After years of waiting, the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton” has arrived at the Orpheum Theater and will stay through Sept. 29.
This revolutionary show, created by Lin-Manuel Miranda, tells the story of America’s founding fathers using many genres of music, like hip-hop, jazz and rap. The combination of the contemporary score, award-winning choreography and diverse casting turns a history lesson into a reflection of America today.
The show starts with each actor introducing our titular hero’s early biography in a slow, finger-snapping rhythm before bursting into full speed rap.
When listening to this first song I couldn’t help myself but compare the singing to the original Broadway cast album. I’ve listened to all 46 songs at least a hundred times, so it was difficult to separate the differences at first. Joseph Morales, who plays Alexander Hamilton, doesn’t carry the same amount of urgency or energy as Miranda did; however, Morales does bring a fresh interpretation to the character.
The music contains layers of wit and wisdom, though I would suggest reading the lyrics to fully understand them. The songs hook you, keeping you constantly engaged and sometimes surprised. After all, you’ve probably never pictured Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson having an old-fashioned rap battle during a cabinet meeting.
If the music wasn’t perfect already, it met its match with the choreography.
Andy Blankenbuehler’s choreography is astonishing – making it hard to comprehend how the dancing and movements are all in-sync and coordinated. The ensemble, decked out in parchment colored costumes, are sliding, jumping and flinging themselves around to create the scenes. Every single person is like a cog in a well-working clock, perfectly in time with each other. They move the props around the simplistic stage, lifting chairs and revolving tables around as if they are in orbit.
No better was this synchronization displayed than during the song “Satisfied” where the audience was taken back and forth through time. Each step was met with razor-sharp precision, making it feel as if time was actually set back.
While Alexander Hamilton may be the star on the playbill, it’s the supporting cast that really shines.
Aaron Burr, Pierre Jean Gonzalez at this performance, serves as the show’s narrator and later falls into the role of the villain. From start to finish, the storylines of Hamilton and Burr intertwine and clash, highlighting their similarities and differences. Throughout the musical, Burr raises several philosophical questions, including people’s approaches to life, like is it better to “wait for it?”
Thomas Jefferson, played by Warren Egypt Franklin, is introduced in the second half as a political opponent to Hamilton. His first entrance – strutting in with his royal purple, velvet coat – was a fun spectacle. He is one of several characters that adds humor to the otherwise heavy show. Jefferson is a delight to watch on stage with his confident and boisterous nature, almost making you forget about the things the real Jefferson did.
Another stand out performance was Angelica Schuyler, played by Ta’Rea Campbell, who exudes power in her vocals and brought a feminist perspective to the male-dominated show. She is an intelligent and strong woman that also has layers of complexity, creating a dimensional character. Every facial expression and crack of her voice creates a human being that you can relate to.
The leading lady, Eliza Hamilton, portrayed by Erin Clemons, may not have been as center stage as her husband, but she carries her own gravitas. She is every bit as strong as her sister Angelica, but in her own way. The whole ending of the musical was an ode to her and the work she did to continue her husband’s legacy. In the last second she looks out into the audience and gasps, realizing that the audience is here listening to the story she preserved.
“Hamilton” holds a mirror to the problems of the past that still face us today. This musical combines the themes of love, loss, forgiveness and legacy all together, carefully crafting a thought-provoking and emotional story. In the end, it tells us: “do not throw away your shot.”