One of the largest and most challenging productions ever undertaken locally debuts this month at the Waterfront Playhouse.
Twenty-five actors and nine musicians will take to the stage of the Waterfront to present the musical “1776.” It will be directed by Danny Weathers, with Vincent Zito acting as musical director and conductor.
“As I was putting the season together last year, I kept thinking the show was too big, too much of a risk,” Weathers said. “But the words coming out of these men who lived almost 250 years ago had such resonance and impact, especially in our bitterly divided times, that I ultimately felt it was too important not to do.”
The musical recounts the summer of 1776 and the gathering of the Founding Fathers – and their bickering, wasting time and refusing to compromise – before the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
“1776” premiered on Broadway 50 years ago to glowing reviews and multiple awards, including the Tony Award for Best Musical, over “Hair” and “Promises, Promises.” The musical opens on Wednesday, Jan. 24, and runs for two weeks at the Waterfront Playhouse, 407 Wall St., Key West. There is a low-priced preview on Jan. 23. All performances start at 8 p.m.
The story follows John Adams as he struggles to push the Continental Congress to vote for independence. Along with fellow revolutionaries like Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, Adams pleads, bullies and reluctantly agrees to go against his better judgment in order to “form a more perfect union.”
The music and lyrics were written by Sherman Edwards, with the book by Peter Stone. In 1972, it was made into an Oscar-nominated movie.
The cast will feature David Black (John Adams), J. B. McLendon (Benjamin Franklin), Jeffrey Harwell (John Dickinson), Mathias Malhoff (Richard Henry Lee), Laurie Breakwell (Abigail Adams), Rock Solomon (Thomas Jefferson), Matt Hollis Hulsey (Edward Rutledge), John Wells (Stephen Hopkins), Stephanie Sander (Martha Jefferson), John Reynolds (Lyman Hall), Tom Murtha (John Hancock), Don Bearden (Charles Thomson), Jack Agnew (McNair), Xavier McKnight (A Courier), Bob Bowersox (Rev. Witherspoon), Trey Forsyth (Robert Livingston), Hy Conrad (Dr. Josiah Bartlett), Dean Walters (Roger Sherman), Nathan Gay (Lewis Morris), Arthur Crocker (James Wilson), Ross Pipkin (Caesar Rodney), Tom Thayer (George Read), John McDonald (Col. Thomas McKean), Karl Stahl (Samuel Chase) and Bob Wood (Joseph Hewes).
The orchestra includes Vincent Zito (keyboards), Roberta Jacyshyn (keyboards), Mark Rose (reeds), Donna DeForrest (reeds), Celicia Slafter (reeds), Larry Abromowitz (violin), D. Nathanson (cello) and Daniel Carter (percussion).
The Waterfront’s scenic designer, Michael Boyer will create the setting of Independence Hall. Carmen Rodriguez and Leigh Hooten have collaborated on costume design, with Rodriguez in charge of props. John Jaworski acts as lighting designer and Trish Manley acts as stage manager.
On opening night, Wednesday, Jan. 24, a post-production party will take place in the Sculpture Garden sponsored by Fred Greenberg in honor of his late wife, Linda Greenberg. Season sponsors are Digital Island Media, Wodu Media and Royal Furniture. – CONTRIBUTED
1776, the Musical
Jan. 24-Feb. 4
Preview: Jan. 23
The Waterfront Playhouse