As a joke, I like to say that 1776 is my favorite musical about the Declaration of Independence. In reality, it’s simply one of my favorite musicals.
My wife and I watch 1776 on DVD every summer on or about the Fourth of July. When we lived in Burbank, we once drove halfway to San Diego to see a community theatre production. This year, my wife and I went to the Oak Ridge Playhouse production of 1776. It was better than the California show.
My wife and I decided that we would go to the show when we first read about the cast auditions. It so happened that four people we know got parts in the play. Jim Bonomo, a friend from church, plays Joseph Hewes. Keith McDaniel, organizer of the Knoxville Film Festival, plays Samuel Chase. Joseph Self, technical director of the Oak Ridge Performing Arts Center, plays Andrew McNair. Courtney Wills, a ballerina with Go! Contemporary Dance Works, plays Martha Jefferson. She does an outstanding job with the song “He Plays the Violin.”
The actor who plays John Adams reminded me of a cross between Paul Giamatti, who played Adams on HBO, and William Daniels, who played Adams in the film 1776. Jeffrey Eberting looks a little bit like Giamatti and sings a lot like Daniels. The character of Adams drives the whole show. Some of the best musical moments come when he and Abigail exchange letters.
1776 runs for three weekends at the Oak Ridge Playhouse. It opened on July 4 and closes July 20.