First hitting Broadway in 1969, 1776 is a musical about the events leading up to both the drafting and signing of the Declaration of Independence. The musical was a smash, winning the Tony for best musical that year.
The 2022 revival’s directors opted to take the familiar tale in a different direction, however. The cast of the show, which began in early October, is made up only of female, transgender, and nonbinary actors. Similar to Hamilton, the historical characters in the revived 1776 are also played by a much more racially diverse group.
“I want the audience to hold that dual reality of what the founders were but also a company of actors in 2022 who never would have been allowed inside Independence Hall,” co-director Diane Paulus said.
Paulus added that the goal “is to hold history as a predicament, rather than an affirming myth.”
Jeffrey L. Page also co-directed the take on the historical show. He said the existence of an “affinity space” for the production’s black cast members was of utmost importance.
“With the other cast members, the main thing we communicated was, ‘You’re going to feel some things,’” Page said. “What the black cast members asked was to leave your fragility at the door.”
Actor Sav Souza, who plays Dr. Josiah Bartlett in the revival, posted on Instagram about the show last week. In a photo, Souza stands outside American Airlines Theatre wearing a leather jacket, pants, and combat boots with metal spikes. The jacket’s back reads: “Trans people have always existed.”
“Trans People Have Always Existed — they existed in 1776, and they absolutely exist ON BROADWAY!” Souza wrote.
“I believe there’s something to be gained when we reexamine history in this way, by putting faces and bodies onstage that were not a part of the traditional makeup of this show,” Crystal Lucas-Perry, who plays John Adams, told the Boston Globe this summer. “When we shift the gaze so you see a different perspective, we start to hear things that we didn’t hear before and see things that maybe we didn’t want to see but that have always been in the story from the beginning.”
The diverse cast of the revival is effectively able to “hold a mirror up to what the world is today,” Lucas-Perry said.
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