1776

Original Broadway Production (1969)

Trivia & History

1776 won the New York Drama Critics Circle award for best musical on the first ballot, by winning a majority of the votes cast for the award. By the group's rules, 50 percent or more of the votes must be won by a musical (or, for the play awards, by a play) on the first ballot or the group has the option of choosing to give no award or moving to a second, weighted ballot on which each critic lists three choices. (There was a period in the group's history when it was not necessary to win a majority, just a plurality, for a work to win one of the group's awards.) 

1776 received 9 votes from the participating critics. Other shows that received votes were Hair (3), Promises, Promises and Zorbá (2 each), and, most strangely (since it is a play), The Great White Hope (1). Two critics abstained. By a precedent established at the previous season's voting session, their votes were not counted in opposition, thus giving 1776 a majority with nine out 17 votes cast from the 19 critics present.

1776 won three 1969 Tony three awards: best musical; best performance by a supporting or featured actor in a musical (Ronald Holgate as Richard Henry Lee); and best director of a musical (Peter Hunt).

In addition, Virginia Vestoff (Abigail Adams) was nominated for best performance by a supporting or featured actress in a musical, and Jo Mielziner was nominated for scenic design. William Daniels, who played John Adams, was nominated for best performance by a supporting or featured actor in a musical, but he declined his nomination because he believed he should have been considered in the leading-actor category. 


When the production opened, there was no intermission. About 10 minutes before performance time, an announcement would be heard through the speakers warning the audience that the running time of the show was more than two hours and there was no intermission so they should now do whatever they needed to do before the performance started.

An intermission was added for the national tour and for the London production. It was placed after "Momma, Look Sharp." To their surprise, the creative team found that they preferred the show with an intermission, and an intermission was soon added to the Broadway production.


Shortly after the opening, the actor Dal Richards, who played Dr. Josiah Bartlett and understudied the role of Edward Rutledge (taking over this rule for the last few months of the run), changed his professional name to Paul-David Richards.


There was a blizzard on the day of the opening of the pre-Broadway tryout in New Haven that not only kept the critics away but also made it impossible for composer-lyricist Sherman Edwards to be there. A small audience did manage to show up at the Shubert in New Haven, and the performance went on. The second performance was reviewed by the critics. 


On February 22, 1970, the Broadway company of the show played a performance at the White House. It was the first time that a Broadway show had been performed complete at the White House. Other Broadway shows had played there in abridged versions or with cast members performing some highlights, but 1776 told the White House that it had to take the whole show or nothing. The White House took the whole show.


Some online sources incorrectly give the date of the first performance at the St. James — the second of the three Broadway theatres in which the production played — as December 28, 1970. The first performance at the St. James was a matinee on Wednesday, December 30, 1970. The production, which was then playing a Tuesday through Sunday schedule, made up for having lost a performance on Tuesday evening by adding an evening performance, in addition to the usual matinee, on Sunday, January 3, 1971.

When the production moved again in April 1971, no performances had to be canceled, perhaps because this time the move was from the St. James to the Majestic, directly across the street.



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