MURRAY — The Playhouse in the Park will be premiering its latest production, “1776,” starting tonight.
The musical, written by Sherman Edwards, is a dramatic look inside the events surrounding and leading up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Randall Black, who is taking on the role of John Adams in the production, said one of the most striking aspects of the show is the way it shows the human aspects of the men who drafted the declaration and founded the nation.
“It is a wonderful dramatization of what might have gone on,” Black said. “It is a look at the men that we look on as historic icons, as men. And it is quite funny, quite clever and quite human.”
Black said we tend to attribute greater characteristics to people who do great things in history, but that the show is a way to remember that such people were regular people too.
“One of my favorite things is that we see them disagree —sometimes violently — listen to each other and then do what is in the greater good, which requires compromise,” said Playhouse Executive Director Lisa Cope, who is helming the production. “And listening and compromise, I think, are becoming lost arts.”
The show features a large cast — 24 men and two women — which Cope said was a reason the Playhouse had been leery of putting on the production in previous years. However, she said that after attending a recent conference and speaking with other community theaters of all shapes and sizes, she learned that even playhouses smaller than PIP were tackling the show.
Another factor Cope mentioned was the popularity of the more recent “Hamilton,” which has seemed to spark an additional interest in historical musicals set in the period. She said that when the board selected “1776” for the current season, she was thrilled.
“This show comes up every single year; somebody mentions this show or requests it,” Cope said. “It has been around forever and people don’t realize that.”
Cope said those acting in the production range from first-timers to Playhouse veterans. And for Black, the production has presented an opportunity to be in a show he has wished to be in for decades.
“I am so thankful to Lisa and to the board of the Playhouse for doing this show,” Black said. “I saw this show when it first came out on the national tour back in 1970, when I was in middle school. I have wanted to do this show for 48 years. Now, I am not playing the role that I wanted to 48 years ago, but I am no longer a teenager.”
Black said the role he had aspirations for as a middle schooler was that of the courier, though time has marched on since then. Cope mentioned that the cast members were donning costumes that were made especially for this show, and praised the hard work of the volunteers who contributed many hours to their completion.
Both conveyed that “1776” features a fantastic cast that has poured a lot of work into the production. Cope said the show is funnier than people would think, features a variety of wonderful songs and features something that audiences of all kinds will enjoy.
The show opens tonight, with shows Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with more shows next weekend. For more information, visit playhousemurray.org.