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1776

Well, it certainly was a weird idea. In fact, the author of the show’s book, Peter Stone, said it “sounded like the worst idea that had ever been proposed for a musical.”

You see, 1776 tells the story of the crafting of the Declaration of Independence. It’s full of songs about politics and issues, sung by a mostly all-male cast in powdered wigs that don’t even give the slightest hint of drag or camp. And it works: There is real drama in the unlikely birth of our nation, and some comedy, too. (As in the character of the representative from New York, who consistently abstains from taking a position on anything. The more things change . . .)

As a result, 1776 (which opens tomorrow at the New York State Theatre Institute) attracts a lot of people who don’t usually like musicals. In fact, folks who wouldn’t be caught dead at Cats or Les Mis eagerly awaited the release of the restored, extended film version on DVD a couple of years ago. Why? Well, how many musicals out there are for both theater lovers and history buffs?

1776 will be presented by the New York State Theatre Institute (Schacht Fine Arts Center, Russell Sage College, Troy) beginning tomorrow (Friday, Jan. 27) and continuing through Feb. 11. For showtimes, reservations and information, call 274-3256 or visit www.nysti.org.

Margaret Mead Traveling Film & Video Festival

The longest-running showcase for independent, international documentaries in the United States has touched down in the Capital Region. For the last 28 years, the American Museum of Natural History’s Margaret Mead Traveling Film & Video Festival (feel free to abbreviate at will) has taken a handful of films from its larger festival (an event held annually at the aforementioned museum) on the road, bringing the best in nonfiction cinema to cities around the country. Cosponsored by iEAR Presents! and the Sanctuary for Independent Media, the festival’s Troy installment is divided into three two-night clusters: The first film was screened last night; this evening (Thursday, Jan. 26), catch Awake Zion, a 2003 doc that explores the connections between reggae culture and Judaism. Screenings continue with five films on Feb. 1 and 2, and the festival wraps up with Home on Feb. 8, and the Afghan film Land Mines: A Love Story on Feb. 9.

The Margaret Mead Traveling Film & Video Festival continues through Feb. 9 at the Sanctuary for Independent Media (3361 6th Ave., Troy). Each program begins at 7 PM. A donation of $10 is suggested for each screening. For more information, call 272-2390.

Paco Peña: Flamenco in Concert

Flamenco, both the music and the dance, has, when it really works, a unique intimacy and power. Both musician and dancer must convey emotion—often violent emotion—with precision and control. According to critics around the world, guitarist Paco Peña and his company of guitarists and dancers are one of the leading practitioners of this difficult art.

The New York Times said that Peña is “a virtuoso, capable of dazzling an audience beyond the frets of mortal man.” The Boston Herald said that he exhibits a “combination of discipline and control with [a] constant undercurrent of passionate emotion,” which has made Peña “one of the premiere flamenco guitarists in the world.”

And he’s coming to the Troy Music Hall tomorrow (Friday), along with three guitarists, a singer and dancers, to heat up a cold Capital Region night.

Paco Peña and his company will perform tomorrow (Friday, Jan. 27) at 8 PM at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall (2nd and State streets, Troy). Tickets are $28, $25 and $15 (students). For reservations and information, call the Music Hall box office at 273-0038.


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