This adaptation of John Turnbull's 'The Signing of the Declaration of Independence' features 1776 cast members (foreground from left to right): Jim Hammill (John Adams), Tim Coleman (Roger Sherman), Greg Totino (John Livingston), Todd Young (Thomas Jefferson), Michael Juzwak (Benjamin Franklin), Andy Weintraub (Charles Thomson), Peter S. Pius (John Hancock).  Photo/adaption credit: Ken Dreyfack
This adaptation of John Turnbull's 'The Signing of the Declaration of Independence' features 1776 cast members (foreground from left to right): Jim Hammill (John Adams), Tim Coleman (Roger Sherman), Greg Totino (John Livingston), Todd Young (Thomas Jefferson), Michael Juzwak (Benjamin Franklin), Andy Weintraub (Charles Thomson), Peter S. Pius (John Hancock). Photo/adaption credit: Ken Dreyfack

A patriotic tune

'1776' comes to Rhinebeck stage in star-spangled glory

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With the Fourth of July just around the corner, it seems an appropriate time to strike up the band and have some fun with a lovely historical musical. “1776” is a Broadway gem – it has long been one of my favorite musicals, mixing the serious with the sublime and a good dose of humor to make a charming concoction.

Rhinebeck Theatre Society is bringing the musical to the Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck stage, opening June 29 for a run through July 22. I spoke with producer Ellen Honig about the show.

“This is the first musical the Rhinebeck Theatre Society has done in a while,” she said. “In order to earn enough money, the Center needs to do a certain number of musicals, especially in the summer months. You have to, to count on financially.” Honig then recalled the devastating flooding that occurred last year courtesy of Hurricane Irene and the damage the Center suffered, which was catastrophic.

She also spoke of the challenge of bringing the Founding Fathers to life in a musical.

“’1776’ is very interesting to me, because it’s serious,” she noted. “It’s a play about our declaring independence and this incredible document, the Declaration of Independence. It’s a good story, a great drama, because no one knew how it would come out. It was brilliant men debating – all kinds of issues were being raised. But [independence] may not happen. It makes the story very compelling.”

Honig said each man of the Continental Congress played an important role. “It all comes down to one vote, to choose a system of government for ourselves,” she said. “It’s a great story about politics. A story where you notice and think about how that Congress compares to today’s Congress – how they are different and how they are alike. It’s really funny; we had the same stuff going on.”

The cast includes Jim Hammill as John Adams, Michael Juzwak as Benjamin Franklin and Todd Young as Thomas Jefferson.

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