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Eastern Utah Theatre’s third production of the season is 1776, written by Sherman Edwards and Peter Stone. It tells a “vibrant and exciting musical history lesson about the events leading up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia, Penn.
Opening on Broadway March 16, 1969, the play brings to life the debates and the compromises which would lead to the Revolutionary War and the birth of the American nation.
Much of what Sherman and Stone wrote came from historic documents and letters and is historically accurate. However, as with most history plays, many of the events and/or characters have been compressed, omitted or combined for the sake of dramatic economy. We may recognize in our own governmental bodies both nationally and locally, the same “piddling, twiddling and resolving” as depicted on the Geary Theatre stage and find our frustration is as old as our country, Director Corey Ewan said.
“I love plays that are timely and relevant to our day. It is interesting that the more we change the more we really stay the same. We are doomed to repeat the same mistakes because we just don’t or refuse to learn from the past,” he added.
Rehearsals began Jan. 4 with a cast made up of college students from various majors, faculty and members of the community. “When I first heard them all singing the opening number, I knew we would have an incredible show,” said Ewan.
“I think we are so lucky to have so many willing to lend their talents to this production,” Ewan continued. “They have given their time and have really jumped into the deep end of the pool with this experience.” For many this is a first time on the Geary stage.
Our cast, representing the Second continental Congress of 1776, features Dave Hocanson as John Hancock, Cole Unsworth as Josiah Bartlett, Todd Olsen as “the obnoxious and disliked” John Adams, Russell Wilson pulls double duty as Music Director/Arranger and plays Stephen Hopkins, Scott Zaborski as Lewis Morris and Kelton Wells as Robert Livingston, Russell Seeley plays the Rev. Jonathan Witherspoon, Grady McEvoy, set and lighting designer, will play Benjamin Franklin, Ewan plays John Dickenson, Devin R. Skinner as James Wilson, John R. Behn as the Rev. Caesar Rodney, Rodney Scott as Colonel Thomas McKean, Kamron Perkins as George Read, Bill Gibson as Samuel Chase, Willy Woodruff, CEUSA President, plays Richard Henry Lee, Mitchell G. Ewan as Thomas Jefferson, Ron Patterson as Joseph Hewes, Michael S. Johnson as Edward Rutledge, Scott Westwood as Dr. Lyman Hall and Braden Nelson as Congressional Secretary Charles Thomson.
Rounding out the cast are Henry Rudolph Jr. as Congressional Custodian Andrew McNair, Brian Powell as a leather apron, Ryan Pugh as a military courier. Playing the two most important roles in the lives of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson are Rachel Ryan as Abigail Adams and Leisl Cope as Martha Jefferson.
This is not a typical musical in that there is a musical number every five minutes. In one case there is a 20-minute break between numbers. The music is witty, evocative and soul stirring. There are several solos that really have an emotional impact, Ewan said.
“I believe our actors sing proud and brilliantly,” he said. “This play makes me proud of my country and what we as Americans have done and will continue to do, it is a great boost of patriotism.”
1776 runs from Feb. 4 -10 at the Geary Theatre on the CEU campus. Curtain time is 7:30 p.m. A matinee is Feb. 6 at 2 p.m. The show runs approximately two hours.Ticket prices are $7 adults, $5 seniors, non-CEU students and CEU faculty and staff, $3 CEU students with a valid CEU ID.