BWW Review: HAMILTON National Tour at Durham Performing Arts Center
Based on Ron Chernow's 2004 biographical novel titled Alexander Hamilton, the musical, Hamilton, tells the true story of one of America's Founding Fathers, Alexander Hamilton. An immigrant from the West Indies who became George Washington's right-hand man during the Revolutionary War and was the new nation's first Treasury Secretary.
While on vacation from performing in the Broadway production of In the Heights, Lin-Manuel Miranda read a copy of Ron Chernow's biography as something to keep him occupied. After reading the first few chapters, Miranda immediately envisioned the life of Alexander Hamilton as a musical. Therefore, he began working on it under the title of The Hamilton Mixtape. On February 17th, 2015, the musical now under the title of Hamilton had its world premiere Off-Broadway at The Public Theatre, where it became an instant success both critically and financially. It made the move to Broadway a few months later, opening on August 6th, and the musical became a cultural phenomenon. Hamilton also went on to win pretty much every single major award out there including the Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album, the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and the Tony for Best Musical.
So now, you would all probably like to know one thing: does Hamilton live up to the hype? OF COURSE IT DOES! Lin-Manuel Miranda has brilliantly created a genius piece of musical theatre that takes a piece of American history, and makes it accessible to a wider audience with a contemporary presentation. The musical takes place over the course of 28 years, beginning with Alexander's arrival to America in 1776, and ending with his assassination in a duel with Aaron Burr in 1804. It is through Miranda's book (in other words, script) and director Thomas Kail's inventive staging that the plot moves at such a great pace. I should also point out that Kail does an incredible job at staging things in a more suggestive way as opposed to literal. It also blends very seamlessly with Andy Blankenbuehler's precise choreography. Not to mention that Alex Lacamoire's orchestrations do an excellent job of bringing Miranda's score to life.
The creative team also made a very wise move to have most of these historical figures played by people of color as a way to pull contemporary audiences into the story. The musical is very much an ensemble piece, where each member of the cast not only has their own opportunities to shine, but also provide narrations. Joseph Morales gives a charismatic performance in the titular role of Alexander Hamilton as we follow him through all his major life events in the United States. Yet, his story is told through the perspective of rival, Aaron Burr, portrayed by Nik Walker. His performance is understated, but stays compelling to keep the audience's attention. Shoba Narayan provides the musical's heart and soul as Alexander's wife, Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, whose importance to him is perfectly emphasized. Her sister, Angelica, is given a terrific performance by Ta'Rea Campbell, who portrays her as extraordinarily witty and intelligent. Other standouts include Marcus Choi as George Washington; Jon Patrick Walker, who provides some memorable comic relief as King George III; and Kyle Scatliffe gives such memorable performances in two different characters. In Act I, he plays Marquis de Lafayette, who very impressively raps at such lighting speed. In Act II, he plays Thomas Jefferson, who makes quite a Michael Jackson-esque entrance.
There are so many words used to describe Hamilton, and anyone of them can be acceptable. In my opinion, it's mind blowing and breathtaking! Hamilton not only deserves all the success it's received, but also its place as one of the best American musicals of the century (if not, the best). Good luck to anyone trying to get tickets for the show's month-long run at the Durham Performing Arts Center.