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Review: HAMILTON at Key Bank State

Review: HAMILTON at Key Bank State

HAMILTON is as compelling in look 4 as it was the first time

Some musicals change the very nature of the genre. "Oklahoma" gave birth to the book musical in which story, dance and lyrics blended together perfectly. "Chorus Line" brought the concept of the dance-centered musical. "Hair" encouraged societal topics and mores to be probed. "Rent" introduced the stage to 21st century ideas and issues. Then, along came "Hamilton" which opened the door to singing, rap and movement blending into fine-tuned story telling.

"Hamilton" was inspired by the 2004 biography, "Alexander Hamilton" by historian Ron Chernow. It has book, music and lyrics by Lin Manuel Miranda, who perfectly honed each element to clearly represent our Revolutionary fathers.
How did this "exhilarating," and "sublime" musical come to be? The story goes that while on vacation from performing in his hit Broadway show "In the Heights," Lin-Manuel Miranda read a copy of the biography, "Alexander Hamilton" by Ron Chernow.

Miranda perceived the story as a musical and started to write what was then entitled "The Hamilton Mixtape."

An Obama White House invitation led to him performing what would later be the show's opening song.

"Hamilton" is not the first musical based on founding of this country history or its political figures.

"1776," like "Hamilton" is set in Revolutionary times, specifically, showcasing the Continental Congress during the summer of 1776, and reveals the founding fathers' lively debates.

"Benjamin Franklin in Paris" gives an account of Franklin arriving in Paris in an attempt to raise money for the colonial revolution against England.

From a stylistic standpoint, "Hamilton" gives us something new. It's a contemporary rap musical which tells the story in a series of scenes in which the movements are choreographed to not only develop visual ideas, but to help create characterizations, seamlessly tell the tale, and give clear insight into each of the characters who sing them.

The casting includes a racial mixture of actors as the Founding Fathers and other historical figures, paying no attention to their real gender, race, or age.

Even the conclusion is different. Most modern-day musicals end with a splashy showstopper that brings the audience to its feet for a resounding curtain call. Not "Hamilton." A low-key composition closes the show, emotionally wrapping up the story of a man and his quest.

The story tells the tale of Alexander Hamilton, who was born out of wedlock in the West Indies. He comes to the American colonies at age 19 and seeks out revolutionary patriot, Aaron Burr, who advises the young and enthusiastic youth to "talk less; smile more." This is advice Hamilton did not take, and helps set the stage for a life-long set of philosophical battles between the men, and eventually contributes to Hamilton's death.

The people of Hamilton's life, the Marquis de Lafayette, the Schuyler sisters, George Washington, Charles Lee, James Madison, and John Jay, flow by in song, rap, movement, and spoken words.

The tale of the Revolutionary War, the birth of the nation, Hamilton's developing the country's financial system, the death of his son in a duel, and his own demise in a shootout with Aaron Burr, all transpire in compelling fashion, under the adept direction of Thomas Kail and precision choreography and movement by Andy Blankenbuehler.

During the present touring production of "Hamilton," there were several huge shoutouts during the production. Upon the entrance of Marquis de Lafayette and again when Thomas Jefferson made his first entrance the applause and shouts rang out. Why?

Warren Egypt Franklin, who played both roles, is a Clevelander who is also a graduate of Baldwin Wallace's esteemed Musical Theatre program.

Victoria Bussert, Chair of the BW program states, "He graduated in May 2018 and landed "Hamilton" one month later. He actually did "What'd I Miss" for his senior showcase number!!!" (Side note: I was in NY with the BW students for that showcase and we were immediately made aware of the agents and casting director's interest in Warren Egypt, including the casting director of "Hamilton."). Besides "Hamilton," he is appearing on tv's "Grown-ish."

On media night the role or King George was delightfully played by Neil Haskell, but starting December 19, and for the rest of the run, Clevelander, Rory O'Malley, a St. Ignatius grad, who was nominated for a Tony Award for his portrayal of Elder McKinley in Broadway's "The Book of Mormon," will be playing the role.

The cast of "Hamilton" is superb. The quality of the singing, acting and dancing is universally amazing. Don't wait for a local theater to do the show as no one has the talent to reach the high level of performance quality to do the show justice.

Those who want to see the show, but are cash strapped, should be aware that there will be a 40-seat lottery for each performance. To participate in a drawing prospective ticket-buyers must download the official "Hamilton" app on their IOS or Android device. Winners will be notified between 1 and 4 a.m. of the opportunity to purchase up to two tickets for a performance between December 6 and 12. (luckyseat.com). Lotteries for subsequent weeks will operate on the same schedule, opening every Friday and closing Thursday. A person must be 18 or older to enter. Regular tickets are priced at $35 to152 at playhousesquare.org

Capsule judgment: The question asked to many who see "Hamilton" is whether it is worth the investment of time and money? This reviewer's answer, "Absolutely!" I've seen it four times and this staging was as compelling as the first!

'Hamilton" runs through January 15, 2023 at the Key Bank State Theatre.



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From This Author - Roy Berko

Roy Berko, a life-long Clevelander, holds degrees, through the doctorate from Kent State, University of Michigan and The Pennsylvania State University. Roy was an actor for many years, appearing in... (read more about this author)


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