CITY CENTER: Before we get too deeply into ticketing, I want to talk a bit about 1776. Today we think of it as being in the pantheon of great musicals, but in the 1960s, the show was so unconventional that Sherman Edwards had a hard time getting it produced. “Some of the biggest [names] in the theater,” he recalled, “looked at me and said, ‘What, a costume musical? A costume, historical musical?’” Mr. Daniels, do you remember your initial reaction to the idea?
WD: I read the script with a bunch of people at somebody’s apartment. Sherman Edwards was a former schoolteacher from New Jersey, and he had written not just the songs, but the script. It was a little stiff; I remember thinking, We’re in the middle of Vietnam, for Christ’s sake, and they’re waving the flag? I really had to be talked into doing it. At any rate, when the script came back to me, Peter Stone had taken ahold of it, and he’d gone back to the actual conversations in the Second Continental Congress. He had written them out on little cards and injected them into the script, and it made all the difference in the world. It added humor and conciseness and truth.
LM: I love that anecdote, because it gets at something that I discovered in writing Hamilton: the truth is invariably more interesting than anything a writer could make up. That Peter Stone went back to the texts written by these guys, who were petty, brilliant, compromised—that’s more interesting than any marble saints or plaster heroes you can create. And the picture you all painted together of John Adams was so powerful; in the opening scene, he calls himself “obnoxious and disliked,” which is a real quote. We don’t have a John Adams in our show, but we can just refer to him, and everyone just pictures you, Mr. Daniels.
LM: I’ll tell you, I think you’re absolutely right. 1776 certainly paved the way for Hamilton—not just in that it’s about our founders, but also in that it engages fully with their humanity. I think it makes them accessible to us in a very real way. To begin an opening number with everyone telling another guy to shut up—what better way to pull these people that we see on statues and on our currency off of the pedestal? It’s an extraordinary opening number.
WD: That was always an interesting moment. Doing John Adams was one of the highlights of my acting career: you come out in front of the curtain, and the people are sitting there rustling their papers, and the men are probably wondering why they bought these tickets—and then you start, “By God, I have had this Congress!” And it was always Con-gress. Sherman Edwards said, “You have to say Con-gress.” That whole speech was done in front of the curtain, and then the curtain opened up and this whole choir of voices sang, “Sit down, John!” That really grabbed them. You know, Lin-Manuel, I saw the “60 Minutes” piece about Hamilton, and I was so impressed. The way you put his story into music, into—I don’t know what you call it. Be-bop? Rap? It really grabs people. And it has to grab people. Otherwise, it could be kind of boring just to talk about history.
LM: Someone said something really smart once: “You kind of have to work hard to make this story boring.” My arc in learning about all this was actually similar to yours, Mr. Daniels, in that I didn’t know anything about this era of history until I started writing it. And as I fell in love with the research, and these stories, I found that if you make the political personal, you can get away with putting in as much information as you want—as long as it always has a personal angle, and they remain flesh-and-blood creatures. Once everyone starts spouting, then you’re dead in the water.
a wonderful conversation, including some awesome anecdotes about the making of the 1776 movie with the original cast & the ultimatum involved with performing 1776 for the Nixon administration.
Break out your green and silver, kids. Today’s the day to raise the Slytherin banner high and share a little love for one of the most misunderstood houses in all of Hogwarts. Sure, we’ve got a certain, noseless evil wizard in our list of alums, but there is actually a lot of awesome…
A lot of people do not understand how important this years Tony Awards are. Almost every actor/actress/director/technicians/etc.; almost all of these artists of color are nominated, and even more, have won the prestigious Tony Award, and representation could not be more prevalent and beautiful.