BWW Reviews: HAMILTON Lives Up to the Hype and Then Some
Once in every decade or so, a musical is created that redefines the genre. Lin-Manuel Miranda's HAMILTON joins that elite Parthenon of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, LES MISERABLE and RENT. The two-act musical rolled into the Ohio Theatre (39 East State Street in downtown Columbus) on Jan. 29 pulling a 400-boxcar train of hype it couldn't possibly live up to.
And yet, it did. With tickets ranging from $117 to $423 on StubHub, HAMILTON proves to be that "gotta see it" musical. Even arctic blasts of -23 degrees didn't keep the show from selling out on Jan. 30.
On paper, HAMILTON shouldn't work. It is an unlikely fusion of hip-hop, rap, ballads and traditional Broadway fare. It is a historical musical of what would seem to be a very dry subject, an adaptation of Ron Chernow's 2004 biography Alexander Hamilton. Yet, HAMILTON, which chronicles the rise and fall of the founder of the U.S. Treasury Department, won 11 of the 16 Tonys it was nominated for in 2016 including best musical.
On this tour, Edred Utomia puts his own stamp on the title role, originated by Miranda himself. Portraying a brash, bordering on arrogant, statesman, Utomia masters the subtilties of the role while delivering the goods on "My Shot" and "I Can't Say No To This."
Hannah Cruz is dazzling in her heartfelt performance as Eliza Hamilton. In songs like "Burn," Cruz uses dark colors to paint her character's agony as she is betrayed by her husband and then loses her son and her husband to duels.
Although he is "the villain in your history books," Aaron Burr (Alexander Ferguson) comes across as a narrator the audience disagrees with but ultimately has sympathy for, even after he has killed the main character. Ferguson captures the humor, the passion and the jealousy that drives Burr.
Jennie Harney-Fleming handles the complex role of Angelica Schuyler, who is torn between her loyalty and love for her sister and her desire for Hamilton. Her spotlight song, "Satisfied," is elaborately acted out on a rotating stage. When she talks about rewinding time, the actors and the stage rotate counter-clockwise as she retells the story of meeting Hamilton and setting him up with her sister.
As he did with IN THE HEIGHTS, Miranda penciled himself in the lead role of the musical he wrote. But his works succeed because he lets the other roles shine. Peter Matthew Smith, a CATCO alum, is a scene stealer as snooty King George in "You'll Be Back" and its reprisals. Paul Oakley Stovall creates a large shadow as General Washington, who is the only one able to curb Hamilton's ambitions. Stovall displays a wonderful vocal range in "One Last Time." It only lasts a second, but Stovall showcases his craft in his reaction when Hamilton elbows his way in front of the president to meet Thomas Jefferson.
Perhaps it is the little touches that Miranda included in the musical that makes HAMILTON so extraordinary. HAMILTON is one of the few musicals that truly rewards attendees for paying attention.
Miranda has five actors play two or more parts, but he does it so cleverly that one hardly notices the crossover. For example, in the song, "A Winter's Ball," Burr says to Hamilton, "...the Schuyler sisters are the envy of all. Yo, if you can marry a sister, you're rich, son." Hamilton coyly responds, "Is it a question of if, Burr, or which one?" It's not an idle boast. By the end of the play, Hamilton not only marries Eliza and carries on an emotional affair with Angelica, but beds Maria Reynolds (Isa Briones, who also plays Peggy Schuyler in the first act).
Also, Bryson Bruce plays both Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson, but he does it with such a flourish that it seems like it is two different actors. Miranda, however, winks at the audience when he has Jefferson deliver the line to Hamilton, "Have you forgotten Lafayette?"
Similarly, Jon Viktor Corpuz plays Hamilton's friend Jon Laurens, who defeats Charles Lee in a duel in the first act. Corpuz seamlessly transitions into becoming Hamilton's son, Philip, who loses a duel in the second act.
Even the way the show handles its lottery tickets is clever. Forty tickets are sold for every performance at $10 each via digital lottery two days before each performance. And of course, the face on a $10 spot is "the 10-dollar founding father," Alexander Hamilton.
With the show only running through Feb. 17, don't leave your fate to the lottery. Make sure you grab any possible seat you can get.
The Tony Award winning musical Hamilton will be performed 6:30 p.m. Feb. 3, 10 and 17; 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 5-7 and 12-14,. and 8 p.m. Feb. 1-2, 8-9 and 15-16 at the Ohio Theatre (30 E. State Street in downtown Columbus). The show will also have 1 p.m. matinees on Feb. 3, 10 and 17 and 2 p.m. matinees on Feb. 2, 9 and 16. For more information, call 614-469-0939.