BWW Review: HAMILTON at Altria Theater Is Perfection
Do you think the "Hamilton" cast gets tired of all the standing ovations?
I hope not, because they deserve them all. The best touring shows have a lot of quality control around them. Lin-Manuel Miranda's "Hamilton" is certainly one of the best touring shows going, and the company visiting Richmond through December 8 is of the greatest imaginable quality. I saw the original cast in New York. The performers now appearing in Richmond are equal to those performers in almost every way. (Okay, for me, no one is quite the equal of Leslie Odom Jr., the original Aaron Burr.) The set and lighting meet the same high standard.
And the sound? The Altria is not always reliable when it comes to acoustics, but over the years, the best sound artists have figured out how to make it work. It works for "Hamilton."
There's not much I can add to the ocean of praise for this show, which is certainly the greatest of our time. Miranda started writing the musical after he read Ron Chernow's biography of Alexander Hamilton, the immigrant Founding Father of the United States who wrote most of the Federalist Papers and created our financial system as the first Secretary of the Treasury.
Miranda used his signature rap style, full of brilliant and clever lyrics, to illuminate Hamilton's unique story. With close collaborators Alex Lacamoire (music supervisor and orchestrator), Andy Blankenbuehler (choreographer) and Thomas Kail (director) he developed the work over several years, bringing it to New York's Public Theatre in 2015 and transferring to Broadway later that year. It won numerous awards, including the Tony for Best Musical (and 10 other Tony Awards) and the Pulitzer Prize.
Part of the concept was to cast non-white actors in nearly all the roles, claiming the nation's origin story for all people. This adds a depth of emotion to the show, making it even more special.
The staging, fully recreated at the Altria, includes a principal cast of 14, an ensemble of 12, an orchestra of 10, a stunning multi-level set with many moving parts, a beautiful lighting design and lovely period costumes tweaked to allow for dynamic movement. The ensemble members are constantly in motion, singing, fighting, flying and swirling around the stage, supporting the dramatic action.
Believe your friends who tell you to listen to the original cast recording and read the lyrics beforehand. Miranda has a lot of story to tell, and he tells it fast, poetically and humorously in the nonstop songs. It's easy to miss chunks if you haven't prepared.
The cast now in Richmond is uniformly strong, but standouts include Edred Utomi as Alexander Hamilton; Zoe Jensen as his wife Eliza; Josh Tower as Aaron Burr; Paul Oakley Stovall as George Washington; Stephanie Umoh as Angelica Schuyler, Eliza's sister; and Will T. Travis as King George. Bryson Bruce was spectacular in the dual role of Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette.
"Hamilton" is a special experience. You will be moved. Don't miss it.
"Hamilton" at Altria Theater, 6 N. Laurel St.
Through December 8
Tickets: $75-$399, plus a daily lottery for forty $10 tickets
Photo credit: Joan Marcus