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BWW Review: HAMILTON Is a Handsome Production That Is Undermined by a Lack of Cast Chemistry

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It is the first production to play the Pantages since coming out of Covid

BWW Review: HAMILTON Is a Handsome Production That Is Undermined by a Lack of Cast Chemistry
Photo credit: Joan Marcus

What is there left to say about HAMILTON? It wasn't just the uniqueness of casting actors of color as some of America's Founding Fathers and the players that surrounded them that made the show pop. It tapped into the zeitgeist in a way that almost never happens. The culture-permeating, generation-defining sensation won 11 Tonys, eight Drama Desk Awards, six Laurence Olivier Awards, a Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album, a Kennedy Center Honor, and a Pulitzer Prize for Drama, among countless other accolades. It's had successful tours around the world and made stars of newcomers and moved well-known performers to even higher levels of success.

Yet even HAMILTON is not immune to the Covid pandemic, so when the world shut down last year, so did theater, including its latest tour, which was due to hit Los Angeles in 2020. Put on hold until this summer, it is now the first show to play the Hollywood Pantages Theatre since reopening.

Focusing on the titular Alexander Hamilton (Jamael Westman), the show, like the best musicals, has jubilance interspersed throughout with tragedy and pathos. Hamilton, born in the Caribbean, founded the Federalist Party, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the "New York Post," not to mention being the first secretary of the treasury. As his political star rises, he clashes with Aaron Burr (Nicholas Christopher)-who served as vice president to Thomas Jefferson (a magnetic Simon Longnight, dressed like a Prince protégé)-and romances two sisters, Angelica (Sabrina Sloan) and Eliza Schuyler (Joanna A. Jones).

BWW Review: HAMILTON Is a Handsome Production That Is Undermined by a Lack of Cast Chemistry
Photo credit: Joan Marcus

So much history and politics and intrigue are presented through song and rap that it can be a bit difficult to follow but the personal aspects of the characters help ground the show, creating a through line and a heart. Carvens Lissaint as George Washington commands the stage, Rory O'Malley's fussy King George III is a smarmy treat, and Taylor Iman Jones as Peggy (the third Schuyler sister) steals every scene she's in. The costumes are exquisite, the score, a fusion of hip-hop, jazz, blues, rap, R&B and Broadway, is as fresh as it was when it first premiered, and the lighting and sound are phenomenal.

That said, despite the rapturous response from the audience to opening night, there seemed to be a muted quality to the production. Some X factor was missing. It could simply be that as the world slowly reopens we all need a moment to get back up to speed, but there was a chemistry missing between most of the cast members. Some of it felt disjointed and some of it fell flat, like they had rehearsed separately. The energy ebbed and flowed without seamlessness.

But, hey, even a muted HAMILTON is something to cheer, not to mention theater in general. And the Pantages has taken reopening very seriously so every patron must show proof of vaccination and wear a mask throughout the night. This ensures the comfort and safety of all, which is a very small price to pay to have stage productions again.

Tickets for HAMILTON start at $55 and can be purchased at BroadwayInHollywood.com. It will be performed at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, California 90028, through January 2, 2022.


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