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Review: New vision for '1776' is not as revolutionary as it thinks

The cast of Roundabout Theatre Company's Broadway revival of "1776" (Photo: Joan Marcus)

Men are shouting. Representatives from the same state are divided. Everyone is named John. It must be a Congressional debate. The Tony-winning "1776" first premiered on Broadway nearly 200 years after its moniker, in 1969. Today, the decades-old musical about a centuries-old declaration adopts a practice that goes back even further: casting roles across genders. In this take on the musical, which is receiving its second revival from Roundabout Theatre Company (the first was in 1997), an ethnically diverse chorale of women, trans and nonbinary performers are our revolutionaries. Unfortunately, this choice, which genuinely makes the sedative of a show more interesting to look at and listen to, further locks its subjects into binary stereotypes.

What is a political musical without a scrappy patriot? Broadway has gotten Alexander Hamilton, a bloody (bloody!) Andrew Jackson, and now, John Adams played by female-identifying actor Crystal Lucas-Perry. Those familiar with Lucas-Perry's work in plays like "Ain't No Mo'" or "A Bright Room Called Day" will be unsurprised by her perfection. John Adams' friends, especially the ingenious but indolent Benjamin Franklin (Patrena Murray), find his loquacious arguments in favor of seceding from British rule annoying (all through the opening number, they beg him to shut up). The rest of the musical stretches from May to June of its titular year, during the Second Continental Congress which culminated in the scripting and signing of the Declaration of Independence.


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