‘1776’ Broadway review: Woke musical revival isn’t revolutionary

3 months ago 22

The script, oregon book, of the 1969 philharmonic “1776” is simply a genuinely singular creation. 

By Peter Stone, it’s witty, suspenseful, nuanced and confronts the analyzable issues progressive successful the founding of the United States similar an addictive TV play would. “1776,” arsenic written, is not the Disney’s Hall of Presidents the uninitiated ideate it to be, but an electrifyingly human, theatrical experience. Well, it should beryllium anyway.

Stone’s publication is also, arsenic evidenced by the frustrating new revival of the amusement that opened Thursday nighttime connected Broadway, perfectly ironclad — and capable to basal up to pointless, auteurist, burdensome, woke concepts similar the 1 connected show astatine the American Airlines Theatre.

Theater review

Two hours and 40 minutes with 1 intermission. At the American Airlines Theatre, 227 W. 42nd Street.

The writer’s jokes and taut scenes inactive play, but lone barely.

Co-directors Diane Paulus and Jeffrey L. Page person taken “1776,” which won the Tony Award for Best Musical implicit “Hair,” and formed women, transgender and nonbinary actors arsenic the Founding Fathers. That’s a good thought for a full caller amusement with a antithetic angle. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton,” of course, brilliantly reframed Alexander Hamilton, George Washington and others arsenic radical of color, with rap arsenic their lingua franca, successful portion to marque the constituent that Hamilton and Co. were immigrants.

“1776,” however, is an aged amusement — a proudly straightforward philharmonic that should caper astir the signifier until hard-hitting issues similar slavery participate successful Act 2 — and heavy-handed revisionism does not suit it. Instead, the communicative is bogged down by cartoony, dishonest impressions of dudes and lame attempts to jam successful further meaning by giving condescending glances to the audience.

Not each directorial determination has to person logic, but Paulus and Page’s casting stunt is not powerfully evocative either, different than contributing a “take that, you classical musical!” ‘tude. Yet it needlessly harms the halfway aspects of the amusement astatine each turn.

John Adams (Crystal Lucas-Perry) is not the astir   fashionable  idiosyncratic   astatine  the Second Continental Congress successful  "1776." John Adams (Crystal Lucas-Perry) is not the astir fashionable idiosyncratic astatine the Second Continental Congress successful “1776.” Joan Marcus

“1776” imagines the Second Continental Congress successful Philadelphia arsenic ornery Bostonian John Adams (Crystal Lucas-Perry, not commanding enough) attempts to person his chap delegates to statement and prosecute independency from dastardly Great Britain. Early on, the amusement bops on similar a blase buddy drama with Adams, Franklin (Patrena Murray) and Jefferson (Elizabeth A. Davis) convincing men to articulation their plight, and past gets superior arsenic they determine whether oregon not to code slavery successful the Declaration. 

The communicative is perked up by Sherman Edwards’ sprightly score, which has been mangled beyond designation here. He wrote sublime euphony for tenors, baritones and basses. The fig “Cool, Cool Considerate Men,” sung by staunch conservatives, should stroke you retired of your seat. So should “Sit Down, John,” successful which irritated, overheated delegates effort to get Adams to unopen his trap. And “The Egg,” crooned by our starring trio arsenic their Declaration draught is being work aloud for the archetypal time, is 1 of the astir rousing tunes successful each philharmonic theater. Fight me.

Jeffersoon (Elizabeth A. Davis), Franklin (Patrena Murray) and Adams (Crystal Lucas-Perry) sing "The Egg," astir  their hatchling nation. Jeffersoon (Elizabeth A. Davis), Franklin (Patrena Murray) and Adams (Crystal Lucas-Perry) sing “The Egg,” astir their hatchling nation. Joan Marcus

None of them soar here. The atrocious orchestrations by John Clancy warp the propulsive, 18th-century soundscape into formless, loud, modern pop, sung mostly by sopranos and altos who are an awkward acceptable performing them. There are nary intentional places for singers to loop successful “1776,” but this reworking aspires to beryllium Katy Perry’s worst album.

The full evening, Edwards’ people is skewered.

Videos of important events successful caller American past are projected during “The Egg,” due to the fact that seemingly the euphony isn’t thrilling capable connected its own.

The somber warfare protestation opus “Momma Look Sharp” is exploded into a full-cast “One Day More.”

The lone agreeable fig is “He Plays the Violin,” nicely performed by Eryn LeCroy arsenic Martha Jefferson.

"Molasses To Rum" is simply a immense  accumulation   number. “Molasses to Rum” is simply a immense accumulation number. Joan Marcus

What the revival amps up astir is the contented of slavery, which was already tackled successful the original, truthful it’s lone reiteration.

Edward Rutledge (Sara Porkalob), the typical from South Carolina, volition not hold to independency unless slavery is kept in. Adams and others vehemently disagree, and Rutledge sings “Molasses to Rum,” astir however New England is conscionable arsenic blameworthy erstwhile it comes to the misdeed of slavery arsenic immoderate Southerner. That fig has been, similar everything else, enactment connected steroids and the important lyrics go an afterthought to ceaseless motion. A person turned to maine erstwhile it was implicit and said, “That was truly cool. What were they singing about?”

Reviewing the archetypal successful ‘69, Post professional Richard Watts wrote, “In this cynical age, it required courageousness arsenic good arsenic endeavor to bash a philharmonic play that simply deals with the events starring up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence … [‘1776’] makes nary effort to beryllium satirical oregon rotation disconnected into modern by-paths.”  

Hear, hear!