1776 Original Broadway Cast Recording
Music & Lyrics by: Sherman Edwards
Distributed by: Masterworks Broadway
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
When I first received this soundtrack, my eyebrows rose. A Broadway musical about our Declaration of Independence? And it was actually a successful musical at that? Thatís what many people said in 1969 when the concept came about. Former history teacher turned pop songwriter Sherman Edwards truly believed he could make this work, despite the nay-saying of critics and, to his credit, he was 100% correct.
As you would have guessed, 1776 takes place in Philadelphia as the Continental Congress discusses the issues plaguing the colonies. Despite the fact that the colonies have already been fighting the British for a year, the Continental Congress has yet to declare its independence from Britain, much to the chagrin of John Adams (William Daniels). The exasperated and not well-liked Adams takes his case to more likeable and politically correct members of Congress - Benjamin Franklin (Rex Everhart) and Thomas Jefferson (Ken Howard) - hoping that they can get his point across in a more agreeable manner. After much debate, the Declaration of Independence is drafted and signed, a momentous occasion in American history.
As I popped the 1776 soundtrack into the CD player, I was quite prepared for a very dry session featuring some important moments in our history. However, I soon found myself laughing, particularly at the opening number, Sit Down, John, in which John Adams attempts to discuss declaring independence from Britain amongst his fellow delegates and is shot down again and again. The following song, Piddle, Twiddle and Resolve, very accurately represents the workings of the Continental Congress at the time and, unfortunately, can actually be used to represent the workings of our present government as well.
I was interested to learn that 1776 was not solely about the signing of the Declaration of Independence, but about the loves sacrificed by John Adams and Thomas Jefferson in the name of independence. In Till Then, Adams and his wife Abigail (Virginia Vestoff) write each other often, bringing them together if only in their own imaginations. Reminded of his own loneliness after sending for Jeffersonís wife (Betty Buckley) in an act of sympathy, he sings Yours, Yours, Yours, a beautiful song of love and longing.
The soundtrack of 1776 is as amusing as it is informative, offering listeners an opportunity to learn about American history in a way that is not dry or boring. In fact, I submit that this soundtrack could be an excellent teaching tool for the younger generation. Trust a history teacher to find an imaginative way of teaching people about the events leading up to the signing of our Declaration of Independence.