Theater Review: 1776~The Musical at O’Connell & Company

May 3, 2019

Written By

Mary Friona Celani

Many of us recall the famous and iconic picture depicting the signing of the Declaration of Independence but most Americans forget many of the issues and challenges deliberated by delegates months leading up to the actual signing. Now is your chance to be in the room where it all happened as O’Connell & Company brings to life 1776~The Musical with a remarkable all-female cast. Wen I say that the cast is remarkable-I mean it! I have seen many shows at this venue and this is right up there with the best of them.

The show starts in Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, in the stiflingly hot months leading up to July 4, 1776. Meet some of your favorite American Revolutionary figures, such as Thomas Jefferson (Anne Defazio), John Adams (Pamela Rose Mangus), Benjamin Franklin (Mary Kate O’Connell) and many others from the 13 colonies and two iconic women, Martha Jefferson (Heather Casseri) and Abigail Adams (Michelle Holden).

Pamela Rose Mangus, who plays the role of John Adams, is magnificent and brings an intensity to the role. I have seen Pamela Rose Mangus in many shows and this may be her best yet! (I feel an Artie Nomination coming soon). Melanie “Mel” Klaja plays the role of Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, who blows this Amherst audience away with the musical number “The Lees of Old Virginia”. Klaja brings energy to the stage along with her beautiful southern twang—I could watch her all day long!

The original Declaration was signed by 56 men but for purposes of this stage musical, the number of delegates were reduced significantly to include two wives and several adjunct characters all of which are unique and beyond talented. But when all of them are on stage, they paint a beautiful picture of our nation’s history.

The main point in Act I is to decide whether or not unanimity in declaring independence would be required. Adams (Mangus) was willing to let each state decide for itself, but some delegates insisted on unanimity so that “no colony be torn from its mother country without its own consent.” Franklin (O’Connell) is credited for having punned, ”We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.” Mary Kate O’Connell portrays Benjamin Franklin and is witty and entertaining as usual.

The act includes the song-and-dance number “Cool, Cool Considerate Men”, performed by the accomplished Mary Craig who portrays John Dickinson. In the ballet “Momma, Look Sharp”, this is the single most intimately touching musical number in the show, making for a powerful ending of the act, by the custodian Andrew McNair (Sam Crystal).

Slavery becomes the pivotal issue of Act 2, when the text of Jefferson’s (Defazio) draft of the Declaration is being nitpicked and highly criticized. Defazio is simply powerful in this role. Edward Rutledge (Emily Yancey) sings brilliantly “Molasses to Rum” that brings the house down.

It’s left to wise-minded Franklin (O’Connell) to convince Adams (Mangus) that the slavery clause has to go if a new American nation is to arise and that independence from Britain is important, elevating the slavery question to a non-negotiable status jeopardizes the one cause that can unify all the colonies and bring them to unanimity.

Fine musical direction of a four-person orchestra is by Donald Jenczka with excellent handoff between orchestra and actors. Staging and direction are by Steve Vaughan, who executes this all-female version with ease. Choreography was managed by Terri Filips Vaughan. Stage Manager is Alley Griffin—a strong, organized and detailed SM that any director would want on their team. Scenic design of this unitary set is by Matt Myers who does an excellent job of managing the details of 1776~The Musical and is certainly someone to watch because his sets continue to evolve from show to show. Lastly, I am so happy to see Vanessa Dawson, who portrays Dr Lyman Hall, returning to the WNY stage after being in New York City for the past 14 Years—she will be one to watch in upcoming seasons and productions as this actor is a triple threat!

It’s impossible to name every actor in this all-female version of 1776~The Musical but each artist is impeccable in portraying their characters and I am so proud that O’Connell & Company decided to produce this exclusive production of 1776~The Musical for Buffalo audiences to enjoy!+

1776~The Musical (All-Female Cast)

Location: 1776~The Musical plays at O’Connell & Company which is located on the Park School Campus at 4625 Harlem Road in Snyder, New York.
Show Info: 1776~The Musical will play through May 19, 2019. Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30pm and Sunday at 2:30pm
Tickets: $15.00-$30.00; reduced student, senior, military and industry discounts are available.
Ticket Information: Tickets are available at BUY TICKETS or by calling 716-848-0800.
Running time: About 2.5 hours including intermission
Parking: Free adjacent to the Theatre.



About Me

Welcome to Totally Buffalo! My name is Mary Friona-Celani and I am the creator of this site! After spending 20 years in the Buffalo media, I moved on to focus on my beautiful family. Now, the time has come for a new project. I was ready for something new. Something mine.
I am born and raised in WNY and my pride runs deep. My husband, Scott and I are very happy to be raising our four daughters here.






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