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"1776" gives audiences a musical look at the debate over independence

With Brexit, the conventions and "Hamilton," audiences are primed for a revival of a musical about the making of the Declaration of Independence.

Gettysburg Community Theatre probably couldn't have picked a better time to revive the musical "1776."

UK voters just voted to split from the European Union. The Democrats and Republicans are about to convene to choose their candidates for the upcoming presidential election.

And the Tony Award-winning rap musical "Hamilton," about Alexander Hamilton, one of the nation's Founding Fathers and first Secretary of the Treasury, is playing to sold-out crowds on Broadway.

Oddly enough, the same Broadway theater where "Hamilton" is now playing was home to "1776" during the musical's original Broadway run starting in 1969.

So what's more timely than a musical that follows the Founding Fathers — including future presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson — as they debate the Declaration of Independence, setting the stage for our own Brexit-style split with England.

All this happened long before C-SPAN existed, jokes George Muschamp, who is directing "1776" in his Gettysburg Community Theatre directorial debut.

"We think we know the history," said Muschamp, who has directed more than 200 plays and performed as an actor at the New York Shakespeare Festival and Minneapolis' Guthrie Theater, among other venues. "But in this summer of all summers, do we really know how this experiment in democracy is going to turn out?"

This version of "1776" differs from the original version of the Broadway musical and 1972 film in one respect audiences will notice, Muschamp says. 

This time, some of the actors are dressed in costumes reflecting the 1700s while others wear modern day clothes. Muschamp has managed to weave in other contemporary features, like some of the Founding Fathers tapping away at their laptops or snapping cell phone selfies as they debate breaking away from England.

"It's a beautiful, witty retelling of the story," Muschamp says.

 It's a big cast, too —27 actors and actresses — with lots of singing and dancing.

"The cast is heavenly," Muschamp says. "It's a wonderful group."  

If You Go:

What: "1776," a musical about the writing of the Declaration of Independence

When: 7 p.m. on July 15, 16, 22, 23, 29 and 30. 2 p.m. on July 17, 24 and 31 

Where: Gettysburg Community Theatre, 49 York St., Gettysburg

Cost: $18

For tickets: Online at, or call the box office at 717-334-2692.