Encores! 1776 Kicks Off Performances Tonight
New York was center stage for the American revolution as British forces fought relentlessly to keep America under its control as the colonies fought for independence. Spoiler Alert; We gain independence. Nonetheless, the roles have reversed some 200 plus years later and the American revolution is storming the stage in New York City. While you’ve definitely heard about the newest revolutionary musical Hamilton, one show started it all decades ago just years before America turned 200 and is returning to New York tonight. Today, Luner on Theatre brings you the exciting news that the Encores! production of 1776 officially kicks off performances tonight!
New York City Center’s Encores! continues their 2016 season tonight with performances of 1776 kicking off! The show runs March 30th through April 3rd for seven performances only. Performance times vary with Wednesday and Thursday beginning at 7:30 PM while Friday, Saturday and Sunday’s begin at 8:00 PM with a 2:00 PM matinée on Saturday and Sunday as well. The production made headlines when it announced it would be cast with a new conception, casting non-white actors as well, which is usually not done for 1776. The production, inspired be Hamilton’s diversity and success in rethinking history, has decided to cast an array of ethnicities into the show. The production is directed by Garry Hynes (Pictured Right) featuring choreography by Chris Bailey. Ben Whiteley is musical director for the production.
Encores! takes a nontraditional route to casting 1776 this season diversifying the production with leading characters and an ensemble that is completely multi-ethic. Leading the production is John Behlmann as Thomas Jefferson, Nikki Renée Daniels as Martha Jefferson, André De Shields as Stephen Hopkins, Santino Fontana (Pictured Left) as John Adams, Alexander Gemignani as Edward Rutledge, John Larroquette as Benjamin Franklin, Christiane Noll as Abigail Adams, Bryce Pinkham as John Dickinson and Jubilant Sykes as Richard Henry Lee. The ensemble for the production includes Terence Archie, Larry Bull, Macintyre Dixon, John Hickok, John Hillner, Kevin Ligon, John-Michael Lyles, Laird Mackintosh, Michael McCormick, Michael Medeiros, Wayne Pretlow, Tom Alan Robbins, Robert Sella, Ric Stoneback, Vishal Vaidya, Nicholas Ward and Jacob Keith Watson.
Hynes spoke to Playbill about the decision to make a major casting change that had never been done with the piece before saying;
“I don’t think you can do a musical or any other piece of theatre now and simply have an all-white company of actors simply because they were all white 400 years ago. We are performing in the present, and the present doesn’t look remotely like a bunch of white people. Therefore, I think theatre is at the point where it has become impossible not to take this into account—and rightly so.”
Encores! artistic director Jack Viertel echoed the call, speaking to Playbill as well, to change the production’s conception saying;
“To do justice to the first, it only seemed logical to celebrate one of the things that has finally taken Broadway by storm, thanks in great part to Hamilton—making the event on stage as diverse as the America we live in.”
1776 was first performed on Broadway in March 1969 at the 46th Street Theater, now renamed The Richard Rodgers, and ironically home to Broadway’s newest revolution, Hamilton. During it’s three-year run on Broadway, the show moved from theater to theater beginning at the 46th Street before moving to the St. James in 1970 and to the Majestic in 1971. Over the course of those three years, it played 1,217 performances. The show was most recently revived on Broadway by Roundabout Theatre Company in 1997. The show ran for 333 performances and 34 previews at The Criterion Center, which use to sit on the land most recently used by Toys R Us in Times Square.
Luner Lowdown: Encores! couldn’t have possibly made a better choice to include 1776 as a part of their season as another revolutionary show, Hamilton, takes Broadway by storm re-imagining how we tell our history. The choice as well to cast a diverse cast of characters, as opposed to the traditionally all-white, is an excellent echo to tell the story of America then through America now. Also, I would expect big audiences for this mounting of the show as Hamilton has managed to get more young theatre goers interested in American history than ever before. 1776 would not only be a fantastic additional piece of history for them to understand but an excellent theatrical production for them to know as a theatre goer as well.
Luner on Theatre will keep you updated on any Encores! news from New York City Center! We hope to bring you a first look at this production, with a sneak peek below! (Thanks City Center for Sharing!) As mentioned above, 1776 marks the halfway point of the 2016 season which is still set to include Do I Hear A Waltz?