Celebrating Independence in Song and Dance
MONTROSE – To conclude the Magic Circle Players 2012-2013 season, Director Ginny Spaven is producing the musical 1776, which she said is a funny, suspenseful, romantic, historic, action-packed and very meaningful story of independence.
It’s based, of course, on events and disputes leading up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
“It humanizes our Founding Fathers,” Spaven said, “even as it reiterates the philosophical concepts of the ultimate source of our freedoms, the respective roles of governments vis-á-vis the governed, the imperfection of the political process, and the sacrifices made by our forebears in the crafting of our unique unity of diverse states,” said Spaven.
The story takes place May 8-July 4, 1776, in Phildadelphia’s Independence Hall, focusing on Adams’ efforts to persuade his colleagues to sign the declaration.
Aware of the likelihood that the majority of delegates to the Continental Congress would not support a split from the British empire, the tenacious Adams, played by Travis Russell, supported by Pennsylvania’s, Benjamin Franklin (Jeff Nelp) coerces the reluctant Virginian, Thomas Jefferson (Ned Bosworth) into writing America’s founding document.
Despite missives from General George Washington describing military disasters, reluctant colonial landowners led by loyalist Pennsylvanian John Dickinson (M. A. Smith) and opposition to emancipation by delegates of slaveholding colonies like South Carolina’s Edward Rutledge, Dalyn Pearson, Adams presses on to the musical’s triumphant climax.
To set the mood, Spaven brought in ornate period-correct costumes from the Santa Fe Opera and colonial wigs from a theater company in Albuquerque.
At a recent dress rehearsal, the 24 men and 2 women cast members rehearsed songs and scenes in full dress – although without their wigs – with Music Director Bethany Ward and Choreography Director Amy Nelp.
“Our production of 1776 has relied on hundreds of hours of study, rehearsals, set design and construction,” said Spaven, from a huge cast of “24 men, two women, and a brigade of support staff.
Some participants have worked on the show for 18 months, Spaven said, praising the songs and music as catchy and memorable and working well to advance the plot, and it shows. “Their excitement and devotion to the musical are still very obvious.”
The original musical with music and lyrics by Sherman Edwards and story by Peter Stone premiered on Broadway in 1969, winning nominations for five Tony Awards and won three, including Best Musical. The musical was made into a film of the same name in 1972 and was revived on Broadway in 1997.
Assistant Director Kathy Murdoch said over the years, patrons have requested the play, and that it’s been on the list “for quite awhile.”
“The fact that 24 singing and dancing men are required to cast this show presented huge challenges to potential directors and so, 1776 had never been performed on the Magic Circle stage until now,” Murdoch said.
Friday-Saturday evening performances are on May 10, 11, 17, 18, 24, 25, 31 and June 1 at 7:30 p.m., with Sunday matinees May 12 and 26 and June 2 at 2 p.m. Public ticket sales open on Tuesday, May 7 at the Magic Circle Theatre box office, 420 South 12th Street, Montrose, or by phone at 970/249-7838. Box-office hours are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, 2-5 p.m..