1776 and Hamilton Share History and A Theater

by Stage Directions

For July 4th we thought it a good time to revisit the legacy of 1776. Long before there was Hamilton there was 1776, with a book by Peter Stone, music & lyrics by Sherman Edwards and directed by Peter Hunt. 1776 opened March 16, 1969 at the 46th Street Theatre, now known as the Richard Rodgers Theatre, which in a wonderful moment of theatrical symmetry, is the current home of Hamilton. Both are examples of theater at its best, both entertaining and thought-provoking. Today perhaps it is important to note that both 1776 and Hamilton are not mere patriotic looks back but rather timely reminders to us that ours is a history of ideals that were hard fought for, debated, and crafted which resulted in a nation that holds debate and the exchange of ideas essential to its core existence. 

The Egg performed by Ken Howard (Thomas Jefferson), Howard Da Silva (Benjamin Franklin), and William Daniels (John Adams) reprising their Broadway roles in the film version of 1776.

Both musicals, Hamilton and 1776, look at the men and the choices that gave birth to America as an independent nation. Both shows were winners of the Tony Awards®  for Best Musical and Best Direction of a Musical. In fact 1776 opened one night, a mere 15 hours, before the close of eligibility for the 1969 awards.

1776 played 1,217 performances before closing Feb. 13, 1972 at the Majestic Theatre. During the Broadway run of the original production, it moved theaters twice, once from the 46th Street Theatre to the St. James Theatre, without missing a single performance and then to the Majestic Theatre, dark only two days for that move. It was revived on Broadway in 1997 by the Roundabout Theatre Company. In 1972, a screen adaptation was released with many of the original Broadway cast reprising their roles and again directed by Peter Hunt. In the 45 years since it ended its original Broadway run 1776 has had numerous productions regionally, internationally, and academically.

In March of 2016 New York City Center presented 1776 as part of it's Encores Series. At that time they also conducted a conversation interview with original Broadway 1776 cast member actor William Daniels, who played John Adams and Hamilton creator and actor, Lin-Manuel Miranda. It is well worth the read: The Legacy of 1776: A Conversation with William Daniels and Lin-Manuel Miranda