Third time still charms with Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s game-changing, blood-drumming 2015 musical about Alexander Hamilton, whom he describes in his syncopated, ear-worm lyrics as a “$10 bill Founding Father without a father.”
Having had the privilege of seeing the original Broadway cast of Hamilton twice, there was some curiosity about how the touring company would rate. Thrilled to report to DC Theatre Scene readers, the cast at the Hippodrome Theatre was on fire—young, impassioned and wildly-talented in a way that reflects the drive and fervor of our Founding Fathers.
[adsanity_rotating align=”aligncenter” time=”10″ group_id=”1455″ /]
Miranda was inspired by Ron Chernow’s 2004 biography “Alexander Hamilton,” which portrayed Hamilton (1755-1804) as a protean firebrand who gave everything he had to shape and stabilize a new America. Chiefly known (before the musical’s unprecedented success) as the face on the $10 bill and as “that guy” who died in a famous and mysterious duel with his rival Aaron Burr, among Hamilton’s achievements were aide-de-camp to General George Washington, chief writer of the groundbreaking Federalist Papers, leader of the Federalist Party, designer of the U.S. Treasury system (he served as our nation’s first secretary of the Treasury), champion of Wall Street, founder of the Bank of New York and profuse, eloquent author.
Hamilton was also no stranger to scandal, starting with the circumstances of his birth—born in the Caribbean to an unwed mother and an absent father, escaping to America at 17 to seek his fortune in a new land without money, status or formal education (he was largely self-taught). He also was known for his catting around (Martha Washington named her tom-cat after him), his disreputable affair with Maria Reynolds, and for his volcanic feuds with Jefferson, Madison, Adams, Monroe and of course, Burr.
The many sides of Hamilton’s (Edred Utomi, full-voiced and blazing with boyish impetuousness, higglety-pigglety genius and idealism) character and his legacy are brought to life in Hamilton, Miranda’s miraculous and myth-making show that incorporates a sung-through (more like rapped-through) structure to tell the story of a man and a young country through hip-hop, rap, R&B, soul, doo-wop, traditional Broadway show tunes and an untraditional mixed race cast.
It’s a crowd-pleaser and a crowd-rouser from the top notes of the first song “Alexander Hamilton,” a tantalizing and tuneful prologue of what’s to come. David Korin’s two-story, wooden gallery-style set is warm and inviting, basking in Howell Brinkley’s new day dawning lighting design. Paul Tazewell’s eye-catching costumes are a sumptuous sight—the men in trim cutaway waistcoats, vests, gleaming white breeches and boots, the women in pastel frocks the colors of French macarons, fitted bodices and flowing skirts.
Hamilton closes July 21, 2019 at the Hippodrome Theatre in Baltimore. Details and tickets
The visual splendor of staging is matched by the musical numbers, from the galvanizing anthems “My Shot,” “Ten Duel Commandments,” “Yorktown” and “The Room Where It Happens,” to the Motown soulful harmonies of “Helpless” and “Say No to This” and the accreted emotion of “Satisfied,” “One Last Time,” and “Hurricane.” There are quieter moments amid the fomenting dynamism of Miranda’s score and lyrics, especially in the more melancholy second act, which charts the downward projectory of Hamilton’s life after his rapid rise in Act One. Songs like “That Would Be Enough” and “It’s Quiet Uptown,” featuring Hamilton’s devoted wife Eliza (Hannah Cruz, portraying the great lady with luminous kindness, glowing purpose and a voice tinkling like wind chimes amid the brass and boom of the male singers).
The other major characters also blow off the powdered-wig fustiness of our perceptions of America’s founding fathers and mothers. Josh Tower’s smooth, low-key delivery and expertly buttoned-up frustration and carefully couched ambition make Aaron Burr so much more than a textbook villain. Bryson Bruce’s exuberantly physical portrayals of the Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson (the high-stepping cahoots of his song “What Did I Miss?” is a highlight) bring both men to arch, rollicking life, while his partner in comedy relief is Peter Matthew Smith brings ripping good monarch King George, whose regally scornful remarks about our emerging nation are a dismissive delight.
Tre Frazier affectingly imbues George Washington with the gravity, dedication and tactical prowess you associate with the father of our country. As Angelica Schuyler, Eliza’s brainy and strategically-thinking elder sister (and scorching pen pal of Hamilton), Stephanie Umoh sings like a dream and captures the character’s bright idealism and groundedness.
Hamilton is a close enough to perfect musical, one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences you are going to want to be able to say you were there for. It goes beyond musical entertainment, however, reminding us of our nation’s shared purpose and heritage in these fractious times.
Hamilton . Book, music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda . Inspired by the book Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow . Featuring: Edred Utomi, Hannah Cruz, Josh Tower, Stephanie Umoh, Tre Frazier, Bryson Bruce, Will T. Travis, Jon Viktor Corpuz, Olivia Puckett, Peter Matthew Smith, Avery Sobczak, Patrick Garr, Robbie Nicholson, Taylor N. Daniels, Charnette Batey, Natalie Kaye Clater, Taylor N. Daniels, John Deveraux, Lisa Finegold, Patrick Garr, Paige Krumbach, Krystal Mackie, Robbie Nicholson, Andy Tofa. Director: Thomas Kail. Choreography: Andy Blankenbuehler. Music Supervision and Orchestrations: Alex Lacamoire. Scenic Design: David Korins. Costume Design: Paul Tazewell, Lighting Design: Howell Binkley. Sound Design: Nevin Steinberg. Hair and Wig Design: Charles G. LaPointe. Arrangements: Alex Lacamoire and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Music Coordinators: Michael Keller and Michael Aarons. Production Stage Manager: Daniel S. Rosokoff. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.
Runs approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes with intermission.