Writers: Peter Stone Sherman Edwards


Show Information

Number of Acts
Tony Award®
Best Musical 1970
First Produced
Drama, Comedy, Historical/Biographical
Period, Multiple Settings
Time & Place
summer, 1776, philadelphia, pennsylvania
Cast Size
Orchestra Size
Musical Staging
Ideal for
Community Theatre, High School, Large Cast, Mostly Male Cast, Professional Theatre, Regional Theatre
Casting Notes
Mostly male cast
Includes adult, mature adult, young adult, late teen, early teen characters


It is a long hot summer in Philadelphia, and the Continental Congress is an exhausted, annoyed, quarrelsome collection of men, at each other’s throats over the burning question of independence from Great Britain. John Adams, the passionate crusader for rebellion, races against time: if the congress does not agree to throw off the yoke of tyranny, General Washington’s painfully outnumbered army will have no ideal for which to fight. But Adams is obnoxious and disliked -- no one will listen to his arguments. They might have a chance if Thomas Jefferson, that silver wordsmith, would write a Declaration -- but Jefferson, frustrated by his long absence from lovely wife Martha, is in no mood to be creative. And when it comes down to a final decision, the course of history hangs on whether sycophantic Judge James Wilson can remain as anonymous as possible with his vote….. Under these conditions, how will America ever achieve Independence? Peter Stone and Sherman Edwards’ 1776 is a brilliant imagining of American history, a grand tale which manages to feel both intimate and epic at once, bringing humor and humanity to the account of twenty men, three months, and one incredible argument, in which the fate of nations is decided. The score features such famous tunes as the romantic “He Plays the Violin,” the comedic “The Lees of Old Virginia,” and that plaintive memorial to young patriots, “Momma, Look Sharp.”

Lead Characters

1776 guide sections