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Review: “1776” at American Conservatory Theater

September 27th, 2013
The cast of "1776" at A.C.T. (photo: Kevin Berne)

The cast of “1776” at A.C.T. (photo: Kevin Berne)

West Coast Contributor Heather Cassell gets a musical history lesson at A.C.T.’s triumphant staging of 1776.

Politicking is an American tradition that is comical, dramatic and suspenseful—and ever since Sherman Edwards put music and lyrics to Peter Stone’s narrative 1776—musical as well.

Audiences are roaring with laughter at the puns and satire throughout this staging about the founding of our nation, which kicks off the American Conservatory Theater’s 2013 – 2014 season.

San Francisco theater goers packed the seats at the Curran Theater last Friday proving this popular three time Tony-award winning lyrical romp through the days leading to our nation’s independence is just as relevant and revolutionary today as it was when it originally appeared on Broadway.

The original production ran for more than 1,200 performances on Broadway and picked up three Tony Awards. A critically acclaimed revival appeared briefly on Broadway in 1998, starring TV favorite Brent Spiner as John Adams.

John Hickok (John Adams) and Abby Mueller (Abigail Adams) in "1776" at A.C.T. (photo: Kevin Berne)

John Hickok (John Adams) and Abby Mueller (Abigail Adams) in “1776” at A.C.T. (photo: Kevin Berne)

A.C.T.’s revival of the musical on a major stage is once again winning acclaim. Tony Award-winning director Frank Galati leads a cast of 15 actors to create an engaging and rousing historical musical that is a true delight, even for the passing historical buff.

In an amusing way 1776, reveals often-unknown facts about the compromises made by our original Congress and the distain for John Adams by many politicians of the era.

Who knew our founding fathers decided to drop a clause about freeing enslaved Africans in order to keep the South in the Union? Or that George Washington and our rag tag troupes were being crushed by the Red Coats until victories finally happened? Who considered the long months of separation endured by our founding fathers from their wives and families or the power and influence the women had on supporting and shaping our nation?

Even though we all know how the story ends, the audience is taken on an exhilarating journey back in time as the days count down from spring to that monumental shift in history that occurred on July 4, 1776.

In spite of more than 235 years passing since those fateful days shaped our nation’s destiny, they are forever with us in the fabric and spirit of our nation and make for a charmingly timeless musical.

American Conservatory Theater
415 Geary Street, San Francisco
Through October 6

Heather Cassell is a freelance journalist and travel writer with more than 20 years experience covering LGBT and women’s issues. When Heather isn’t wandering off learning and writing about women’s and LGBT issues, she covers business, health and other news for a number of publications as well as the syndicated “Out in the World” international LGBT news column.

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