By Janee Law
Audience members were taken back to the 1700s Thursday night, when John W. Engeman Theater’s production of musical “1776” hit the stage and told the intense and courageous tale of how the founding fathers declared independence from Great Britain.
The Tony Award-winning musical covers a three-month period during the hot summer months in Philadelphia. Actors incorporate drama into the story, with occasional moments of comic relief, leading up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
With a talented creative design team, and director Igor Goldin, the stage opens in the chamber of the continental congress on May 8, 1776. With several tables scattered among the stage holding feather pens, actors are finely dressed in 18th century wings, neck cravats, suits, stockings and buckle shoes.
The 25 cast members embody each of their characters, and embrace the time period through mannerisms, speech and poise.
Captivating in his performance as found father John Adams, Jamie LaVerdiere is intense, passionate and persistent in his efforts for independence.
LaVerdiere said after the show that it is a “great deal of fun” to play his role.
“It’s an inspiring story. It was a brand new thing and he was a visionary,” LaVerdiere added. “It’s a dream role of mine. I’ve worked out here a couple times and I’m just so honored for the opportunity to be doing it anywhere that this will always be a special experience in my career.”
In addition, his performance with Jennifer Hope Willis (Abigail Adams) gives a beautiful rendition of the letters that John and Abigail wrote to each other while John was away in Philadelphia. As the actors sing to each other in “Yours, Yours, Yours,” they deliver heartbreaking yearning as John confides in Abigail during stressful times.
In other numbers, like “Cool, Cool Considerate Men,” led by Benjamin Howes (as John Dickinson), actors take the stage in a powerful performance as men standing their ground to remain loyal to the crown.
With each passing ‘day,’ the story intensifies, as characters entice one another and make unwanted sacrifices for the colonies to officially declare independence.
Audience member Lynn Ratner, of Merrick, said after the show that she enjoyed the production.
“We weren’t sure what to expect from a Long Island theater,” she added. “It’s a very impressive group, very talented people. The voices were wonderful and it’s a wonderful story.”
Showtimes for “1776” at the John W. Engeman Theater (250 Main St., Northport) are Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sundays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets are $71-$76 and can be purchased at the box office, or at Engemantheater.com.