Helen Hayes Award-winner David H. Bell (The Hot Mikado) stages the production of the musical about the humid days and heated debates leading up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Previews began March 12.
The cast includes Anne Kanengeiser (Ragtime and Eleanor) as Abigail, Kate Baldwin (Arena Stage's South Pacific, for which she was just nommed for a Helen Hayes Award) as Martha, John Leslie Wolfe (Evita) as Hancock, Trent Blanton as Rutledge, Michael L. Forrest as John Dickinson, Graham Rowat (Beauty and the Beast) as Lee, with Mark Aldrich as Roger Sherman, Christopher Alessi as Rev. Jonathan Witherspoon, Christopher Bloch as Andrew McNair, Steven Crossley (a past Scrooge in Ford's A Christmas Carol) as Stephen Hopkins, Scott Evans as Joseph Hewes, Daniel Felton as George Read, Michael L. Forrest as John Dickinson, Matthew R. Jones as Col. Thomas McKean, Bill Largess as Caesar Rodney, Buzz Mauro as Charles Thompson, Chris Peluso as Courier, Frank Robinson, Jr. as James Wilson, Graham Rowat as Richard Henry Lee, Stephen F. Schmidt as Robert Livingston, Jim Scopeletis as Lewis Morris, Thomas Adrian Simpson as Dr. Lyman Hall, Franklin Trapp as Dr. Josiah Bartlett, with understudies Johanna Aldrich and Ryan Duncan.
Cleale appeared in Off Broadway's A New Brain and Broadway's Once Upon a Mattress, Huddleston played Franklin in Roundabout's Broadway revival of 1776 and Ludwig appeared in Off Broadway's john & jen and After the Fair. Michael Rice is musical director.
Performances of the show by composer-lyricist Sherman Edwards and librettist Peter Stone are 7:30 PM Tuesday Saturday, 12 noon Thursdays and 2:30 PM Sundays. Additional scattered matinees have been added throughout the run. Call for details.
The musical, which has extraordinarily long and rich book sequences that boil down the arguments for and against independence, was a rare one-hit wonder for composer lyricist Edwards. It won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 1969. A film version was later made, but Jack Warner notoriously cut out the "Cool, Cool Considerate Men" sequence, feeling it was too anti-conservative. It has been restored in the DVD release. Peter Stone told Playbill On Line 1776 is one of his most-licensed shows, but only in the U.S. — amateur and professional theatres abroad largely ignore it because its content seems to speak specifically to American people and of American issues. Designers are James Joy (set), Diane Ferry Williams (lighting) and Mary Anne Verheyen (costumes).
For ticket information, call (703) 218-6500 or (800) 955 5566 or visit www.fordstheatre.org.
"The action begins during the hot summer of 1776 as the Second Continental Congress convenes in Philadelphia to debate the fate of the nation," accord to Ford's Theatre notes. "John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and other of our nation's Founding Fathers take center stage at Independence Hall, where they create one of the country's most enduring documents and change the course of history. As the story unfolds, John Adams wants to introduce his proposal for independence, but other delegates turn a cold shoulder. Adams then approaches the ever savvy Benjamin Franklin, who suggests that the delegates might more readily accept the idea if it were put forward not by Adams, but by someone likeable such as Richard Henry Lee of Virginia. Even in Lee's affable hands, however, the proposal seems headed for failure when an opponent, John Dickinson of Pennsylvania, raises the ante and introduces a motion that requires a unanimous vote on the issue. Adams hastily puts forward a proposal that requires a declaration that explains the underlying beliefs and rationale for independence and the separation of the Colonies from England. Thomas Jefferson of Virginia is chosen to draft the document."