April 29, 2009 THE VILLADOM TIMES I, II, III & IV • Page 17 The road to independence laced with music by Dennis Seuling History can be entertaining, especially as presented in “1776,” the current production of Millburn’s Paper Mill Playhouse. This musical adaptation of the weeks leading up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence transforms John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Ben Franklin into real people with passions, flaws, and insecurities. The book by Peter Stone is witty, fastpaced, and accurate on key points relating to the infighting as the radical notion of the colonies’ revolting against British rule came to a vote. One British injustice after another had already led to great battles between the colonial armies under George Washington. There was a big decision to be made: either wait and hope for reconciliation with England over the American colonies’ grievances or declare America a new, independent nation. As the play opens, it is late spring, moving into a sweltering early summer in Philadelphia. Members of the Second Continental Congress are holed up in a steaming chamber, mopping their brows and swatting flies. The members include Pennsylvania’s Benjamin Franklin (Conrad John Schuck), Massachusetts’ John Adams (Don Stephenson), South Carolina’s Edward Rutledge (James Barbour), New Jersey’s Rev. John Witherspoon (Jeff Brooks), Delaware’s cancer-ridden Caesar Rodney (James Coyle), Virginia’s Thomas Jefferson (Kevin Earley), and the President of the Congress, New Hampshire’s John Hancock (Nick Wyman). Adams has been trying without success to introduce a motion on independence, but he is “obnoxious and disliked” by so many of his peers that Franklin suggests the motion be made by a representative from a southern state. They convince Richard Henry Lee (Aaron Ramey) of Virginia to ride home and get the consent of the Houses of Burgesses to make the motion in Congress. That is just the beginning of a long debate on whether declaring independence is prudent. As assorted members of Congress express their opinions, hot tempers lead to violent arguments, and cooler heads forge compromises. The character of Adams is central to “1776” and requires a solid actor-singer who can charm an audience while irritating his colleagues. Stephenson’s Adams is persistent, arrogant, and confrontational. Stephenson conveys the irritating quality of Adams, but not his wisdom. He comes off shrill and frenzied, but he does have some tender, reflective moments when he thinks of his wife, Abigail (Kerry O’Malley), making do at home on their failing farm with a slew of children suffering assorted illnesses. Here we see a flesh-and-blood man, not a martinet. He longs for family life, but his love of country puts the question of independence foremost. Cuccioli’s John Dickinson is the voice John Adams (Don Stephenson), William Henry Lee (Aaron Ramey) and Benjamin Franklin (Conrad John Schuck) discuss the complexities of declaring independence in ‘1776.’ of conservatism. In addition to fearing that England’s might would crush a revolution and destroy all the property and prosperity the colonists came to America to pursue, he genuinely believes that declaring independence would be an act of treason. His number, “Cool, Cool Considerate Men,” complete with a minuet with his like-thinking colleagues, is the play’s musical statement of maintaining the status quo. Another standout is James Barbour, who received the longest ovation on opening night after his breathtaking performance of “Molasses to Rum,” a response to Jefferson’s defense of an abolition of slavery clause. Rutledge insists the clause be deleted if the South is to go along with independence. The song, rich in imagery, explains how slavery is tied commercially to the interests of the Northern shippers who bring slaves from Africa. In a tour-deforce rendition, Barbour’s Rutledge mimics the slave auctioneer’s cry as he whips up passion for the sale of newly arrived slaves. The play has its share of comic numbers, such as “For God’s Sake, John, Sit Down,” in which the Congress collectively tells (continued on page 19) ��������������������������������������������� BUY ONE ENTREE AT REGULAR PRICE AND RECEIVE A SECOND ENTREE OF EQUAL OR LESSER VALUE FOR $5 • Expires 5-14-09 THE POWER$ OF TABBOULE FINE LEBANESE CUISINE Have Mother’s Day Dinner with us ������ �������� ������������ �������� ������ ������������� ������������ ������������� 5 5th Year Anniversary Come & Enjoy! � Come celebrate 5 years of Tabboule with us! 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