St. Bernard Parish’s Performing Arts Academy Creates History

St. Bernard Parish’s Performing Arts Academy will bring history to life through song, dance, and humor when it stages the musical 1776. Shows are on June 29 and 30 at 7 pm and July 1 and 2 at 2 pm. 

1776 is a fast-paced musical with music and lyrics by Sherman Edwards and a book by Peter Stone. Based on the events leading up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the play focuses on the efforts of John Adams’ attempts to persuade his colleagues to vote for American independence and to sign the world-altering document. 

Despite its historical premise, 1776 is both funny and moving. Arianna Cassar-Cruice, who serves as the Artistic Director for The Performing Arts Academy said she is excited to bring this story to life, utilizing both students and alumni from Chalmette High School to tell the tale. 

“It is a wonderful showcase of the talent and passion of the many generations of artists of St. Bernard, “ she said. “We hope that each member of the audience will enjoy this re-telling of our journey to independence and see themselves as key players, who are still just as important as our founding fathers in the protection and pursuit of liberty for all people today.” 

Fred Hebert, the Technical Director of the show, said the scope and beauty of the set are also key players in the production. 

“The set is definitely the biggest we have ever built,” he said. Hebert added that the amount of talent on and offstage is really powerful. “This show will bring a new aspect to the historic piece. We have so many alumni back helping to guide our students, they truly are creating magic.”

Lead characters include Daniel Barber as Ben Franklin, Dallas Blackmore, and David Meyer as John Adams, and Richard Hooper and James McGinnis as Thomas Jefferson.

Barber said he is thrilled to return to the stage. “I’m super excited to bring Franklin on stage and to deliver one of the most poignant lines in the show – talking about how we get to form our new nation,” he explained. “In our almost 250 years as a nation, we certainly have formed and sculpted a new nationality for ourselves, and it’s exciting to get to be a part of it all. The cast for this show is just stellar and it’s very humbling to be a part of it.” 

Charles Cassar, the founder of the program, said for two decades the Academy has grown and flourished because of the cooperative spirit of those involved. “From our creative team to our set and costume workers, musicians, actors, patrons, and of course audience members, all of it comes together each summer. It truly is a remarkable testament to the talent, time, passion, and commitment – many of the same qualities our Founding Fathers displayed in creating this amazing story. We invite everyone to come join us for a great evening of musical theatre.”

For more information about the show, visit