Revolution in lights

High school musical returns to stage after a year hiatus with “1776”


Photo by Eitan Malkus, LT

Senior Maia Zimmers, playing Benjamin Franklin, practices with co-lead senior Elyon Topolosky, playing John Adams.

Harry Davidson, Assistant Copy Editor

After a nearly two year hiatus from in-person productions due to COVID-19, the Joan and Marvin Rosenberg High School Musical made its return with “1776.” The production debuted on Dec. 9 and it focuses on the events of 1776 through a more modern lens. 

“1776” is a musical that highlights the lives of the founding fathers as they attempt to break away from England and draft the Declaration of Independence. The main characters are Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, played by seniors Maia Zimmers and Elyon Topolosky. 

“[Topolosky and I] have really good chemistry because we’re really good friends off stage. So I’m very excited to be playing beside him,” Zimmers said. “I’m excited because [Franklin] is the comedic relief of the show and therefore is super fun to play. But he also is complex and therefore there’s a lot to uncover about him.”

Last year, instead of doing an in-person high school production, there was an online production that involved various pre-recorded songs compiled into a video which was showcased to parents and students. There was no storyline because all the songs were taken from different Broadway musicals. 

In contrast, this year, the cast, filled with 26 different speaking roles, was thrilled to be back on stage performing again. For sophomore Nate Shemony who plays the courier, “1776” is his first production since seventh grade. He was supposed to be one of the leads in the middle school musical “Once on this Island” in 2020, but it was canceled due to the pandemic.

“I’m just excited to be back on the stage again,” Shemony said. “I’ve really enjoyed rehearsals, and spending time with everyone in the show. It’s just a really fun time.”

Acting can be very time consuming and brings with it the challenge of memorizing lines, which requires practice and repetition. 

“Every single Friday night, my grandma comes over to my house and we do lines together,” Topolosky said. “And then every other weekend usually, my friend comes over, and we spend a few hours together also doing lines.”

Everybody has something different they do to prepare themselves in that moment right before the curtains open. For Topolosky, this involves eating a banana and doing 25 jumping jacks. For Zimmers, she always looks around the set, takes a deep breath and tries to internalize that specific moment to ensure confidence in herself when she gets on stage. 

Another crucial aspect to having a successful play comes from making sure everything functions behind the scenes, and that is credited to the stage crew. From setting up the props to making sure the lighting is correct, they do so much to make sure everything works well. Junior Remy Eidelman typically works with the props and is also there to solve issues if they arise during the show. 

“I love the community of stage crew, and for me at least, I’ve made a lot of close friends over the years. And just getting to help put on something makes you feel like you’re helping something bigger,” Eidelman said. “Also, for me, [stage-crew] really tests my problem solving abilities and challenges me to go outside my comfort zone.”

“1776” also serves as an educational play, especially for the junior class, since it relates greatly to their U.S. history curriculum. 

“I always think it’s nice when departments collaborate with each other like this because I think it can really help students get a better understanding of what they are learning,” Eidelman said. “I think giving a completely different way for us to learn, like through a play, is a really effective way to get us engaged in the content and better understand what we are learning.”

To be COVID-19 safe, it was required that there be distance between each family in attendance. In addition, everybody in attendance wore masks and were fully vaccinated.  Audiences had the opportunity to see the show on Dec. 9, 11 and 12, with an additional dress-rehearsal performance shown in school on Dec. 8 for the juniors and seniors.

“It’s a great show,” Director of Arts Education Dr. David Solomon said. “There are funny moments. There are very serious moments. It is a musical that really makes us reflect on what it means to be an American.”