Theater Review: Hamilton
Hamilton: An American Musical, written by Lin Manuel Miranda, debuted on Broadway in August 2015. The musical, inspired by Ron Chernow’s biography titled Alexander Hamilton, was nominated for 16 Tony Awards and won 11 in 2015, including Best Musical. Hamilton was Miranda’s second musical to win this award; the first was In the Heights in 2008. The show was a huge success and quickly sold out most performances. Tickets have been notoriously hard to get.
Hamilton has continued its run in New York while also holding regular performances in London and Chicago. This year, Hamilton began its first US tour, playing in many cities, including Washington, DC. Hamilton opened in the Kennedy Center this summer on June 12 and recently closed on Sept. 16. The tour will move on to Boston next.
The show tells the story of founding father and first secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, in a unique way: rap. Some people think that Miranda was crazy for writing a hip-hop musical about the man on the $10 bill. Others say that he is a musical genius, but either way they can not argue with the popularity of the show.
Miranda shows Hamilton’s life after he left a small island in the Caribbean and came to New York around 1776. Fresh off the boat in New York City, Hamilton makes new friends; John Laurens, Hercules Mulligan, and the Marquis de Lafayette. Each of them introduces themselves with a short rap. Hamilton also meets his future nemesis, Aaron Burr. Hamilton soon goes off to serve in the army to fight in the Revolution under General George Washington and then becomes his secretary.
Hamilton then meets Angelica, Eliza, and Peggy Schuyler. He marries Eliza before returning to his position under Washington. He hears news that Eliza is pregnant and is sent home for a short period of time before his essential role in defeating the British at the battle of Yorktown. Then there is a beautiful moment that shows the connection between Hamilton and his newborn son, Philip, as well as between Burr and his daughter, Theodosia.
The second act is post revolution, focused on the building of America’s new democracy. Hamilton becomes the secretary of the Treasury and the audience is introduced to Hamilton’s political rival, Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson has recently arrived from France and disagrees with Hamilton’s political views. Miranda portrays cabinet meetings and arguments between Jefferson and Hamilton as rap battles. These battles show their passion and determination in a unique new way. The musical continues with problems Hamilton faces. He must deal with fierce political opponents, marital issues, and the death of his oldest son.
Hamilton: An American Musical is unique in more ways. Some actors play two parts, one in Act One and another in Act Two. The actors who play John Laurens, Hercules Mulligan, the Marquis de Lafayette, and Peggy Schuyler also play Philip Hamilton, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and Maria Reynolds, respectively. This casting is different from most musicals. It gives the audience a different perspective on each actor. It also gives the actors more time on stage and allows them to explore a different character.
The Broadway and touring set also set Hamilton apart. For the most part, the stage is bare. It has a flight of stairs on one side, leading to a platform above the stage. The center of the stage has one circle inside a larger circle. Both circles can turn with and against each other. This rotating stage allows for interesting complex blocking and choreography.
Overall, Hamilton was a great show. The touring cast was amazing. They were all talented singers, actors, and dancers. The actors who played Hamilton and Burr complimented each other nicely in their voices and styles. At my showing, the actor who played Washington was an understudy playing the part for the first time. He seemed a little uncomfortable with the part, but he pulled it off very nicely. The Schuyler Sisters had great chemistry, marking it a great show that was fun to watch.
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