1776

PATRIOTISM ON PARADE IN STIRRING MUSICAL “1776” AT UCONN


BONNIE GOLDBERG

Were it not for the patriotic fervor of John Adams, would we be a free and independent country today? To determine the answer to that historical question, seek the good counsel and wisdom found in Peter Stone and Sherman Edwards’ stirring musical “1776” being performed splendidly by the Connecticut Repertory Theatre on the campus of the University of Connecticut until Saturday, June 10. Start waving your red, white and blue flags as you enter.

In the hot summer of that year in Philadelphia, representatives of each of the thirteen colonies are meeting at the Second Continental Congress to decide the fate of a fledgling nation. Should it surrender to the dictates of King George of England, the greatest protector on earth, or should it break free and declare its independence?

A series of impossible taxes are crippling the economy, the Sugar Act, the Stamp Act, the Tea Act, and blood has already been spilled at Lexington and Concord. The most incensed against these acts is John Adams of Massachusetts, where most of the abominations have been felt. Adams, portrayed with fervor and fire by Jamie LaVerdiere, leads the faction, including Ben Franklin (Richard R. Henry) and Thomas Jefferson (Will Bryant) to fight for freedom. Because he is so ill-liked, Adams convinces the “strutting popinjay” Richard Henry Lee (Simon Longnight) to plead his cause.

Heading the opposition, those who want to stay under England’s protective wing, is Pennsylvania’s John Dickinson, played with arrogant opinionated flair by Adam Harrington. How to convince this handful of leaders to pit a tiny nation of two million against a mighty power five times its size is accomplished with the penning of Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence. Women in the guise of Adam’s wife Abigail and Jefferson’s spouse Martha, Gaelen Gilliland and Paige Smith, add their good counsel to their husband’s causes.

Terrence Mann directs this stirring and spirited footprint in our nation’s past with passion, on Tim Brown’s sturdy congressional set, with a parade of colorful period costumes by Fan Zhang. The music adds a rainbow of sparks to the story, making for an evening of dramatic fever and comedic tension, all beautifully balanced and executed. Kudos to the entire cast.

For tickets ($12-55) call the Jorgensen Theatre, on the campus of the University of Connecticut at (860)486-2113. Performances are Tuesday to Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8:00 p.m., with matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 p.m.

Watch how a farmer, Thomas Jefferson, a lawyer, John Adams, and a sage, Ben Franklin, convince the “cream of the colonies” to vote yea to a rebellion to become the first to break free from a parent in the history of the world.

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