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BWW Review: HAMILTON Sparks a New Era of Theatre at ASU Gammage

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The best musical of the century runs in Tempe, AZ until October 10th.

BWW Review: HAMILTON Sparks a New Era of Theatre at ASU Gammage

The Broadway tour of HAMILTON, playing in Tempe, Arizona now until October 10th, is the first performance back at the Gammage auditorium in 549 days. This production is every bit as beautiful, brilliant, moving, and thrilling as everyone has said since it redefined the theatre scene in 2015 and subsequently won every major award and accolade.

According to the official press release, "HAMILTON is the story of America then, told by America now...HAMILTON has taken the story of American founding father Alexander Hamilton and created a revolutionary moment in theatre." Written by the now household name, Lin-Manuel Miranda, HAMILTON takes on moments from our country's founding while presenting these leaders from the past with an almost entirely diverse BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color).

It is no secret that throughout its history, Broadway and the musical theatre industry at large have focused on Caucasian American and European stories with casts, creatives, and producers densely populated with white theatre makers. HAMILTON has blown the doors off the usual practices of theatrical storytelling, proving artists of any background can take on any role, and what's more, audiences are completely on board. The fresh perspective, style, and talent has ushered in a new generation of progressive art for mainstream audiences, which in turn has reshaped an often sheltered view of what our community actually looks like. The importance of representation on stage in a country that has a long history of racial divide will ripple in ways that can truly bridge the divide between communities. HAMILTON is a beaming example of successful artistry and has proven the concept that diversity in casting and creating can both elevate theatre and bring us together.


BWW Review: HAMILTON Sparks a New Era of Theatre at ASU Gammage HAMILTON is a reimagined recount of Alexander Hamilton's impact on early US politics, hitting major milestones and relationships until his ultimate demise at the hands of longtime foe, Aaron Burr. The entire performance is sung through (and rapped) with tone, music, lyrics, and movement rooted in a contemporary approach. This version of Alexander Hamilton is a founding father with enough swagger to match the brilliant mind that left behind some of our country's most influential documents. The concept takes history and creates a fanciful presentation that represents the highest level of artistic achievement in all aspects. From lighting to choreography, the creative and technical aspects are a true showcase of musical theatre at its peak. The lyrics are a mile a minute and creatively display Miranda's genius at every corner of the densely packed 2 hour and 45 minute libretto. The melodies and orchestrations provide bop after bop, with unforgettable songs like "My Shot," "The Room Where It Happens," "Helpless," "You'll Be Back," "Burn," and many, many others.

Led by ASU grad Pat Fanning, my lifelong personal friend, the stunning orchestra made the night feel extra special. As a pride of our Arizona community, Fanning has had well-earned success, landing him the Music Director/Conductor position for the "Angelica Cast" of the HAMILTON North American tour just before the pandemic. An incredible musician, kind person, and true leader, it was an honor to see him resume his position and conduct this seminal performance back home.

BWW Review: HAMILTON Sparks a New Era of Theatre at ASU Gammage The majority of the storyline follows the male characters, but the women are the heart and soul of HAMILTON. The Schuyler Sisters, comprised of Hamilton's wife Eliza and her two sisters Angelica and Peggy, provide the most layered characters and soaring melodies. In particular, Zoe Jensen as Eliza stole the show with a moving performance and a crystal clear voice. Stephanie Umoh as Angelica is pitch perfect, knocking the show stopping "Satisfied" out of the park to complete this powerful sister duo.

As Hamilton, Edred Utomi's performance -- for better or worse -- is a near carbon copy of Miranda's Tony nominated performance. For all the die-hard fans hoping to hear a recreation of the cast album, you won't be disappointed. Nobody can match the smooth voice of Leslie Odom Jr.'s Tony winning performance as Aaron Burr, but Josh Tower holds his own with an intense portrayal of the complicated villain. The ensemble truly is the glue that binds the show, with intricate movement and focused emotion, bringing nearly every scene to life.

After 549 days, HAMILTON is our first major production in Arizona, and it is apparent that local audiences are hungry for theatre. The atmosphere was electric. Packed and fully masked, Gammage was abuzz after their long, forced hiatus. There is no denying that the theatre community throughout the world has been nearly decimated by the global pandemic. As I write, merely a handful of Broadway shows have even attempted to resume performances, despite the fact that tourists still have yet to return to New York City.

Locally, we have lost countless theatre companies, and many artists were forced to move out of Arizona or quit the arts altogether, while our empty theatres grew cold and forgotten. With the reopening of Gammage comes a sense of hope, and promise that local audiences will jump at the opportunity to support our wide variety of theatrical offerings throughout the valley. Following similar safety guidelines, all of our major homegrown theatres have resumed in person performances with bated breath, praying supporters of the arts will be there.

BWW Review: HAMILTON Sparks a New Era of Theatre at ASU Gammage

HAMILTON and Gammage will always have a place at the forefront of our collective Phoenician minds, but what of the theatre being created here, the artists that have grown in our own backyards? The same commitment to diversity in casting, hiring, and storytelling is a sentiment most every local theatrical leader has echoed as this new chapter of theatre is slowly coming to life. As HAMILTON tours begin making their way around the country, my hope is that every theatre company in each city along the way will benefit from this inspiring return, giving patrons the confidence to resume theatrical outings.

HAMILTON ushers local audiences back to the theatre with the hopeful promise of a new era of theatre, a fresh restart that the Arizona theatre community needed even before the pandemic. If you can get a ticket to the HAMILTON tour at Gammage, do it. Change your schedule around, figure out parking, pause the new Netflix series, grab a mask, and experience the most important and influential live theatre performance of the century. There is nothing like sharing an in person production with an audience, something we have all been denied of for 549 days. HAMILTON will lift you up, change your perspective, energize your soul, and inspire you to get back to the theatre more often.

(Tickets can be purchased 24/7 online at asugammage.com or M-TH 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.at 480-965-3434)

BWW Review: HAMILTON Sparks a New Era of Theatre at ASU Gammage

Reviewed by Seth Tucker (More info: www.SethATucker.com)


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