Our nation was established by the political leaders of the time on the principles of “liberty and justice for all”, a statement that nowadays seems undoubtedly mute. Musical Theatre, as a branch of the performing arts, has always been a reflection of current affairs and social relevance. 1776 is a well-known musical with music and lyrics by Sherman Edwards and book by Peter Stone. The show depicts several historical occurrences and events that culminate in the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Historical figures like John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, to name a few, are weaved in the story as the American leaders of the time.
The musical premiered on Broadway in 1969, winning three Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Performance of an Actor in a Musical, and Best Direction of a Musical. It was revived in 1997, and most recently in 2022 with a twist, the entire cast was assembled by performers who identify as female, Non-Binary, and Trans. This aspect makes this production an important piece that should not be missed.
We chatted with one of the actors in the current national tour, Brooke Simpson (she/her) a full blooded Indigenous Native American of the Haliwa-Saponi Tribe who has had an extensive career as a vocalist. Some of her accomplishments include being a finalist on both The Voice and America’s Got Talent, as well as having the opportunity to perform with Miley Cyrus and Sia. After being part of the Broadway company, she is now on the road with the national tour.
Simpson remembers walking into the rehearsal room in New York for the cast’s first meeting and being greeted by the show creatives with all of their pictures next to designs and costume pieces personalized to each actor. Part of what she found exciting about this project was the opportunity to learn about American History through this powerful piece. Another thrilling aspect of the rehearsal and performance process of the show for her is not only to get to be on stage with her talented peers, but also being more involved with the group whenever she has to go on for one of her understudy characters, in her case Abigail Adams and Rev. John Witherspoon. “My favorite song is definitely “Mama Look Sharp”. It’s a moment in the show that reminds you what’s at stake and the weight of the decisions these men are making.”, stated Simpson, who also mentioned that the audience can expect to laugh, learn a lot, sit in truth’s discomfort, and be deeply moved by the show. “I’m really proud of what we’ve created and have worked so hard on.”, she added.
1776 is traditionally cast with cis white men, so this production gives Females, Trans, Non-Binary, and BIPOC voices, historically not invited to be part of the conversation, the opportunity to step into the shoes of these figures and tell the story of our nation through powerful vocals and spectacular musical arrangements. “I DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU BUT HUNNY, THAT SOUNDS LIKE A SHOW I NEED TO SEE!”, expressed Simpson.
When asked about her proudest moments of her career, she pinpointed two, filming a Nike commercial on Haliwa-Saponi tribal grounds, and the first time she put on a piece of Haliwa-Saponi tribal jewelry on a Broadway stage, making her feel like “I’ve made my tribe and my people proud.”, she mentioned.
The National Tour of 1776 is brought to the historic Civic Center Theater in Downtown San Diego by Broadway San Diego, with performances Tuesday through Sunday from May 9, 2023, through May 14, 2023.
As a message to the San Diego LGBTQ+ Community, Simpson added, “COME SEE OUR SHOW! There’s so many of us Queer folks in the cast that love seeing Queer joy all throughout our audiences and getting to talk to you after the show 🙂 You’re gonna laugh, cry, have so much fun and feel the representation and love all on that stage!” Follow her on all social media platforms for more details on her music projects and career on @brookesimpsonofficial
1776 is presented by Broadway San Diego with performances May 9th through May 14th at the Civic Center in Downtown San Diego. Tickets and info: https://www.broadwaysd.com/upcoming-events/1776/