by Steve Schwartz
Riderwood Opera Theater Group
This musical “1776” is a depiction of the events leading to the creation of our “Declaration of Independence”. The film is an annual tradition of Riderwood Opera Theater and will be shown this year on Friday, July 7 at the Encore Theater at 1:00 pm.
The Continental Congress representing the thirteen British Colonies in North America were as thoroughly divided as our contemporary national legislature. The New England and mid-Atlantic colonies differed with those in the South on economic issues and social values, with human enslavement a primary dispute.
The three main protagonists in the film make those differences clear: John Adams, portrayed by William Daniel, Benjamin Franklin (Howard da Silva) and Thomas Jefferson (Ken Howard). Their day-to-day interactions in the film are less than historically accurate. But their positions on the disputes that blocked agreement on the Declaration of Independence are spot-on, as is the physical depiction of Philadelphia.
The strength John Adams derives from his long (and well-documented) love of his wife Abigail is well shown and represents one of the most appealing elements of the film, whose central message is that our forefathers and foremothers were not stone monuments but real men and women.
The drama of how these men reached the agreement that put ‘their lives, their property, and their sacred honor’ at risk is reflected in many truly great songs.
An additional feature of this July 7 presentation of Riderwood Opera Theater will be Paul Robeson’s performance of “A Ballad For Americans,” first performed on CBS in 1939, subsequently recorded by Victor Records, then by Bing Crosby on Decca. Copies of the lyrics of the ten-minute Cantata will be available at the theater.