Review Roundup: HAMILTON: AN AMERICAN MUSICAL on Tour, What Did Critics Think?
Hamilton - Angelica Company
Edred Utomi leads the first national tour company as Alexander Hamilton, with Josh Tower as his counterpart, Aaron Burr. Hannah Cruz, Stephanie Umoh, and Olivia Puckett play the Schuyler Sisters (Eliza, Angelica, and Peggy/Maria Reynolds, respectively). Peter Matthew Smith plays King George, with Chaundre Hall-Broomfield (Hercules Mulligan/James Madison), Bryson Bruce (Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson), Jon Viktor Corpuz (John Laurens/Phillip Hamilton), and Paul Oakley Stovall (George Washington) rounding out the principle company.
Hamilton - Phillip Company
Previous Chicago company standby, Joseph Morales leads the second national tour as Alexander Hamilton, with Nik Walker as his counterpart, Aaron Burr. Ta'Rea Campbell, Erin Clemons, and Nyla Sostre play the Schuyler Sisters (Angelica, Eliza, and Peggy/Maria Reynolds, respectively). Marcus Choi plays George Washington, with Jon Patrick Walker as King George. Rounding out the principle company are Elijah Malcomb (John Laurens/Phillip Hamilton), Fergie L. Philippe (Hercules Mulligan/James Madison), and Kyle Scatliffe (Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson).
Roy Berko, Cool Cleveland: Hamilton is a special theatrical event and experience. The script is riveting, the music involving, the choreography creative, the production superb. The touring production is a not-to-be-missed opportunity to participate in one of those special once-in-a-lifetime experiences. This is one show that definitely deserves its standing ovation. Bravo!
Andrea Simakis, Cleveland.com: Seen without the rosy specs of first-time nostalgia, this cast, headlined by Morales and Walker, is a testament to Seller's boast. The company is super fine - top-tier talents and ridiculously pretty too - each person stepping into the spotlight a perfect union of character and actor.
Mark Meszoros, The News Herald: Though Morales is a mighty-fine Alexander, it is Walker's Burr, sir, that truly stands out in the show. (It doesn't hurt that the tall Walker literally stands higher than most, if not all, the other players.) Walker is captivating, especially when his terrific singing is showcased in numbers including "A Winter's Ball," "Dear Theodosia" and "The Room Where It Happened." Really, "Hamilton" feels as though it could have been titled "Burr," Alexander's frenemy, who early on tells him to "talk less, smile more," never being far away from our protagonist for long.
Bob Abelman, Cleveland Jewish News: Yes, it does. Live up to the hype. Reinvent and revitalize the musical theater art form. Serve up the perfect storm of historical significance, ingenious writing, gorgeous orchestration, stunningly innovative choreography, visionary design that saturates the stage, and an ensemble where everyone from star to swing is exceptional.
Dan Kane, The Alliance Review: I was blown away by the staging of the show- the stripped-down and versatile single set, which makes frequent effective use of a turntable; the brilliant and economic choreography, which incorporates modern dance and hip-hop moves; and the placement of actors on the multilevel space. The colorblind casting adds to the fresh storytelling; these do not look like the founding fathers in the history book. For example, Thomas Jefferson, a plantation owner advocating for slavery, is played by a black man in a purple suit, flamboyantly strutting into the story.
Aaron Wallace, BroadwayWorld: Not since Sondheim's best works have we had a musical so complex in lyrics, so layered in rhetoric, so rich in motif, and so conscious of characters' competing perspectives. It is a concert of overlap, interplay, meta-reference, and occasionally even time travel.
Matthew J. Palm, Orlando Sentinel: In the title role, Joseph Morales has the small stature of his real-life counterpart. And he fills the role like a coiled spring of energy. He balances loud moments with quieter ones - that hum with intensity. As rival Aaron Burr, Nik Walker also finds quieter passages that give his character more depth, a character that takes on an increasingly malevolent air as the play progresses. The two men create a particularly strong - and sweet - blend on "Dear Theodosia," an ode to their characters' children.
Jasmeen Rivera, OSCA Ledger: Ta'Rea Campbell, playing the eldest sister Angelica Schuyler, can be seen hitting notes that you didn't know existed, while her co-star, Shoba Narayan, playing Eliza Schuyler, is more than likely one of the best versions of this character since Phillipa Soo, the very first Eliza in the original cast. Though Peggy Schuyler isn't seen much in Act 2, Tia Altinay brought the sarcastic sense of humor to the youngest sister; however, her role of Maria Reynolds was shy of her full potential.
Seth Kubersky, Orlando Weekly: But most of all, it's the ensemble that makes Hamilton's staging a must-see. The way that they acrobatically launch their bodies off walls, slide across the floor and spin muskets through the air - all while standing atop nested turntables that can spin in opposite directions simultaneously - would make the cast of Les Mizhave heart attacks. Much like Jerome Robbins' West Side Story or Michael Bennett's Chorus Line, Kail and Blankenbuehler's staging should be studied for generations to come as a milestone in moving bodies through space.
David Lyman, The Enquirer: The lyrics come pouring out so very quickly that, unless you are already familiar with the words, you are sure to miss a few. But it's worth the effort because Miranda's lyrics are humorous and tawdry as they are filled with tidbits of history. They are also incredibly smart, referring to everything from "The Pirates of Penzance" and the Vietnam War to Shakespeare and Greek mythology.
Rick Pender, City Beat: This touring production has an incredible cast. Edred Utomi does not miss his shot, making the role of Hamilton uniquely his own - argumentative, frenetic, brilliant and uncompromising - and not trying to recreate Miranda's own Broadway performance. Utomi is contrasted with Josh Tower's cautious, scheming Aaron Burr, always opting to "Wait for It," until the opportunity is already gone.
Janelle Gelfand, Cincinnati Business Courier: You couldn't help but love the sheer joy of the Schuyler sisters, as they sang "look around," happy to be alive. Cruz was an angelic Eliza Schuyler, Hamilton's long-suffering wife who lived another 50 years after he died. Her most effective moment came as she burned her husband's letters, delivered in a long wail at his betrayal. Umoh was a standout as her sister Angelica, who was clearly infatuated with Hamilton.
Abby Rowold, BroadwayWorld: Hamilton is a show that feels as if it's of the moment. It's a cultural phenomenon and certainly one worth checking out, not least so you can experience the frenzy firsthand. Lin-Manuel Miranda's perspective, brought to subject matter that has usually been the province of white men, is entertaining and sharp. Just be prepared to focus and take in a lot of information.
Amanda Knox, West Side Seattle: Performance-wise, there's some good and bad. Elijah Malcomb (John Laurens/Philip Hamilton) and Shoba Narayan (Eliza) were wonderful. Oddly, Marcus Choi (George Washington) and even Joseph Morales (Alexander Hamilton) didn't impress in their impressive roles, and Nik Walker (Aaron Burr) was almost too hammy, and failed to convey the dark turn in The Room Where It Happens, when he transforms from the cautious, caring man of Wait For It into the jealous, power-hungry man who finally pulls the trigger on Hamilton's life.
Rachel Hart, Seattle Magazine: So, no, the show is not a carbon copy of the Broadway version. But as whole, as a stage production, it's still so much fun and just plain fantastic to see. You miss so much if you just listen to the soundtrack; it's sometimes hard to tell who is singing which part; seeing it in person brings clarity. The staging is pretty simple and static, save for some props brought on and off stage, but experiencing the killer choreography (those turntable floors!) and human architecture is worth the ticket price alone.
Jay Irwin, BroadwayWorld: These four actors have to pull double duty all night long, each with two very different characters. Elijah Malcomb starts the night as one of Alexander's best friends John Laurens with tons of resolve and dedication and then moved onto play Hamilton's son Phillip whose bravado will break your heart. Fergie L. Phillipe was probably my favorite of the four with his braggadocious Hercules Mulligan and then going into the meeker and sickly James Madison. Kyle Scatliffe who Seattle audiences may remember from his amazing turn as Jud in "Oklahoma" a few years back was a stunner as the quick talking Lafayette and then the scheming Jefferson. And last but certainly not least Danielle Sostre as the notably overlooked Schuyler sister Peggy who turns around to completely kill it as the sultry Maria Reynolds.
BrenDan Kelly, Seattle Times: From a sheer stagecraft point of view, it's a 45-course, single-bite-per-course meal where every bite is delectable: the singing, the dancing, the rap battles between revolutionaries slapping the beat on a bar tabletop in New York, which advance to more formal rap battles between Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton that (improbably) make their debate about whether the new nation should have centralized federal power or decentralized power, vis-à-vis the new treasury, sound fatally urgent.
John Monaghan, Detroit Free Press: From here, "Hamilton" is a whirlwind mix of nearly 40 songs, brilliantly phrased and presented in a variety of styles, from traditional rap and R&B to a couple of conventional Broadway ballads that would be at home in a Disney musical. There are even Kinks-style Brit-pop interludes from a dandified King George (Peter Matthew Smith), in full royal regalia, giving new meaning to the term British invasion.
Mike Wrathell, America JR.: Of the ensemble, I'd be greatly remiss if I failed to pay homage to the lovely Paige Krumbach. She dances like an angel on fire. They even gave her a line and she nailed it with amazing alacrity and exuberance. Her smile is infectious.
David Kiley, Encore: There is an energy in Hamilton that is almost without precedent in recent years, along with the innovative use of modern music and casting of black actors as the founding fathers, that elevates the show to a level seldom reached in American theatre. That Miranda found ways to illuminate such an old story from our history books with the best notions of modern music as to attract audiences of every age and stripe is why the shows continue to be sell-outs.
Cheryl Callon, Janice L. Franklin, Mark Lowry and Teresa Marrero, Theater Jones: The heavily polished album makes for good car karaoke, but the actors' individual performances make it soar to a new level. Comparing one cast to the original is inevitable, but luckily these performers find enough of their own selves in the delivery that it almost feels like I'm hearing the songs for the first time. There have only been a few times at the Music Hall where I've seen the entire cast rise to this level of excellence, so picking a few standouts by no means diminishes the contributions of the others.
Isabel Arcellana, Dallas Observer: Every cast member deserves praise. The women who played the Schuyler sisters were powerhouses, delivering impressive vocals and performances throughout the show. Jon Patrick Walker, who played King George, gave us Ed Helms vibes with his hilarious portrayal of the king.
Arnold Wayne Jones, Dallas Voice: This product is surprisingly slim on star power; the cast members are all fine, especially Nik Walker as Aaron Burr, Emily Jenda as Eliza and Jon Patrick Walker as King George. But outright charisma? Not quite. Joseph Morales has a better voice than Miranda's original, but not his squeaky emotionalism. Kyle Scatliffe's diction as Thomas Jefferson is poor, and he mumbles too many lines. (Even so, this is one of the sexiest casts in a recent musical - the Founding Fathers? More like Founding Brothas.)
Marcia Placito Morphy, Democrat and Chronicle: Jon Viktor Corpuz, whose voice soars above the rest in many scenes, was earnest and touching as both John Laurens (Hamilton's friend and statesman from South Carolina) and Hamilton's young son, Philip. And Chaundre Hall-Broomfield is smooth and sophisticated as James Madison as well as portraying the aggressive Irish-American spy Hercules Mulligan.
Chris Thompson, Rochester City Newspaper: This is not a musical, this is a rock concert. Sporadic applause and cheers burst from the audience each time the cast started a few bars of the next song. I half expected someone in the audience to start yelling requests. After the first number I expected things to calm down, perhaps a little bit of dialogue in between numbers, but the cast dived right into another song with the first encounter between Aaron Burr (Josh Tower) and Hamilton. Throughout the entire show, perhaps five words are spoken; everything else is in verse. This isn't a rock concert, it is an opera.
Bob Lonsberry, Newsradio WHAM 1180: Hamilton's wife - played by Hannah Cruz - has a voice that tops anything you'll hear on the radio. And it has a crystal, piercing quality is almost not of this world. She thundersemotion, from the joy of her budding love for a young Hamilton, to the incredible heartbreak of the play's last moments, which leave her and some in the audience in tears.
Colin Fleming-Stumpf, Broadwayworld: While I have no basis of comparison, I have to imagine that the production of Hamilton currently playing at the Auditorium Theatre is just as good as any Broadway or touring production of the show to-date. A show with nonstop music (much of it intricate, intensely rhythmic hip-hop); dense, weaving-and-rotating choreography; and complex character arcs, it's a show that could easily sag under the weight of its immensity, especially a touring production that's doing eight shows a week on the road.
The Tony Award-winning Best Musical, "Hamilton" features a book, music and lyrics all written by Grammy and Tony Award-winner Lin Manuel Miranda, with direction by Tony Award-winner Thomas Kail, choreography by Tony Award-winner Andy Blankenbuehler, and orchestrations by Grammy Award-winner Alex Lacamoire ("The Greatest Showman"). The quartet received a Kennedy Center Honor in December 2018 for the creation of "Hamilton."
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