Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

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

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

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).

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.




From This Author - Harker Jones

Harker Jones has worked in publishing as a writer, editor, and critic for 15 years. He was managing editor of Out magazine for seven years and has written two novels (including the... (read more about this author)


Review: CLOWNFISH at Theatre Of NOTEReview: CLOWNFISH at Theatre Of NOTE
August 2, 2022

In the end, the pathos that jut through the humor are jagged and piercing, leaving audiences with a lingering sense of both emptiness and hope, like a light flashed on and off in a dark room, the afterimage seared onto the memory.

Review: A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM at Open Fist Theatre CompanyReview: A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM at Open Fist Theatre Company
July 12, 2022

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM is given a fresh spin by the Open Fist Theatre Company, changing the setting from Athens, Greece, to Athens, Georgia, in the antebellum South to mixed results.

Review: PRETTY WOMAN at Dolby TheatreReview: PRETTY WOMAN at Dolby Theatre
June 22, 2022

What did our critic think? Audiences can’t help but compare and contrast, especially when the production is jumping through hoops to remind us of what made the film special. That becomes a bigger problem when the show itself fails on its own merits. While remaining faithful to its source material, PRETTY WOMAN lacks all of the fizz that made the film such a sensation.

BWW Review: COME FROM AWAY dazzles with sheer exuberance, leading to a surprisingly moving conclusion.BWW Review: COME FROM AWAY dazzles with sheer exuberance, leading to a surprisingly moving conclusion.
June 9, 2022

The show couldn’t be more relevant today. The world feels like a hopeless place so much of the time that it’s difficult to remember that in the end, we’re all connected and need each other to get by. Perhaps that’s why COME FROM AWAY is so poignant. It reminds of us our own humanity and the need for that in others.

BWW Review: AFTERGLOW at Hudson TheatreBWW Review: AFTERGLOW at Hudson Theatre
May 23, 2022

The absorbing script by S. Asher Gelman tries to take on the insensitivity and transitory nature of dating in the age of the internet and hook-up apps, though in the end, it’s really about the more organic and timeless issues of humans just trying to connect.