‘1776, The Musical’ Now An Equal Opportunity Employer, Latin Life Denver Theatre Review

The National Tour Cast of 1776. Credit: Joan Marcus

By Joe Contreras, Latin Life Denver Media

When the original production of ‘1776, The Musical’ opened on Broadway in 1969 the entire cast was comprised of white men. In this new revival of 1776, the musical about the founding fathers on the brink of signing the Declaration of Independence, the cast is composed entirely of multi racial performers who identify as female, transgender, and non-binary.

The original cast of 1776 The Musical premiered on Broadway in 1969, earning Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Featured Actor (Ronald Holgate as Richard Henry Lee), and Best Direction (Peter Hunt).

When these actors step into the shoes and socks of the white founding fathers the production literally becomes a fascinating analogy, meaning that it is a literary device that explains an unfamiliar or a complex topic by comparing it to a familiar topic. In this case the Declaration of Independence is the familiar topic while the world of female, transgender, and non-binary people, along with all those other non-white people who would never would have had a seat at the table back in 1776 when the document was being formed, is the unfamiliar and complex topic.

Liz Mikel as ‘Benjamin Franklin, Credit: Joan Marcus.

That is the concept behind the revival production of ‘1776, The Musical’. As directors Jeffrey L. Page and Diane Paulus put it, “In creating this production we have embraced our American history through multiple lenses. The story re-enacts our founding fathers drafting of the Declaration of Independence, now brought to life in this twenty-first century production by a company of artists who reflect multiple representations of race, ethnicity and gender. The words and symbol of our cultural memory take on very different meaning through the act of re-framing this musical in the context of America today. We simultaneously see not only was was, but also what can be.”

Gisela Adisa as ‘John Adams’ in the National Tour of 1776. Credit: Joan Marcus

The shoes and stocking are about all of the costuming that resembles the founding fathers. The casts appear mostly as who they are with braided hair, earrings and all the rest.

After the opening night performance Christen Reiner shared with Latin Life Denver that, “The all new 1776 National Tour is an epic endeavor that shares the behind the scenes journey to our nation’s Declaration of Independence. The relatable cast, which reflects multiple representations of race, ethnicity, and gender was absolutely brilliant at elaborating on the history that the production of Hamilton had piqued our interest in.”

Beth Marketos said “1776 took me back to the excitement I felt seeing Hamilton…a new take on presenting our fascinating history in a way that new generations will relate to. The cast, which reflects multiple representations of race, ethnicity, and gender, took the show to a whole new level, and I loved it.”

As for the show itself, the gangs all there as the founding fathers passionately debate through song, humor and a bit of dance the principles by which the country would be guided by. Only this time by those who were not invited to the table the first time around.

The 1776 company includes Shelby Acosta as ‘Sec. Charles Thomson,’ Gisela Adisa as ‘John Adams,’ Nancy Anderson as ‘Thomas Jefferson,’ Tiffani Barbour as ‘Andrew McNair,’ Dawn Cantwell as ‘Col. Thomas McKean,’ Julie Cardia as ‘Stephen Hopkins, Glushak as ‘John Dickinson,’ Anissa Marie Griego as ‘Roger Sherman,’ Kassandra Haddock as ‘Edward Rutledge,’ Shawna Hamic as ‘Richard Henry Lee, Connor Lyon as ‘Martha Jefferson/Dr. Lyman Hall,’ Liz Mikel as ‘Benjamin Franklin,’ Oneika Phillips as ‘John Hancock,’ Lulu Picart as ‘Samuel Chase,’ Ariella Serur as ‘Judge James as ‘Dr. Josiah Bartlett,’ Tieisha Thomas as ‘Abigail Adams/Rev. JonathanWitherspoon,’ Jill Marie Vallery as ‘Caesar Rodney,’ Zuri Washington as ‘Robert Livingston,’ Gwynne Wood as ‘George Read,’ and Candice Marie Woods as ‘Joseph Hewes.’

Kristolyn Lloyd (seated) and company of 1776 Joan Marcus

1776, The Musical premiered on Broadway in 1969, earning Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Featured Actor (Ronald Holgate as Richard Henry Lee), and Best Direction (Peter Hunt).

A lot has changed since 1969. This current cast of 1776 would have never ever been considered for any part of the musical back then. My how times have changed. 1776, The Musical is now truly an equal opportunity affair.

1776, The Musical plays the Buell Theater at the Denver Center for Performing Arts through April 2nd.