Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Review: Mask UP! HAMILTON Lights Up the Stage as Live Theatre Returns to Broadway San Jose

Running now through October 31, 2021

Review: Mask UP!  HAMILTON Lights Up the Stage as Live Theatre Returns to Broadway San Jose

Lin-Manuel Miranda's HAMILTON triumphantly took the stage at Broadway San Jose, returning to a changed world - as the masked patrons showing proof of vaccination at the door attested to.

But more than that, in the intervening years since Miranda and his intrepid band of brothers (Alex Lacamoire, Andy Blankenbuehler and Thomas Kail) created the sound, look and feel of the nation's origin story, the country today has undergone seismic shifts of great magnitudes. Chief among them was witnessing the killing of George Floyd by the police and the January 6 siege of our Capitol in a violent attempt to overturn the election of Joe Biden as President of the United States.

Watching HAMILTON with all of the above as context made the show's pending revolution of 1776 feel too close for comfort. In the final analysis, is a bloody war the only way to effect change? Do the ends always justify the means? And when one person's hero is another person's traitor, whose ends are we justifying?

One thing that hasn't changed is that Miranda's HAMILTON hits at a soul-deep level. It also invites reflection.

As the first mega-hit "Hip-Hopera," HAMILTON took the world by storm. In the hands of this talented cast (the "And Peggy" company) HAMILTON soars, even as it deftly explores, with nuanced excellence, the depths of sadness, heroism, romance, betrayal and death.

It tells the story of America's Founding Father 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. If that sounds as dull as tombs, it's not. There's a reason why this story reaped the glory of a lot of golden statues.

As the lights went down, the applause went up but stopped abruptly in homage as Donald Webber Jr.'s quietly perplexed Aaron Burr took the stage, uttering the now iconic opening lines, "How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore/and a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a/forgotten spot in the Caribbean by providence, /impoverished, in squalor, /grow up to be a hero and a scholar?

Throughout the show the clash of opposites continues. The reserved Burr (talk less, smile more) will continue to be just as perplexed as he was with his first utterance. How can Hamilton (played superbly, divinely by Julius Thomas III) hope to be a hero of the revolution when he's so brash and impulsive?

What Burr doesn't realize is that when the world turns upside down, all the rules change. As Alexander will say of himself, "I'm just like my country/I'm young, scrappy and hungry," and it is that hunger that fuels his ambition. That, coupled with his genius at oration, plus his persuasive writing skills helps him to shape the fledgling nation's narrative. Remember, he's a hero and a scholar.

At a local tavern Alexander meets his own intrepid band of ambitious brothers, John Laurens (Andy Tofa), France's Marquis de Lafayette (Paris Nix) and Hercules Mulligan (Brandon Louis Armstrong). The testosterone runs high as each man introduces himself with alcohol-induced braggadocio.

Drinking, bedding women, stealing horses and cries of commitment to the cause lace this pumped-up rap but they all defer to the passion of Hamilton's fervent intellect and his resolute words "I am not throwing away my shot!" Soon they are all obsessed with taking their shots and they keep doing shots! It's clear that Hamilton is not alone in his hunger for revolution. Aaron Burr just shakes his head.

L-R <a target=Andy Tofa as John Laurens, Paris Nix as Marquis de Lafayette, Brandon Louis Armstrong as Hercules Mulligan and Julius Thomas III as Hamilton. Photo by Joan Marcus" height="267" src="https://cloudimages.broadwayworld.com/upload13/2133503/HAMILTON%20And%20Peggy%20National%20Tour%20-%20Company1%20-%20%C2%A9%20Joan%20Marcus.jpg" width="400" />
L-R: Andy Tofa as John Laurens, Brandon Louis Armstrong as Hercules Mulligan, Paris Nix as the Marquis de Lafayette and Julius Thomas III as Hamilton. Photo by Joan Marcus

Then, click, boom, the Revolution begins. At a high society shindig, we meet the women in Alexander's life - the Schuyler Sisters. First there's Angelica (the bold and astute Marja Harmon) who is his intellectual - and never satisfied - equal; the winsome Eliza who is the sister he loves and marries (played with quiet strength by Victoria Ann Scovens), and Peggy (Ashley De La Rosa) the youngest of the three.

Review: Mask UP!  HAMILTON Lights Up the Stage as Live Theatre Returns to Broadway San Jose
L-R: The Schuyler Sisters. Victoria Ann Scovens as Eliza, Marja Harmon as Angelica and Ashley De La Rossa as Peggy. Photo by Joan Marcus

Darnell Abraham brings gravitas as the wise General Washington who is too seasoned to burnish the realities of war. "We are outgunned, / outmanned, / outnumbered, out planned. / We gotta make an all-out stand/Ayo, I'm gonna need a right-hand man."

This turns out to be none other than Alexander Hamilton.

Throughout the war and in the ensuing years, Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton continue to be "diametric'ly opposed, foes." Webber Jr.'s Burr, left out again as Hamilton's cunning ways get him exactly what he wants, finally breaks down. In a stunning tour-de-force, he and the dynamic ensemble sing "The Room Where It Happens," to stunning applause.

Finally, Burr changes and begins to chase what he wants, running for president only to be bested when Hamilton backs Thomas Jefferson. He eventually challenges Hamilton to a duel and kills him.

History did indeed have its eyes on the Revolutionaries and now it is our turn. Once again, we are a nation in turmoil. But just as in the Civil War, the enemy this time is within. What path will we choose? In the final analysis, is a bloody war the only way to effect change? Do the ends always justify the means? And when one person's hero is another person's traitor, whose ends are we justifying?

At the end of the Miranda's show it will be Hamilton, Eliza who puts herself back in the narrative. She lives another fifty years, and her voice is the final one we hear. She tells us of her philanthropic work, the orphanage she establishes and the money she raised for the Washington Monument. She speaks out against slavery. She tells his story. She ensures her husband's legacy.

Perhaps her way points to a different way forward - good work for the common good and not a white, landed men's country to do with as they please, forsaking all others.

With deference, President Joe Biden will have the last word in this story. "The American story is about the slow, yet steady widening of opportunity. Make no mistake: Too many dreams have been deferred for too long. We must make the promise of the country real for everybody - no matter their race, their ethnicity, their faith, their identity, or their disability.... We stand again at an inflection point. We have the opportunity to defeat despair and to build a nation of prosperity and purpose. We can do it. I know we can. I've long talked about the battle for the soul of America. We must restore the soul of America."

HAMILTON
Now thru October 31, 2021
Book, Music and Lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda
Inspired by the book Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
www.broadwaysanjose.com
For information on the digital lottery tickets, use the official Hamilton app at http://hamiltonmusical.com/app

Photo credit: HAMILTON And Peggy National Tour - Company - © Joan Marcus.



Golden Thread Launches 2023 Season: Building Forward Photo
Golden Thread Productions, the first American theatre company devoted to the Middle East, presents a season of new work highlighting our commitment to uplift one another as we explore ways to connect, cope, and be moved to make a change. Join us as we look for comfort in comic relief, seek unity in collaboration, and find inspiration in the stories of those fighting for justice and equality. 

SPRING AWAKENING, CRUEL INTENTIONS, And More Announced for Ray Of Light Theatre 2023 Seaso Photo
Ray of Light Theatre, San Francisco's home of contemporary musical theater, has announced its 2023 season featuring a nostalgic trip back to the years of teenage angst, love, sex, drugs and a fair amount of rock and roll.

Hope Hutman Will Develop A Mixed Reality Theater Project in 2023 Photo
Remote Theater, an award-winning online theater company born of the pandemic, has recruited Hope Hutman as a resident artist. Hope, a pioneer in digital storytelling, will lead the development of an innovative mixed reality theater project for Remote.

ENNIO: THE LIVING PAPER CARTOON Enters Final Week of Performances at Club Fugazi Photo
Ennio: The Living Paper Cartoon enters its final week, wrapping up its run at San Francisco’s Club Fugazi next Sunday, February 5, 2023.


From This Author - Linda Hodges


Review: ANNIE at Broadway San JoseReview: ANNIE at Broadway San Jose
January 13, 2023

What did our critic Linda Hodgesthink of ANNIE at Broadway San Jose? It's a hard knock life for sure, but Broadway San Jose's ANNIE infuses even today's troubled times with unrestrained optimism. And even though the sun isn't really shining in rain ravaged Northern California, it didn't stop the carloads of boys and girls and their adults from streaming into San Jose for the show.

Review: BEETLEJUICE at Golden Gate TheatreReview: BEETLEJUICE at Golden Gate Theatre
December 19, 2022

What did our critic think of BEETLEJUICE at Golden Gate Theatre? Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, beat a path to San Francisco's Golden Gate Theatre for a night of frighteningly funny laughs about death.

Review: THE BOOK OF MORMON at San Jose Center For The Performing ArtsReview: THE BOOK OF MORMON at San Jose Center For The Performing Arts
November 24, 2022

What did our critic think of THE BOOK OF MORMON at San Jose Center For The Performing Arts?

Review: DISNEY'S FROZEN at OrpheumReview: DISNEY'S FROZEN at Orpheum
November 23, 2022

What did our critic think of DISNEY'S FROZEN at Orpheum?

Review: AIN'T TOO PROUD: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE TEMPTATIONS at Golden Gate Theater, San FranciscoReview: AIN'T TOO PROUD: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE TEMPTATIONS at Golden Gate Theater, San Francisco
November 13, 2022

What did our critic think of AIN’T TOO PROUD: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE TEMPTATIONS at Golden Gate Theater, SF?