Philly history unfolds in a new revival of 1776 at the Forrest Theatre

-Brenda Hillegas
Feature photo: Liz Mikel as ‘Benjamin Franklin,’ Nancy Anderson as ‘Thomas Jefferson’ and Gisela Adisa as ‘John Adams’ by Joan Marcus

Sit down! And watch the events leading up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence unfold just blocks away from where it actually happened. The Kimmel Cultural Campus and The Shubert Organization present 1776 at the Forrest Theatre through February 26th.

Though it may not seem like such heavy, historic content should be set to music (in fact, over 30 mins of strictly dialogue pass between two songs in the first act), look at how much people love Hamilton. But, 1776 came first- opening on Broadway in 1969, after out-of-town tryouts, and didn’t close until three years later. Roundabout Theatre Company’s 2022 production is the second Broadway revival and that’s the version you’ll be seeing in Philly as the first stop on a national tour. Here’s why you should go…

This new production shows you what the history books do not. From directors Jeffrey L. Page (of Philadelphia Theatre Company; Broadway’s Violet) and Diane Paulus (Waitress), 1776 gives viewers a new perspective on what happened the summer that the Declaration was created and signed. It’s witty, powerful and in-you-face from the minute the cast puts on their shoes, pulls up their socks, and gets to work bringing those events to life. You’re sucked in from the second the curtain rises.

photo by Joan Marcus

Founding Fathers may be the center of this story, but the cast is made up of anything but. Here, you’ll find an incredible group of female, transgender, and nonbinary actors who are smart, funny, and really highlight the emotions and discussions in a way that we never knew about before. As they play the over two dozen men who debated day after day before coming to an agreement for what we know now as our country, the cast of 1776 makes history come alive…again…in Philly. Visually, this is a gorgeous show as well. The simple curtain backdrop becomes so much more as images and video project onto it throughout the show. The costumes were so different from one another, with various details and colors, yet still so cohesive.

You’ll learn far more about John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson and so many others through incredible songs, back stories, and humor (usually at the expense of one another). History buffs and musical lovers can unite at 1776, and if you’re just a fan of Philadelphia (and we all know how passionate our city has been recently), then The Forrest Theatre is where you need to be this week. Get your tickets on Telecharge here.

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