How often do you leave the theater saying that now you want to read the book? Well that happened to some of us when we left Hamilton. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s (book, music, and lyrics/Alexander Hamilton) musical was inspired by Ron Chernow’s biography. The musical covers Hamilton’s life from the time he joins the Revolution to his role in the new government and then his death. The first song covers his life from birth until he meets Aaron Burr at Princeton. Your first thought is that that is a lot of information but it sets the scene for Hamilton’s motives and gets you ready for a fast-paced musical with a lot of historical information told in a fun and funny way.
It’s been called a rap musical but there is a lot of singing in the show. The ensemble is on stage for most of show and add a lot with their dancing and singing. They are also responsible for changing the scenery. There is only one set (David Korins) – a plain stage with wooden balconies around it that stand in for a ship, theater, or another location. On the stage are two turntables – one circle and then one turntable circling the first. They are in constant motion and the performers need to hit their spot accurately in order to end up in the right place when the table turns. In addition, the ensemble has to place the furniture for each scene accurately so that when it turns around the actor is facing the audience just as s/he starts her/his song. Thomas Kail (director) and Andy Blankenbuehler (choreographer) did a wonderful job. The lighting (Howell Binkley) was very good but could be too literal sometimes. Paul Tazewell (costumes) also did a great job with the costumes, helping those who need to stand out from the ensemble to do so. I appreciated the work Nevin Steinberg (sound design) did – there is a tendency for some musicals to be too loud but this was not the case here. Alex Lacamoire (music director/orchestrations/co-arranger) was right on point.
The entire cast was wonderful but stand-outs (in addition to Miranda) were Christopher Jackson (George Washington), Daveed Diggs (Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson), and Alysha Deslorieux (Angelica Schuyler). They also get some of the best songs. Jonathan Groff (King George) was hysterical – he brings the play to a standstill with his three solo outings. Leslie Odom, Jr. (Aaron Burr) also gets some great songs and time to shine on his own. Phillipa Soo (Eliza Hamilton) is wonderful as goes from young girl in love to enraged wife and grieving mother and then forgiving woman.
The rest of cast was Okieriete Onaodowan (Hercules Mulligan/James Madison), Anthony Ramos (John Laurens/Philip Hamilton), Jasmine Cephas Jones (Peggy Schuyler/Maria Reynolds), Sydney James Harcourt (Philip Schuyler/James Reynolds/Doctor), Thayne Jasperson (Samuel Seabury), Jon Rua (Charles Lee), Ephraim Sykes (George Eacker), and Carleigh Bettiol, Sydney James Harcourt, Sasha Hutchings, Thayne Jasperson, Morgan Marcell, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Jon Rua, Austin Smith, Ephraim Sykes, Kamille Upshaw, Voltaire Wade-Green (ensemble).
I can’t recommend this musical highly enough. I laughed and cried. I learned a lot. And I had one of the most enjoyable few hours I’ve had in a long time.
Thank you, cj, for gifting me with your ticket.
EDIT (6 January 2016): Cohen is a ghost live tweets listening to the Hamilton cast album
He makes a lot of the comparisons that I made while at the show – the comparisons with Jesus Christ Superstar especially.
By Carene Lydia Lopez