Friday, March 23, 2012

Ford's Theatre: 1776

We've written more than a few times about Ford's Theatre. Intimate space, historic venue, unique thing about DC... you've heard it all before. We're fans. (If you just can't get enough, read this and this and this)

Chances are that when you look at the production schedule at Ford's you will find a lot of performances that are heavily rooted in American history. 1776 is no different. Originally premiering on Broadway in 1969 and winning the Best Musical Tony, 1776 clearly has some credentials. And since we were both raised loving musicals, we jumped at the chance to see it.

The story centers on the month prior to the creation of the Declaration of Independence, featuring familiar characters named Adams, Franklin, and Jefferson debating the merits of revolution with other patriots whose names have faded through the years. It is a story of competing interests and hard fought compromise, issues that are just as relevant today as they were hundreds of years ago.

Many say that the mark of great compromise is that all sides feel somewhat dissatisfied. I felt that was true of 1776. It was part historical drama and part musical. In fusing the two, neither aspect was particularly great. Personally, I loved the dramatic and often humorous interplay between each of the colonial representatives, and feel like a better American for seeing 1776. Then again, I'm a sucker for American history.

On the other hand, I felt that the musical numbers were often clustered together and separated by extended dialogue, making the performance feel choppy. In addition, the lack of songs involving the full company in favor of solos and duets was a missed opportunity in our eyes. From the dramatic side, I thought the actors did a commendable job illustrating the era's challenges and perspectives. However, they did suffer from a story which tried to build dramatic tension around a decision point that we all know so well (though that didn't prevent the movie Titanic from being a hit).

While I won't be voting for 1776 to be the revival of the year, we very much enjoyed our evening at Ford's. We came away thoroughly entertained and educated. Not bad for a Monday night.

J Says

While we were sitting at Ford's reflecting on the productions we have seen there, I sheepishly admitted to B that I snoozed during the historical play "The Heavens Are Hung in Black" but was wide awake and tapping my foot during "Little Shop of Horrors."

1776 fell somewhere in the middle on the excitement spectrum between "The Heavens" and "Little Shop of Horrors." When the cast joined in big production numbers, it was fantastic and left me wanting more.

I think 1776 is a great fit for a school group that wants to learn American history in a more fun and exciting way. Judging by the audience, a lot of school groups had the same idea.

The show runs through May 19, 2012, so there is still plenty of time to get your revolutionary history geek on.

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