“If we do not hang together, we shall most assuredly hang separately.”
Although a joke, that quote — usually attributed to Benjamin Franklin — conveys a message that unfortunately many contemporary Americans seem to have forgotten, with Election Day just around the corner and political tensions running high. But at a time when some public figures are calling for an increase in incivility toward those with opposing views, the hit Broadway musical “1776,” now playing at the Alhambra Theatre & Dining, serves as a timely reminder that the country has not only faced, but overcome such deep divisions before.
With book by Peter Stone and music by Sherman Edwards, “1776” brings the history books to life by recounting the uphill battle faced by America’s founding fathers in declaring independence from Great Britain. Set in the summer of 1776, the show centers on John Adams, who, together with Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, must find a way to beat the unfathomable odds and convince the other members of the Second Continental Congress that separation from the British Empire is in their best interest.
For those familiar with the political climate in America today, the constant bickering and backbiting of the opposing factions in the show will seem only too familiar. For instance, while “obnoxious and disliked” Adams (Kevin Anderson) relentlessly pushes for independence, he repeatedly spars with John Dickinson of Pennsylvania (Alexander Molina), who contends that reconciliation with Great Britain would be a more prudent course of action. But even with all the anger and bitterness that is expressed in their exchanges, when the final decision to declare independence is made, the two retain their respect for one another as fellow countrymen who simply want what is best for their homeland, proving that it is in fact possible to agree to disagree.
As Adams, Tony Award-nominated Anderson is the perfect embodiment of the American spirit. An experienced stage, TV and film actor, his portrayal of Adams’ passionate and steadfast pursuit of freedom is authentic and will leave audience members overflowing with patriotic pride. Also worthy of note was Mark Poppleton’s able performance of the witty and wise Benjamin Franklin, as well as Andrew LeJeune’s chilling rendition of “Molasses to Rum” in the role of Edward Rutledge of South Carolina.
Running through Nov. 18, the Alhambra’s production of “1776” is a refreshing reminder of what unites us all as Americans: our freedom. Take a night to celebrate the “land of the free” by seeing this exceptional display of American exceptionalism while you can.