BWW Review: Watch The Cast of HAMILTON Rise Up at Murat Theatre
Few musicals in recent years have received as much attention and acclaim as HAMILTON. It is essentially a historical drama with a dash of comedy delivered in the form of exceptional lyrics and tantalizing beats that switch seamlessly from a melody to a rap and back. The brainchild of Lin-Manuel Miranda has caused a ripple of excitement across the musical world, and that ripple has made its way to Indianapolis this winter.
It is a treat indeed to have HAMILTON make its way to Naptown, so I was more than eager to take my seat and watch it unfold. I have already developed a taste for the music after listening to the soundtrack many a time. The natural instinct when you sit down to see HAMILTON is to focus on the title character, but my attention was drawn to some of the other exceptional talent on the stage. Hamilton may have been the one to not throw away his shot, but there were many others up there who are young, scrappy, and hungry.
I greatly enjoyed the performance of Emily Jenda as Eliza Hamilton. Eliza as a character has to sit on the fringes while Hamilton begins his ascendancy into fame and glory, but Jenda did not let her remain a wallflower. She of course evoked sweetness and innocence in "Helpless," but her range and power find their place in the second act in the songs "Burn" and "The World Was Wide Enough." She moved through melodies with grace and intensity and added her own variations to make them sound new and exciting all over again. She took her rightful place as a woman of power who controlled her own destiny even as she honored the legacy of her flawed husband.
A surprise standout for me was Marcus Choi as George Washington. I of course enjoy George Washington's role throughout the musical, but I had never paid much attention to his musical presence. Choi changed that entirely when he took charge as Commander in Chief. He shone during the scene featuring "One Last Time." That's when his voice found its fulfillment and really belted out the power and the dignity embodied in the character.
There are always characters who draw your eye on stage, but usually you can flit between them to absorb most all of the action. That was difficult to do any time Warren Egypt Franklin was on stage as both Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson. He did well with his vocal performances, but what made him so eye-catching was his use of bodily presence on that stage. Whether he was undulating his every muscle for the ladies or strutting his stuff to impress the political powers-that-be, he was undeniably mesmerizing. All of that is made even more impressive by the fact that he put just as much body into both characters while still making them recognizable as different people.
Always the skeptic, I wasn't sure if HAMILTON was as good as they say. I am here to tell you, yes, it is that good. HAMILTON was a hypnotic, intense, and non-stop 90's/early 2000's mix-tape Revolutionary War history that felt massive, monumental, and intimate.
If you aren't already familiar, HAMILTON is almost exclusively performed via rap verses, and it tells the tale of founding father, Alexander Hamilton (Joseph Morales) as he rises up America's ranks, serving as the right hand of George Washington with his quill, taking command on his own unit to help win the war, and establishing America as a new country from the ruins of war.
To some, the show may sound like a nerdy "Schoolhouse Rock" show, but Lin-Manuel Miranda's book, music, and lyrics are ingenious and sharp. Moving seamlessly from song to rap to song, the musical ranges from Latin pop to rap breaks to beat-boxing to a lullaby to R&B smooth jams and even some hilariously performed breakup songs from King George who comments on the action from a distance.
Next to RENT, I don't think I've seen a show with such wonderful sets, which are compliments of David Korins. No expense was spared in interpreting the original Broadway show to the touring production. Every foot of the Murat stage was filled with bricked walls and wooden balconies. A neat effect was also a rotating walkway in the center of the stage for actors to move on during Revolutionary War scenes, fancy waltzes, and duels.
The set also lent itself well to the choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler. A combination of jazz, hip-hop, and lyrical dance could be seen from the dancers, who delivered tight, angular moves.
While the national tour of HAMILTON boast the original star power of the original Broadway show, the real star is the show itself -- a powerful, playful and glowing reminder of America's story.
With all the buzz surrounding HAMILTON, the question is always, will it live up to expectations? It most definitely does just that and more. It is an entirely unique experience with an exceptional cast. The number of tickets available is extremely limited, so be sure to look for them soon..