Musical opens July 28
By Rob Wheary, Staff Writer • firstname.lastname@example.org
MILLERSBURG – It was a turbulent time for the young nation. Feeling the oppression from its home country of England over higher taxes, the Second Continental Congress has been meeting but John Adams has been growing increasing frustrated about the lack of action Congress has been taking lately.
The battle for creating the United States of America and the formulation of the Declaration of Independence is the backdrop of the musical 1776, which is being presented as the Twin Valley Players’ summer musical, premiering July 28.
For director Todd Hoover, who is also one of the cast members, he is excited to bring this musical back to the stage for the Twin Valley Players.
“I have always loved this show and wanted the chance to direct it ever since I saw the movie on video 30 years ago,” Hoover said. “It’s something that was close to impossible because you need a cast of 30 men to perform it. So it kept being put on the back burner.”
Over the last five years, the calling to bring 1776 to the Twin Valley stage grew louder and louder for Hoover until finally, the opportunity arose.
“This year will be the 240th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, so it’s perfect to bring 1776 to the people,” Hoover said.
The musical brings to life several historical figures from that period, such as John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Hancock. Danny Sites, of Millersburg, who plays John Adams, did some heavy research for his role.
“I began to study a lot about John Adams and have some friends that live in Boston, so they were a big help,” Sites said. “You really see in this show how relentless he is about breaking from Britain’s rule and going after independence. There are times when he appears tactless and often offends people. He looks at it as being honest while others find him obnoxious and dislike him.”
“1776” also explores the unique relationship that Adams had with his wife, Abigail, played by Angela Grassmyer, of Millersburg.
“The two of them spent a majority of their marriage apart while he was in Congress as she ran the farm back home,” Grassmyer said. “The two of them wrote about 1100 letters back and forth and it was there that brought out John’s softer side.”
Josh Kobel not only serves as musical director of the show but plays John Dickinson, a Pennsylvania delegate of Congress who serves as the antagonist to Adams and his push for an independent nation.
“John really would like a reconciliation with England. The independence business doesn’t bother him because he is wealthy and can afford all the taxes. ‘1776 paints a very fair picture of the debate at the time and gives us an entertaining look at this period of American history,” Kobel said.
Many in the cast are happy to see this play being performed in this remodeled Colonnade theater, TVP’s new home, giving the show a more intimate feel.
“One of the actors in the cast remembers seeing the movie version of the musical on the big screen here, back in the 1970s,” said cast member Andrew Schwalm of Tower City. “It’s great for the Twin Valley Players to have a home and not be in a basement or a high school auditorium. We have our stage and can make it our production.”
With a musical about Alexander Hamilton winning multiple Tony awards and becoming the hottest ticket on Broadway, and England’s population voting for independence themselves from the European Union, Hoover hopes that ‘1776’ will have packed houses during its eight-show run.
“With everything going on in the world with Brexit and this landmark election in our country, the time is right for this show,” the director said.
The cast list for 1776 is as follows:
John Hancock played by Dave Bitting, Dr. Josiah Bartlett played by Dave Mattis, John Adams played by Danny Sites, Stephen Hopkins played by Jim Herb, Roger Sherman played by Lon Diffenderfer, Robert Livingston played by Paula Schwalm, The Rev. John Witherspoon played by Thomas Reed; Benjamin Franklin played by Rick Anderson, John Dickinson played by Josh Kobel, James Wilson played by Brady Fisher, Caesar Rodney played by Kathy Boyer, Col. Thomas McKeon, played by John Sultzbaugh, George Read played by Kenneth Hoover, Samuel Chase played by Richard Slade, Richard Henry Lee played by Tom Wilbert, Thomas Jefferson played by Andrew Schwalm, Joseph Hewes played by Dick Lyter, Edward Rutledge played by Mike Lyter, Dr. Lyman Hall played by Todd Hoover, Charles Thompson, played by Andy Trotman, Andrew McNair played by Chad Grassmyer, Abigail Adams played by Angela Grassmyer, Martha Jefferson played by Brandi Geyer-Wilbert, Leather Apron played by Jack Geyer, The Painter will be played by several students from TVP’s 2016 drama camp, including Alex Hogset, Mackenzie Shoop, Eliska Lower, Riley McElrath, Owen Klinger, Evana Lawson, Aaron Dadoun and Avah Koppenhaver, Courier played by Brock Harris.
The show will be presented from Thursday, July 28 to Sunday, July 31 and from Thursday, Aug. 4 to Sunday, Aug. 7. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and at 2:30 p.m. on Sundays.
Tickets are $15 each and are available at the Colonnade box office during business hours, by calling 717-692-3453, or online at http://www.tvpcolonnade.com.