1776 musical returns to Kweskin Theatre in Stamford

They say “the third time’s the charm” so Curtain Call is excited to have recently kicked off its 31st season on Sept. 17 with 1776, the Tony Award-winning musical comedy, which opened on Broadway in 1969. Performances will be held in The Kweskin Theatre at the Sterling Farms Theatre Complex, Newfield Avenue in Stamford through Oct. 9.

 “1776 was the first Broadway musical I saw," said Lou Ursone, Curtain Call's executive director. "I absolutely fell in love with it and the characters. I’ve been a huge history buff ever since.” Ursone stars in the role of John Adams which he has played before here in Stamford, Darien, and with the Ocean State Theatre Company in Rhode Island.

“I’ve got more than 100 performances in the role under my belt, but I still get excited about the show and keep reading more about Adams and the other founding fathers to dig deeper into these peoples,” Ursone said.

1776, with music and lyrics by Sherman Edwards and a book by Peter Stone, ran for 1,217 performances during its original run and won three Tony Awards, including Best Musical. With quick-witted dialogue and a playful score, 1776 dramatizes the impassioned debates of Philadelphia’s Second Continental Congress. A successful film adaptation in 1972 has been played in history classes for many years.

In 1776, audiences witness the birth of our nation as its forefathers struggle to craft the Declaration of Independence in this Tony Award-winning best musical. The show is funny, insightful and provides compelling story-telling with a striking score. It also puts a human face on the pages of history as we see the men behind the national icons: proud, frightened, uncertain, irritable, charming, often petty and ultimately noble figures, determined to do the right thing for a fledgling nation. A terrific and fun history lesson for the whole family set to music!

Like Ursone, director Gordon Casagrande is no stranger to the material — this is his fifth time working on the show, including two previous productions at Curtain Call. His wife, Karen, serves as the choreographer for the show, and with music director, Peter Randazzo, they complete the directing team.  Set design is by Jamie LaJoie based on an original design by Peter Barbieri, Jr. Costumes are by Terry Hanson and lighting design by Peter Petrino.

"1776 is a great combination of drama and comedy, and it shows our founding fathers as real human beings, not just the historical figures we read about in history books. It is extremely enjoyable to direct, and I discover new things about it every time I direct it,” said Gordon Casagrande. He and his wife, Karen, are also huge fans of John Adams. For Karen, as choreographer, the fact that Adams loved to dance is particularly appealing.

“I've felt a close connection to 1776 since I first directed it many years ago,” said director Casagrande.  “I've always been interested in United States history since my days as a history major in college, and especially with the Revolutionary War, as I grew up reading about the battle that took place right on Ridgefield's Main Street,” he added.

The cast of 27 includes, in addition to Ursone: James Chiles as Caesar Rodney, Clint Clifford as Dr. Lyman Hall, Victoria Clougher as Martha Jefferson, Bruce Crilly as John Dickinson, Tommy DeSalvo as Lewis Morris, Scott Ferrara as Samuel Chase, Jim Foley as Col. Thomas McKean, Eli Foodman as A Leather Apron, Phil Garfinkel as George Read, Jonathan Jacobson as Thomas Jefferson, Michael Jovovich as Edward Rutledge, Bill King as The Courier, Thomas Kramer as James Wilson, Jerry Kranz as Stephen Hopkins, Michael Kraus as Andrew McNair, Julie Loyd as Abigail Adams, Ben McCormack as Richard Henry Lee, Rick Harrington as Robert Livingston, Jim Muthersbaugh as Charles Thomson, Chris Nardi as Joseph Hewes, William Squier as John Hancock, Greg Suss as Roger Sherman, Dan Travers as Lewis Morris, Stephen Wolf as Josiah Bartlett, Christopher Woodside as Rev. Witherspoon and Michael Wright as Benjamin Franklin. (Besides Ursone, Muthersbaugh, Jacobson and Ferrara appeared in the same roles in the theatre's 2010 production of the show; Kranz appeared in his same role in 2001.)

Performances will be held Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. and Sunday afternoons at 2 p.m. There are also two 8 p.m. Thursday evening shows, September 30 and October 7. The Kweskin Theatre is located at The Sterling Farms Theatre Complex, 1349 Newfield Avenue, Stamford, CT. Doors open one half hour before show time. Tickets are $35 for adults, $25 for senior citizens and $20 for children under 21. (Discounted Flex Pass subscriptions offer savings of 25% and more.) Box Office: 203-461-6358 x 13 or on the web at www.curtaincallinc.com.

1776 is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International, MTIShows.com, NY, NY and is produced in cooperation with The City of Stamford with support from the CT Office of the Arts.

While COVID numbers remain high, Curtain Call will follow the City of Stamford indoor mask mandate but will also require proof of vaccination from all patrons as is the current Broadway standard. (Curtain Call staff, performers, musicians and crew are all fully vaccinated.) Hand sanitizer is available in the lobby and increased air circulation will be maintained in addition to the use of an industrial UV sanitizer after each performance. “As soon as the numbers go down and stabilize, we will loosen restrictions,” Ursone said.

Curtain Call was voted Fairfield County's "Best Local Theatre Group" ten years running in the Annual Readers' Poll of the Fairfield County Weekly and has received similar "Best of" awards from Stamford Magazine and StamfordPlus magazine for 2008 through 2018. Curtain Call received The Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts in 2011 and the ACE Award for Excellence in Arts & Culture from the Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County in 2016.