How the B'way 1776 Fills Its Larger New Theatre

News   How the B'way 1776 Fills Its Larger New Theatre
 
Set designer Tony Walton slightly expanded his set for the Broadway 1776 revival to accommodate its Dec. 3 move from the 499-seat Criterion Stage Right to Broadway's biggest theatre, the 1933-seat Gershwin, with its bigger stage.

Set designer Tony Walton slightly expanded his set for the Broadway 1776 revival to accommodate its Dec. 3 move from the 499-seat Criterion Stage Right to Broadway's biggest theatre, the 1933-seat Gershwin, with its bigger stage.

The Peter Stone/Sherman Edwards musical, moved with its 25-person cast intact, with Hallmark Entertainment sponsoring the move, for which producers had to raise $3 million. Tickets for the show at the Gershwin are now on sale at Ticketmaster (212) 307-4100.

For weeks, the show's producers had been discussing ways to make that huge space financially and aesthetically workable. According to production spokesperson Erin Dunn, set designer Tony Walton had to make a few changes to expand the set for the Gershwin. "There's now a V-shaped platform raising up a portion of the stage that wasn't raised before. Also, on either side of the stage hanging from the walls are the flags of the original 13 colonies. Plus instead of one house front, there are two house fronts on opposite ends of the stage."

Costumes for 1776 are by William Ivey Long (Chicago), lighting by Brian Nason and sound by Brian Ronan. The musical director is Paul Gemignani, with orchestrations by Brian Besterman and choreography by Kathleen Marshall.

Brent Spiner, who plays John Adams, is known to musical theatre fans as Franz, the disgruntled German accented servant in Sondheim's Sunday in the Park, and to TV fans as Data on "Star Trek: The Next Generation." In 1776, 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. Co-starring Gregg Edelman (Edward Rutledge), Pat Hingle (Benjamin Franklin) and Michael Cumpsty (John Dickinson), the Roundabout Theatre Company production also starred Robert Westenberg, as Dr. Lyman Hall, but he left, Aug. 23, and was replaced by Brian Sutherland (Victor/Victoria, Steel Pier). 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.

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, 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. Erik McCormack plays the Courier.

Paul Michael Valley plays Thomas Jefferson. Valley fans might want to check out his website, http://members.aol.com/wedoplays/pmvalley.html.

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 for Best Musical of 1997.

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The production employed one of the more amusing advertising campaigns of the summer season: Featuring an eagle with sunglasses, the show billed 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.

In an interview with Associated Press writer Michael Kuchwara, librettist 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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