1776 Eyes Commercial Run But Loses Westenberg

News   1776 Eyes Commercial Run But Loses Westenberg
Strongly positive reviews following its Aug. 14 opening have led to an extension of the Broadway revival of 1776 starring Brent Spiner. The production is now also considering a commercial transfer to a larger Broadway house.

Strongly positive reviews following its Aug. 14 opening have led to an extension of the Broadway revival of 1776 starring Brent Spiner. The production is now also considering a commercial transfer to a larger Broadway house.

Also starring Gregg Edelman, Pat Hingle and Michael Cumpsty, the Roundabout Theatre Company production had been scheduled to close its limited run in mid-October but has now put tickets on sale through Nov. 9. Half-price tickets for children 17 and younger are sold for all performances.

A spokesperson for the production told Playbill On-Line the show was actively looking to move to a larger Broadway venue for a commercial run, but could not confirm published reports that the producers are eyeing the Gershwin Theatre and discussing ways to make that huge space financially and aesthetically workable.

Robert Westenberg had been playing Dr. Lyman Hall, but he left the production, Aug. 23, with Brian Sutherland (Victor/Victoria, Steel Pier) going into the role, Aug. 25. Production spokesperson Erin Dunn told Playbill On-Line Westenberg's quick exit from 1776 was amicable, and that he left both the cast and producers "with good feelings." Richard Fisher (of Duva-Flack Associates), representing Westenberg, told Playbill On-Line (Sept. 3) that the actor will be spending this season doing shows at the Denver Center in Colorado. He had no further details on Westenberg's decision.

Sherman Edwards and Peter Stone's song and dance take on the signing of the Declaration of Independence co-stars Pat Hingle as Benjamin Franklin, Michael Cumpsty as John Dickinson and Gregg Edelman as Edward Rutledge. The cast additionally features Linda Emond as Abigail Adams and Lauren Ward as Martha Jefferson (the role that launched Betty Buckley's career). They are the only two women in the cast. Also debating the Declaration are Merwin Foard as Richard Henry Lee, Richard Poe as John Hancock, Tom Aldredge as Stephen Hopkins, Jerry Lanning as Rev. John Witherspoon, Macintyre Dickson as Andrew McNair, Kevin Ligon as George Read, Paul Michael Valley as Thomas Jefferson, Daniel Marcus as Robert Livingston, Michael Winther as James Wilson, Ric Stoneback as Samuel Chase, Guy Paul as Charles Thomson, Tom Riss Farrell as Lewis Morris, Michael McCormick as Caesar Rodney, David Lowenstein as Joseph Hewes, John Herrera as Roger Sherman and Michael X. Martin as Dr. Josiah Bartlett. Dashiell Eaves plays the Courier.

Scott Ellis, who helmed Roundabout's revivals of Company, Picnic and She Loves Me directs 1776. His Steel Pier was nominated for a Tony Award as Best Musical of 1997.

All preview performances beginning July 16 reportedly were sold out, possibly owing to many of Spiner's fans from Star Trek: The Next Generation and Sunday in the Park With George.

The production employs one of the more amusing advertising campaigns of the summer: The show is billing itself as "Independence Day -- The Musical." For the record, the show has neither aliens, nor space ships -- though it does take place in the days leading up to July 4.

Spiner is known to musical theatre fans as Franz, the disgruntled German accented servant in Sondheim's Sunday in the Park. In 1776 he plays the "obnoxious and disliked" Adams, whose singleminded determination to win independence from Britain for the American colonies nevertheless gradually wears down the resistance of his colleagues in the Continental Congress.

The musical director is Paul Gemignani, with orchestrations by Brian Besterman and choreography by Kathleen Marshall. Sets are by Tony Walton (Forum), costumes by William Ivey Long (Chicago) and sound by Brian Ronan (sound).

In an interview with Associated Press writer Michael Kuchwara, Stone said of his craft, "Musical book writing involves two things: concept and structure. You have to know how to get to a song, specifically what to do in order to get to a song. If you can do that quickly and with some sure footedness, you'll probably come out all right."


Tickets to 1776 can be purchased by calling (212) 869-8400.

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