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Sterling High School Theatre stages "1776"
Sterling HS Theatre 1776
The three senior leads for Sterling High School's musical production of "1776" are (left to right) Max Dutton as Thomas Jefferson, Jacob Pieplow as Benjamin Franklin and Bryce Wilson as John Adams.

Everyone knows the year 1776 as the year the United States of America declared its independence from Great Britain. However, what many people don’t know is how difficult it was to sway all of the colonies to sign the Declaration of Independence. The musical 1776 may sound like a history lesson but in reality it is a compelling, dramatic and often humorous musical play. 

Sterling High School Theatre will present the award-winning musical show “1776” at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Nov. 8, 9 and 10 in the school’s theater.

With book by playwright Peter Stone and music and lyrics by Sherman Edwards, “1776” captures the hot, tension-filled, and inspiring days from May 8 through July 4 of that famous year when America’s colonial leaders debated whether to become a free and independent nation. Through the musical, the Founding Fathers become very human men struggling to do what had never been done before in the history of humankind – break from a mother country and found a new nation. 

It has been called “a brilliant show that is both humorous and riveting.” 

The Broadway show “1776” is 50 years old. The film version came out in 1972. 

“I was a young teen when the movie came out,” director Betsy Dutton explains. “I’ve always loved the movie. I remember seeing it three times in the theater. It’s very faithful to the stage show. It has great songs, terrific comic and dramatic moments and memorable characters. But it has a cast of 25 male roles and only two women. I never thought I could do it at the high school.” 

However, the Broadway musical and cultural sensation – “Hamilton” – allowed her to rethink how to approach “1776.” Dutton decided to cast females in some of the male roles. 

“Theatre is about a willing suspension of disbelief,” said Dutton. “For this show, we are simply asking the audience to accept our interpretation of these historical figures, who happen to have been male.” 

The show centers on Massachusetts Congressman John Adams, played by senior Bryce Wilson, as he works to get the entire Congress on board with declaring independence from Great Britain.

With more than half of the Congress against it, there was a lot of convincing to do. Along with Adams, Ben Franklin, played by senior Jacob Pieplow, and Thomas Jefferson, played by senior Max Dutton, work tirelessly on the declaration and meeting the Congress’s needs before everyone signs it. Although everyone knows the ending of this story, the show keeps you on the edge of your seat.

John Adams’ wife Abigail will be portrayed by senior Sarah Walker while senior Debbie Schmidt will be seen as Jefferson’s wife, Martha. 

The conservative members of the Continental Congress find their leader in John Dickinson of Pennsylvania, played by Bryson Brownlee. Judge James Wilson, the other Pennsylvania delegate will be Jordan Mullins. 

North Carolina delegate and strong-willed slavery advocate Edward Rutledge will be Sterling High School theater alumnus Will Dutton while high school sophomore Caleb Brownlee will be spirited Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee. 

President of the Congress and noted signature--maker John Hancock will be senior Brett Riffel. Senior William Weiner will play the Courier who brings news of the war front from General George Washington. The custodian of the Congress will be played by Noah Svaty.

Lauren Frederick, Lucas Gilmore, Jeremy Thorpe, Morgan Anderson, Zoe Miller, Luke Harding, Sophia Vessey, Cara Cabral, Audai Holcomb, Regan Olsen and Natalie Schweizer play other delegates to the Second Continental Congress. Zane Guerroero and Jasmine Bates will be seen as servants to the congress. 

Others in the 35-member cast include Cameron Lange, Cody Oden, Alyssa Reimer, Tucker Robson, Wyatt Schmidt, Junior Silva, Joshua Thorpe, Josiah Watney and Caden Webb.

Sterling High School choral music teacher Clark Comley is music director with music assistant Cindy Anthony leading the instrumental combo. 

Tickets for the Sterling High School Theatre production of 1776 are $8 for adults and $4 for students and will be available at the door before each performance.