BWW Review: THE MUCH ANTICIPATED HAMILTON ARRIVES at Cincinnati Aronoff
Lin-Manuel Miranda's much talked about and much, much lauded Broadway sensation, Hamilton, has finally made landfall here in Cincinnati! And since it was as anticipated as the British invasion in 1775, and heck, maybe even the one in 1964, I hope you heeded the alarm, (Hamilton is coming, Hamilton is coming), and got your tickets early!
The Aronoff was as full as I had ever seen on a Wednesday night press opening, the audience was buzzing (as were the metal detector wands wielded by the extra security detail in the lobby) and to my astonishment in their seats on time! The theater seemed charged with extra static electricity and hairs undoubtedly stood on end when actor Edred Utomi declared in the show's opening number what everyone in the audience already knew - that he was "Alexander Hamilton."
Hamilton is a show that feels as if it's of the moment. It's a cultural phenomenon and certainly one worth checking out, not least so you can experience the frenzy firsthand. Lin-Manuel Miranda's perspective, brought to subject matter that has usually been the province of white men, is entertaining and sharp. Just be prepared to focus and take in a lot of information.
There's a lot of exposition, and there's a lot of plot; after all, it covers Hamilton's life from when he arrived in America right up to his death. As a result, sometimes scenes and songs feel like summaries or ideas rather than enactments.
It's a good show, and there are many interesting things about it. For example, (obviously) seeing people of color playing white historical figures creates a new way of looking at past events and personalities, and that is fantastic. But, as someone who probably would not ever have willingly picked up a biography of Alexander Hamilton and done a deep dive into his life, I had some trouble investing in the subject matter. Mostly, though, I was surprised by how little Hamilton made me feel.
Is there any way Hamilton could live up to its hype at this point? I'm not sure it's possible, but, everyone in this young and diverse cast did a truly great job keeping up with the pace. There were many enjoyable moments, such as the rap battle between Hamilton and Jefferson. Several of the actors play different roles in the first and second acts, and everyone who did so kept those characters distinct and interesting. Hannah Cruz, who played Eliza Schuyler, is required to be the emotional center of the entire show. That's a big burden to shoulder, and she did so admirably.
Hamilton the show is like Hamilton the man: "non-stop." It moves fast and furious, and audience members have to pay attention because that's where the reward lies. There's lots of clever wordplay, but unfortunately some of it disappears, partially because it's hard to keep constant sharp focus on something so intricate for so long (or maybe that's just my failing). It moves forward relentlessly, almost as if it's mimicking Hamilton's writing "like [he was] running out of time."
Hamilton runs at the Aronoff through March 10th. Go here for more information.
Photo by Joan Marcus