5th Avenue Theatre Parade Hairspray Anything Goes 1776

writing: articles, sales copy, and editing


client: The 5th Avenue Theatre
project: 1776 Articles

As was usually the case, I wrote a synopsis to the length and detail that I wanted to publish. I didn't need to worry about spoiling the ending — most everyone already knows how this story ends.


America's Prize-Winning Musical
Music and Lyrics by: Sherman Edwards
Book by: Peter Stone
Directed by: Stephen Terrell

A Detailed Synopsis


On a stifling summer evening in Philadelphia in the chamber of the Second Continental Congress, Massachusetts representative John Adams attempts to rally support for his proposal on independence. Irritable and distracted, the Congressmen call for Adams to cease and desist (Sit Down, John). He storms out, muttering to himself about the idle state of Congress (Piddle, Twiddle, and Resolve). Ill at ease, he conjures his wife Abigail, with whom he regularly corresponds while he is away from home (Till Then).

In the hall outside the chamber, Adams gripes to Pennsylvania representative and friend Benjamin Franklin. Franklin suggests a more charismatic Congressman be put to the task of proposing independence. Richard Henry Lee, an influential representative from Virginia, appears and accepts the assignment. He must first return to his colony to seek their near-certain approval (The Lees of Old Virginia).

Two weeks later, when Lee finally returns from Virginia with the sought after proposal, a series of parliamentary maneuvers ensues from both pro- and anti-independence forces. The Congress reaches a standstill; President Hancock, who favors independence, breaks the tie.

It appears the pro-independence forces are carrying the day until Pennsylvania representative John Dickinson, anti-independence leader, motions for unanimity of the states regarding the vote for independence. The motion carries by a slim vote.

In a desperate attempt to avoid defeat, Adams tries to postpone the final vote by calling for the composition of a Declaration, which would serve to explain to the world the reasons for separation from England. Adams' proposal seems doomed to fail until the studious, heretofore silent Thomas Jefferson speaks up on his behalf. The proposal succeeds and Jefferson, despite his earnest protest, is chosen to write it (But, Mr. Adams).

A week later, Jefferson, distraught over being separated from his enchanting new bride, hasn't written a word. Adams and Franklin call on him to discern any progress. Shortly after their arrival, a radiant young woman enters and falls into Jefferson's arms. It is Martha Jefferson! Adams has cleverly sent for her: the sooner they solve Jefferson's problem, the sooner the Declaration will be written.

Later, Adams conjures Abigail again; she lovingly chides him for not inviting her to Philadelphia. They tenderly lament their separation (Yours, Yours, Yours).

The next morning, Franklin and Adams return and invite Martha to join them for a stroll. They prod her good-naturedly her for details about the previous evening and she describes how Jefferson charmed and won her (He Plays the Violin).

Congress is once again in session, albeit chaotic. Adams attempts to prevail upon Sam Chase, the portly Maryland Congressman who refuses to vote for independence because he has no faith in General Washington's ability to lead the continental forces. As if on cue, a messenger enters with a letter from Washington detailing the pitiful state of the Continental Army. Convinced of Washington's aptitude for exaggeration, Adams invites Chase to go with him to New Brunswick where the army is stationed in order to see for themselves. Franklin agrees to join them and Congress adjourns.

The Conservatives remain in the chamber. With Adams gone and the heat diminished, they assert their exalted philosophy (Cool, Cool, Considerate Men). When they finally leave, only McNair, the Congressional custodian, his helper, and the young military courier remain in the chamber. While sharing war stories, the teen-age solider describes the aftermath of the Battle of Lexington (Momma Look Sharp).

Act II

The Declaration, finally complete, is presented to the assembled delegates by Charles Thompson, the Congressional Secretary; Jefferson stands nervously outside. Adams and Franklin join him and joyously report that the troops in New Jersey showed enough promise to convince Maryland to vote in favor of independence after all. Adams reassures Jefferson of the Declaration's brilliance (The Egg).

When the secretary finishes reading the Declaration, silence falls over the chamber. President Hancock asks the Congress if there are any changes they wish to make. Every hand in the room shoots up. For three days they amend, delete and alter every conceivable detail.

On the third day, when it seems that the adjustments and revisions are complete, courtly South Carolina delegate Edward Rutledge denounces the passage that disallows slavery. He refuses to vote for independence if the clause remains, and Jefferson refuses to remove it. Rutledge accuses the New England delegates of hypocrisy (Molasses and Rum).

The entire South walks out of the session. Defeat for independence seems inevitable with only one day remaining before the final vote. Franklin argues that for the sake of independence, the slavery clause must be cut. Adams refuses to concede.

Disheartened, Adams conjures Abigail who reminds him gently of who he is (Yours, Yours, Yours, reprise). Her words revitalize him, and Adams redoubles his efforts to turn the naysayers into yeasayers.

The courier returns with an anxious message from General Washington. Alone in the chamber, Adams contemplates Washington's words (Is Anybody There?).

The next morning, July 2, Georgia's Lyman Hall, breaks with the South to vote for independence. Congressman Caesar Rodney, who had fallen ill earlier, returns to influence the pro-independence vote in Delaware. Both North Carolina and South Carolina refuse to vote in favor of the Declaration until the slavery clause is taken out. With certain defeat if they do not comply, Adams and Jefferson back down, agreeing to cut the clause.

Only Pennsylvania remains against independence. Represented by three delegates, Dickinson (anti-independence) and Franklin (pro-independence) cancel each other out causing James Wilson, heretofore a silent ally to Dickinson, to break the tie. Wilson, unwilling to be remembered forever as the man who denied America its chance at independence, makes an uncharacteristic break with Dickinson; his "yea" causes Pennsylvania's vote to be pro-independence and makes the vote unanimous at last.

July 3: The Declaration of Independence is ready to be signed by the members of Congress. Another dispatch from General Washington arrives with the battle in New York close at hand. The Continental Army is composed of a mere 5,000, against a British force of 25,000. The Congressmen ponder their sober situation. If the war is lost, each and every one of them will be hanged. But the die is cast. July 4: One by one, the Congressmen sign the Declaration of Independence.