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Stirring `1776' captures passion of Revolution

SHARE Stirring `1776' captures passion of Revolution

If "1776" was being staged at the Delta Center instead of PMT, there may have been fireworks accompanying the proceedings. They'd be appropriate - not only for the thrill of seeing the Declaration of Independence evolve, but for PTCs exhilarating production itself.

Set during a period of a little less than two months leading up to July 4, 1776, this brilliantly conceived musical focuses on delegates from the 13 colonies in the sweltering chambers of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia.It's hot and sticky; so are the issues at hand.

What the Northern delegates see as rebellion against England, the Southerners call treason.

And firebrand John Adams, labeled as obnoxious and thoroughly unlikable by many of his comrades, sees Congress as nothing more than a pack of indecisive grenadiers. Not that far removed from present-day national politics, it's a sorry state of, uh . . . affairs.

The delegates may be stuck "piddling and twiddling" their way from one argument to another, but there's no argument about guest director Gary Gisselman's superb cast.

Kurt Ziskie all but steals the show as Adams, the driving force behind the renegade Americans' push for freedom.

Benjamin Stewart's performance as the delightfully humorous, platitude-spouting Ben Franklin is also one to be savored, along with those of Patrick Boll as reluctant hero, Thomas Jefferson; Jeffrey Reynolds as Richard Henry Lee (his "The Lees of Old Virginia" stopped the show), Max Robinson as pro-slavery John Dickinson, Robert Bartley as Edward Rutledge, Victoria Mallory as Adams' lonely wife, Abigail; Diana Dayley as Jefferson's wife, Martha; and Joshua Christensen, a courier whose compelling rendition of "Momma Look Sharp" was a poignant reflection on the loss of life among Gen. George Washington's embattled troops.

Those who're familiar with only the movie version of "1776" may be pleasantly surprised to find one of the show's most cleverly written tunes in Act Two - Dickinson leading his close-knit band of Southern conservatives through the minuet, "Cool, Cool Considerate Men."

Another favorite was Franklin, Adams and Jefferson contemplating the hatching of "The Egg" - not only whether the eagle, the dove or the turkey should be the national bird but also that "the shell may belong to Great Britain, but the bird inside will belong to us!"

Robert Bartley (South Carolina's Rutledge) does some show-stopping of his own with the insightful "Molasses to Rum," deriding the so-called anti-slavery element.

David Kay Mickelsen's costumes (there must be acres of brocades) and Cynthia L. McCourt's hair and makeup - all those powdered wigs - were first rate, as were Jayne Luke's choreography, Peter Harrison's set design, Peter Willardson's lighting, James C. Swonger's sound and resident musical director James Prigmore's well-polished orchestra.

"1776" is a stirring musical that should remind you of how the United States was born . . . and that "Les Miserables" isn't the only passionate show about a famous revolution.

- Sensitivity rating: Considerable swearing and profanity, plus some not-so-subtle allusions to sexual conduct.