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Review: HAMILTON at Broadway Across America

runs through March 20th at the Hobby Center

Review: HAMILTON at Broadway Across America At this point HAMILTON is a phenomenon with enough momentum behind it to nearly sell out every night for a month in Houston's Hobby Center. Its reputation precedes it as a Broadway smash, Tony award-winner, Pulitzer Prize honored, and a lure for Disney + to rack up subscriptions with the promise of seeing the original actors on film. Broadway at the Hobby Center brings in this celebrated show's touring cast for a live Houston engagement that guarantees it is about the only thing that can compete with the Rodeo in March. The good news is that HAMILTON remains as good as it ever has been, and this ensemble will wow anyone lucky enough to score tickets. It is amazing to see the diehard fans cheer and applaud the moments they know all too well, and to witness the first timers react to this performance.

If you haven't been conscious since 2015, the musical is a telling of the life of Andrew Hamilton. He is cited as the "least well known" of the founding fathers of the United States, often overshadowed by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Creator Lin-Manuel Miranda used a 2005 biography by Ron Chernow as the basis for his radically different "hip hopera" of a stage show. HAMILTON uses very fast rapping to fill in story points, historical facts, and to advance the plot. It replaces traditional dialogue in every scene. This is counterbalanced by melodious ballads that reveal the inner emotions of the characters involved. The more traditional songs are used to advance feelings and passions. It uses grand traditions of Gilbert and Sullivan, Cole Porter, and Sondheim with the fast patter, but twists them in a way that feels fresh and free-form. You'd never expect a show could make the founding fathers hip, but here you can see Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton enter a rap duel emceed by George Washington. Nevermind that some facts are omitted or altered to serve the narrative, there is enough actual history to feel vindication for Hamilton's achievements. There is also plenty of contemporary music to reel in younger theater-goers and people who would not typically sit through a two and a half hour musical. One of the biggest conceptual conceits of HAMILTON is that it is always cast with a racially diverse ensemble that reflects what America looks like today. Miranda has said it is the story of then told by the voices of now.

Leading the show for this tour is Edred Utomi as the titular lead of "A. Ham". He is a striking fellow with a silky voice, and he makes the role his own. It differs from Lin-Manuel Miranda's interpretation, and he adds a sensual swagger that makes the "ladykiller" reputation of Alexander much easier to swallow. He's slick, and he does an impressive turn throughout his numbers. David Park pulls double duty as the Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson. It's stunning when you realize the same actor plays both parts, because he manages to disappear in both. Josh Tower as Aaron Burr and Paul Oakley Stovall as George Washington have strong stage and vocal presences that got standing ovations after their respective solos. Zoe Jensen adds a whole lot of heart to Eliza Hamilton, while Stephanie Umoh is a fiery Angelica. Peter Matthew Smith had the audience clapping with glee every time he appeared as a hammy King George.

This entire cast is amazing from lead to chorus. You get the feeling they all feel blessed to be in HAMILTON, and their infectious energy washes over the audience in waves of passion for their craft. The ensemble for this show remains onstage for most of the run time, always creating spatial sculptures or context for the action or emotion. It's an impressive amount of stylistic choreography combined with vocal acrobatics. Where something like PHANTOM OF THE OPERA dazzles with pyrotechnics and special effects, this show has jaw-dropping movement and energy from its actors. HAMILTON returns a joy to a show on a simple set that relies on the performers to fill their space with nothing more than three walls and a turntable floor.

This tour brought in by Broadway at the Hobby Center offers Houston the remarkable chance to discover or return to a modern classic of a musical. HAMILTON is a joy to watch, and this cast lives up to the hype of the material they have been entrusted with. Rest assured this is the best way to see the show... live and in person. There is an energy to be shared with the cast and the audience that the COVID era almost made us forget. This one will remind you, and indulge your craving for founding father chic. HAMILTON recalls for us what America strives to be at its best, and at a time when we need to hear it most.

HAMILTON is running at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts through March 20th. More information and tickets can be bought through . Be wary of scalpers and other sites that are offering similar tickets at inflated prices. At the time of this writing tickets later in the run were still available at face value prices through Broadway at the Hobby Center's official site. COVID protocols currently mandate that theater goers show proof of vaccination or a recent COVID test, and wear masks inside the auditorium or in public spaces.

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From This Author - Brett Cullum