Review Roundup: HAMILTON Opens on Broadway - All the Reviews!
HAMILTON, Lin-Manuel Miranda's musical about America's "the ten-dollar Founding Father without a father," opens tonight at the Richard Rodgers Theatre.
HAMILTON has book, music and lyrics by Tony and Grammy Award-winning composer Lin Manuel Miranda, who also plays the title role. The musical is directed by Thomas Kail, with choreography byAndy Blankenbuehler and music direction and orchestrations by Alex Lacamoire. Hamilton is inspired by Ron Chernow's biography "Alexander Hamilton."
The cast of Hamilton is comprised of Lin-Manuel Miranda (Alexander Hamilton), Daveed Diggs (Marquis De Lafayette, Thomas Jefferson), Renée Elise Goldsberry (Angelica Schuyler), Christopher Jackson (George Washington), Jonathan Groff (King George), Jasmine Cephas Jones (Peggy Schuyler, Maria Reynolds), Javier Muñoz (Hamilton alternate), Okieriete Onaodowan (Hercules Mulligan, James Madison), Leslie Odom, Jr. (Aaron Burr), Anthony Ramos (John Laurens, Philip Hamilton) and Phillipa Soo (Eliza Hamilton).
HAMILTON is the acclaimed new musical about the scrappy young immigrant Alexander Hamilton, the $10 Founding Father who forever changed America with his revolutionary ideas and actions. During his life cut too short, he served as George Washington's chief aide, was the first Treasury Secretary, a loving husband and father, despised by his fellow Founding Fathers and shot to death by Aaron Burr in their legendary duel.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Ben Brantley, The New York Times: A show about young rebels grabbing and shaping the future of an unformed country, "Hamilton" is making its own resonant history by changing the language of musicals. And it does so by insisting that the forms of song most frequently heard on pop radio stations in recent years -- rap, hip-hop, R&B ballads -- have both the narrative force and the emotional interiority to propel a hefty musical about long-dead white men whose solemn faces glower from the green bills in our wallets...But these guys don't exactly look like the marble statues of the men they're portraying...when they open their mouths, the words that tumble out are a fervid mix of contemporary street talk, wild and florid declarations of ambition and, oh yes, elegant phrases from momentous political documents you studied in school...And you never doubt for a second that these eclectic words don't belong in proximity to one another...Mr. Miranda's Hamilton, a propulsive mix of hubris and insecurity, may be the center of the show. But he is not its star. That would be history itself, that collision of time and character that molds the fates of nations and their inhabitants.
Michael Dale, BroadwayWorld: The hottest ticket in town at The Public, Hamilton has only grown as a phenomenon with its move to Broadway, with its web site advising customers that good seats will start becoming available in January. And while some have pondered if Hamilton's success signals Broadway's greater acceptance of diverse contemporary music, the musical's major appeal is as old as Rodgers and Hammerstein: good writing. They loved it in the 1700s, and they're loving it now.
Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: The hip-hop-based musical about Alexander Hamilton, the first treasury secretary of the United States, has gotten even more "scrappy and hungry" like its hero...This is a musical often stunning in its audaciousness...Perhaps Act 2 wanders a bit and the ending is a slight let-down. But there's no denying the show's sheer brashness and freshness. It is a revolution: A reclaiming of America's founding story by a multicultural cast using modern music and themes...The standout performances are Leslie Odom Jr. as a wary Aaron Burr, a cautious yin to Hamilton's impulsive yang. Odom throws down a career-defining marker here, graceful and cunning and haunted as both the narrator and the man who will kill Hamilton in 1804. Renee Elise Goldsberry as Hamilton's sister-in-law is glorious as the treasury secretary's secret crush, rapping and singing like a virtuoso, and Phillipa Soo is a tender and swanlike wife to Hamilton...mostly [Miranda} seems to have cut back the historical underbrush that sometimes bogged the show down.
Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter: The almost entirely sung-through show is remarkably faithful to the historical facts, packing immense amounts of detail into its sprawling narrative. But it does so in such riotously entertaining fashion that it never feels like a history lesson, although it surely delivers one...Largely unaltered from its original production save for one important cast change, the lyrically dense show makes an even greater impact on the large Broadway stage, which provides ample room for its large ensemble. The performers have only gotten better, with Miranda in the title role...delivering a commanding star turn that is as charismatic as it is emotionally affecting. But there's also terrific work from Leslie Odom, Jr. as the scheming Burr, stopping the show with the rousing number "The Room Where It Happens"...The musical is a triumph...More to the point, it signals its immensely talented creator and star as a game-changing figure in musical theater.
Marilyn Stasio, Variety: The wonderful dancing chorus seems to have more room to perform its leaps and bounds, and the individual characters have always been larger than life in the first place. In fact, Leslie Odom Jr. seems even more invested in the difficult character of Aaron Burr, really sinking his teeth into the frustration and yearning that this troubled character reveals...Like any true landmark, "Hamilton" stands up to repeated viewings. After six months, the show's initial impact hasn't dulled a bit; in fact, the qualities that made it so extraordinary the first time around are all the more striking...That rapper style, with its interlocking interior rhymes and pounding cadences, perfectly captures Hamilton's feverish intelligence and hyperarticulate manner. But instead of keeping to a single uniform musical style (hip-hop or otherwise), as traditional shows often have, Miranda continues to draw from all available styles and musical sources, from nursery lullaby to rock 'n' roll and operetta, in order to capture the soul of a character and the spirit of the moment. If this sort of thing catches on, the old, reliable Broadway showtune may be a thing of the past.
Terry Teachout, Wall Street Journal: "Hamilton" is the best and most important Broadway musical of the past decade...there is nothing quaint about the deeply thoughtful way in which Mr. Miranda has interwoven the tension between Hamilton's personal ambition and sense of national mission with the parallel capacity of his fellow framers to balance realism with idealism. Check out, for instance, "The Room Where It Happens," the spectacular second-act production number in which Aaron Burr (Leslie Odom Jr., who has star quality galore) schools the audience in how politicians get things done...the vaulting energy of Mr. Miranda's score sweeps all cavils aside, and Thomas Kail, Andy Blankenbuehler and David Korins, the director, choreographer and set designer, have successfully expanded the scale of the original production without making it top-heavy...The cast, led by Mr. Miranda in the title role, makes the same vibrant and youthful impression that it did downtown. Indeed, everybody in the show from the boss to the ushers exudes the confident air of show folk who know they've got themselves a hit.
David Cote, Time Out NY: I love Hamilton. I love it like I love New York, or Broadway when it gets it right. And this is so right. A sublime conjunction of radio-ready hip-hop (as well as R&B, Britpop and trad showstoppers), under-dramatized American history and Miranda's uniquely personal focus as a son of immigrants and as an inexhaustible wordsmith, Hamilton hits multilevel culture buttons, hard...Miranda may be composer-lyricist and star, but the world he creates is vibrantly democratic. Hamilton is the center, but Burr is his equally weighted Judas and Javert-and more complexly drawn than either...Phillipa Soo, playing the betrayed but finally forgiving wife, Eliza, has some of the show's most heartbreaking music...As French ally Lafayette in the first act and a foppish, trash-talking Thomas Jefferson in the second, Daveed Diggs blazes with raffish charisma. Jonathan Groff has inherited the role of King George from Brian d'Arcy James, and finds new levels of comic brilliance in his short but convulsively funny appearances...And the lovely, pure-voiced Renée Elise Goldsberry's Angelica Schuyler will make you demand a spinoff musical all her own. Part of the genius of Miranda's writing is this polyphonic, block-party quality, where everyone gets their say.
Linda Winer, Newsday: Instead, the show -- which tells early American history in its own time but shot through with multicultural urban sensibility -- is even more nuanced, more cohesive in individual performances and its more focused finale. Most important, Miranda and director Thomas Kail have fine-tuned it without losing a shiver of its audacity and thrill. The musical -- written and composed by its star -- manages to be radical and satirical, yet good-hearted...The jagged, sly poetry and overlapping storytelling barrel through, dense and fast, except when choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler's lusciously visceral dancers shock us in slow motion. Miranda, who plays Hamilton with wit and an exquisitely endearing inelegance, doesn't preach...However, this is anything but a one-man show. Every supporting character is a vivid personality.
Elysa Gardner, USA Today: But there has been nothing on Broadway in the past 20 years to rival the riveting, exhilarating and haunting Hamilton (**** out of four stars), which...opened Thursday at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, its vitality and ingenuity fully intact...As written and played by Miranda, Hamilton...is a man of ferocious intelligence, enormous drive and devastating flaws. He has the outsize passions of an epic musical hero, and the verbal dexterity and bravado of a rap star; and Miranda's pulsing score and dazzling, piercing rhymes accommodate both...Lacamoire's muscular orchestration mines the melodic pull of Miranda's score, whether the performers are rapping or singing. Blankenbuehler keeps the dancers in almost constant motion, sustaining a sense of urgency that heightens our engagement and excitement.
Robert Kahn, NBC New York: "Hamilton" arrives burnished and proud, though two performances struck me as having evolved considerably from the musical's debut. The first is Leslie Odom Jr.'s Aaron Burr...Odom's Burr is a stop-at-nothing climber obsessed with relevancy, fully exposed when he raps about wanting to be in "The Room Where It Happens." Yet somehow, the kinetic Odom makes Burr's admiration for his lifelong rival come through in every scene. Odom is just magnetic here. Enchanting, as well, is Phillipa Soo...as Eliza, Alexander's wife...Daveed Diggs, doing double duty as Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson, is a hyper-caffeinated and charismatic White Rabbit, by way of Willy Wonka. Christopher Jackson's Washington is confident and good-humored. Groff has the crowd on his side and hits all the right notes, even if he appears more of a prince than a king...And of course, there's Miranda...His Hamilton is an astute, painfully flawed free-thinker whose efforts in war and peace inevitably prop up the people in his midst, though his failures are profound on the homefront...Turns out, once you've gotten over the first wow, there's plenty more wow to be uncovered.
Joe Dziemianowicz, New York Daily News: With "Hamilton," Broadway is officially the coolest place on the planet. And the smartest. And most exhilarating...It's even richer and more eloquent since its run earlier this year at the Public Theater...Hip hop is one flavor of the score. It's as if the speechmaking Founding Fathers are in the next room. And it's a deft way to depict the often-fractious relationships between these competitive 18th-century power players...But to call this a "hip hop musical" is simplistic: rhythm and blues, jazz and Broadway are also part of a work that nods to Rodgers and Hammerstein, Gilbert and Sullivan and beyond. Since the Off-Broadway run, performances have all deepened, including Miranda's. He better conveys Hamilton's cockiness, contrition and all-too-human flaws. The charismatic Daveed Diggs aces his roles and lends laughs as Thomas Jefferson and the French general Lafayette. Jonathan Groff (HBO's "Looking") is the picture of pouty petulance as King George III, who appears now and again to warble a Brit-pop tune of vengeance, venom and venality...The breathtaking Renee Elise Goldsberry brings grit and grace as the indomitable Angelica, Hamilton's confidante. As Eliza, the lovely Phillipa Soo captivates with her pure, sweet singing as Hamilton's devoted-despite-everything wife...If only every history lesson -- and Broadway musical -- dazzled so completely.
Elisabeth Vincentelli, New York Post: But then, there's a lot of love for this energetic telling of the story of Alexander Hamilton...Thomas Kail's direction and Andy Blankenbuehler's choreography is inventive and kinetic, suggesting the story is always in motion on the bilevel wooden set. But "revolutionary" the show is not. Truly radical art is divisive, and under its brash exterior, "Hamilton" is warmly reassuring -- a love letter to a land of opportunity... "Hamilton" shines brightest when it gets into the characters' heads and hearts, especially concerning our hero's personal life -- though those are the scenes in which Miranda's limitations as an actor are obvious. Less effective is the history-with-a-capital-H stuff. Turning political debate into a rap battle is clever, but overall, Hamilton's big-picture importance is diluted...Well, America turned out to have a long, successful run. So, no doubt, will "Hamilton."
Matt Windman, AM New York: I must confess that I gave one of the less enthusiastic reviews of "Hamilton" back in February, finding the plot to be too dense (it is, after all, a biography) and the hip-hop sound to be monotonous. On second viewing, I was determined to accept the show on its own terms, and I ended up being absolutely entranced by Miranda's inventive writing, Thomas Kail's masterful direction and Andy Blankenbuehler's nonstop movement. I may be the last critic to join the "Hamilton" fan club, but better late than never. Miranda tackles Hamilton's life, as well as the chaos and culture of the Revolutionary War and early years of the Republic, with genuine historical analysis, humor, tenderness and an eye for contemporary relevance.
Jeremy Gerard, Deadline: Lin-Manuel Miranda's electrifying adaptation of Ron Chernow's celebrated biography of the least-known U.S. Founding Father is not, to use that cliché, a game-changer. It is, in truth, the quintessence of a Broadway musical destined for the record books: Of-the-moment in its rolling, roiling waves of rap used to tell its tale yet timeless in its unembarrassed detours into the sentimental ballads and roof-levitating choral numbers that are Broadway's stock-in-trade...Hamilton is accessible without pandering and inspirational in sneaky ways that permeate a skeptic's shell. Miranda has used well the interregnum between downtown and up, sharpening lyrics, shifting some of the relationships to achieve greater balance and, happily, ignoring suggestions that he trim the show (it clocks in at about two-and-three-quarters hours yet never feels long)...The casting could not be better and the company now wears a multiplicity of roles like second skins. The standout besides Miranda as his own leading man, is Odom, every bit his match as the complex Burr.
Jesse Green, Vulture: A second look...suggests that something even more significant is going on. The breakthrough isn't so much the incorporation of those contemporary genres; after all, Miranda already did that, throwing in Latin music to boot, in the charming In the Heights. But Hamilton not only incorporates newish-to-Broadway song forms; it requires and advances them, in the process opening up new territory for exploitation. It's the musical theater, not just American history, that gets refurbished. And perhaps popular music, too...I noticed only a few textual changes since it opened downtown, all smart. The role of the villain, Aaron Burr, has been carefully streamlined...The paradoxical result is that Leslie Odom Jr.'s already excellent performance is even more thrilling...I still wonder, too, if the manic staging by director Thomas Kail and choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler, fun as it is, may sometimes get in the way of the action instead of enhancing it.
Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: For the Founding Father never had a friend so loyal and true as Lin-Manuel Miranda, whose audaciously ambitious and supremely executed new musical is surely the most entertaining, provocative and moving civics lesson in Broadway history...it's true that the language and nomenclature of "Hamilton" feel wildly fresh and distinctive...But what makes Miranda such a uniquely potent Broadway figure is that he also is steeped in the craft and tradition of the American musical and can forge melody and lyrics that hold up to the work of the old masters...Thomas Kail, the immensely skilled director of "Hamilton," not only unleashes all of this excitement with abandon, but he also forges a wholly consistent world, aided by the best work of choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler's career.
Jonathan Mandell, DC Theatre Scene: Now that it has opened on Broadway, Hamilton has the potential to do something revolutionary -- to help dissolve Broadway's dependence on British imports, and throw off the tyranny of Hollywood adaptations...In almost three dozen songs over three hours, we witness the extraordinary high points and peculiar low points in Alexander Hamilton's life...But the most interesting relationship in the musical is between Hamilton and Burr...Musically bold and eclectic...Hamilton is the first to use rap to tell a story that has no direct connection to contemporary hip-hop culture -- done so well that it never feels like a campy anachronism, but rather like a translation that adds clarity and even a kind of heft to the proceedings...Rap, however, is not the only color on the musical palette. Miranda's score features some delightful jazz, rhythm and blues, Beatles-like pop, contemporary ballads, and even a smidgen of light opera...It's thrilling to watch...Miranda has a star's charisma...He hasn't shaped a new country. But he has reacquainted us with somebody who did -- and in doing so may wind up shaping a new theater.
Robert Hofler, The Wrap: Yes, "Hamilton" is that good, and the still youthful Lin-Manuel Miranda can be mentioned in the same sentence with Sondheim and even Cole Porter. No need to go into all the lyrics here, but Miranda has a syllable-by-syllable rhyme for "pseudonym," and many other words, that is absolutely delicious.
Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly: Miranda's singular gift for storytelling and wordplay makes even the Federalist Papers sound sexy, but the play's intrigue come mostly from its potent stew of friendship and romance and outsize ambition; it's as if House of Cards were folded into a sort of Days of Our Colonial Lives fever dream, then filtered through the minds of Tupac and Sondheim. It's that strange and that spectacular, and you'd be crazy to miss it. A
Steven Suskin, Huffington Post: There's talk in Washington of displacing A. Ham. from the $10 greenback; even so, the man seems to have a considerably wider smile this morning. As for Miranda, I don't recall anyone writing music, lyrics & book and starring in a hit musical since George M. Cohan last gave his regards to Herald Square. Miranda's demonstration of talent, skill and savvy earn him a well-deserved gold star, and a goldmine too.
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus