BWW Review: HAMILTON at Auditorium Theatre
At this point--four years after it premiered on Broadway and took the world by storm, earning a record 16 Tony nominations and making Lin Manuel-Miranda a household name --it seems a superfluous task to write a review of Hamilton. What hot take can I offer on this groundbreaking, history-making musical that scores of other critics and millions of audience members from around the globe haven't offered already?
Hamilton has been selling-out on Broadway since August 2015; has had wildly successful limited runs in Chicago, Puerto Rico, and London's West End; and three U.S tours, the most recent of which is at Rochester's Auditorium Theatre now until May 12th. The show's rampant success has made it a permanent fixture in pop culture for all time, whether you're an avid theatre-goer or just a regular person who happens to not live under a rock.
But don't go see Hamilton just because I told you to, all your friends told you to, or the greater cultural zeitgeist told you to. See it because all the hype is warranted; it really is a revolutionizing musical that has likely changed American musical theatre forever, and for the better.
Hamilton is the hip-hop retelling of the founding fathers; specifically Alexander Hamilton (Edred Utomi), the original Federalist and our nation's first Secretary of the Treasury. The show centers on the major events of our country's origin including the Revolutionary War and the Compromise of 1790, as well as Hamilton's personal formation as a major political figure of the time, through the prism of his rivalry with Aaron Burr (Josh Tower).
Through the show's three hour runtime (don't balk, you'll be on the edge of your seat), we see a modern reinterpretation of what have--until now--been some of the driest, dullest lessons from history class. Does anything put you to sleep quite like having to learn about the Constitutional Convention, or the delicate balance of federal vs. state's rights? Maybe not, but that's probably because you haven't learned about them via a spirited rap battle. And did you know that Alexander Hamilton was a pretty flawed guy, who had multiple affairs and carried on a years-long correspondence with his wife Eliza (Hannah Cruz)'s sister Angelica (Stephanie Umoh), whom he was also rumored to have had an affair with? Not exactly the normal boring history class fare.
While I have no basis of comparison, I have to imagine that the production of Hamilton currently playing at the Auditorium Theatre is just as good as any Broadway or touring production of the show to-date. A show with nonstop music (much of it intricate, intensely rhythmic hip-hop); dense, weaving-and-rotating choreography; and complex character arcs, it's a show that could easily sag under the weight of its immensity, especially a touring production that's doing eight shows a week on the road. And though it does feel a bit rushed at times (particularly during Act I) and a few of the actors show signs of performance fatigue (Paul Oakley Stovall's George Washington especially), the energy and life of Hamilton more than makes up for its imperfections around the margin.
Despite all its merit with regard to music, choreography, acting and singing, Hamilton will stand the test of time because it dares to tell important stories about America by harnessing and celebrating diversity. Rather than bowing to antiquated boomers in the audience and pear-clutching critics of yesteryear who claim that--gasp--you simply can't cast a person of color as Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, or any other important white guy for that reason, Lin Manuel-Miranda chose to ask "Why not?" and do it anyway. And his story is all the better for it, because diversity is the fabric of American society, and what better place to celebrate it than in the stories of America's origin?
Hamilton is a once-in-a-lifetime theatre experience, currently playing at Rochester's Auditorium Theatre until May 12th. For tickets and more information, click here.