Twenty-eight years ago, Peter Stone and Sherman Edwards' 1776 won the Tony Award for Best New Musical. The historical musical comedy, about the signing of the Declaration of Independence, has been a rarity on the theatre scene -- but not this year. April 30, Philadelphia's Walnut Street Theatre will end its season with a new production of the show directed by Frank Anazalone. That mounting will run through June 8 -- just in time for 1776-ophiles to get ready for the July previews of Scott Ellis' Broadway revival of the musical at the Roundabout.
Tom Aldredge is the only name so far confirmed for the Broadway cast. Aldredge appeared Off-Broadway in 1995's Incommunicado and on Broadway in Into The Woods and Two Shakespearean Actors. Production spokesperson Erin Dunn told Playbill On-Line designers for the show have not yet been announced either. The show is scheduled to open shortly after London Assurance. Preview for the Broadway 1776 begin July 16, and the production runs through Oct. 19.
As for the Walnut Street 1776, that one will star James Brennan (Crazy For You, Me And My Girl) and Lisa Gunn as John and Abigail Adams. David Hess and Jennifer Lee Andrews (Lust will be Thomas and Martha Jefferson, while Charles Antalosky will be Ben Franklin. Also in the cast are Dan Olmstead, Dan Schiff, Peter Reardon, Jeffrey Coon, Tom Ligon, Fred Harper-Shaffmaster, Donald Ewer, Eric Bennyhoff, Robert Foley, John-Charles Kelly, John Favorite, Lee Golden, Sean Hewitt, William McKeon III, Tom Helmer, Thomas Reiff, John Barrett, Hank de Luca, Ed Gavin, Michael Toner and Aaron Cromie.
Sherman Frank will serve as music/vocal director for the musical, which has sets by Thom Bumblauskas, costumes by Gail Cooper-Hecht, lighting by Jerold Forsyth and sound by Scott Smith.
Asked why Walnut Street Theatre would stage 1776 only weeks away from a major Broadway revival of the show, production spokesperson Maria Sticco told Playbill On-Line, "We were the last group to get in under the deadline" before the producers pulled regional rights to the show. She also said that Walnut director Frank Anzalone and Roundabout director Ellis met when the former was assistant directing and appearing in a bi-centennial production of 1776 in Washington DC. "Ellis, who was in high school back then, played a courier," said Sticco. "They've remained friends ever since." For tickets ($8-$43) and information on 1776 at Walnut Street, call (215) 574-3550, x.4. For information on the Roundabout's production call (212) 869-8400.