Music Supervisor/Music Director Ryan Cantwell, with Original Music Supervisor David Chase,  Orchestrator John Clancy and Vocal Designer AnnMarie Milazzo helps introduce each fiery character to the story.

It is clear from The Directors Notes, “Don’t turn away. Keep your gaze on the bandaged place. That is where the light enters you.”   By Rumi, 13thCentury Islamic poet,  who so wisely sets our sight on poetic realism. All this and so much more is the reason to head to the Amundson Theatre before 1776 closes on May 7, to live a little, learn a lot, and be truly entertained with such wonderful theatre.

For more information about The Ahmanson Theatre and to purchase tickets, please visit their website.

Written by Joanne DiVito for LA Dance Chronicle.

Featured image: Liz Mikel as Benjamin Franklin in 1776 – Photo by Joan Marcus