BWW Review: HAMILTON Lives Up To The Hype The Straz Center For The Performing Arts
What more can be said about the juggernaut "Hamilton" that hasn't already been written? An ornate, elaborate leveled wooden backdrop and mobile staircases with minimal, simple set pieces and turntables floors showcased the exquisitely and insanely-talented lead actors and the equally-matched ensemble that brought each note to vivid life. The superb music - a blend of hip-hop, jazz, blues, rap, and traditional Broadway tunes - was complemented by nearly nonstop, furiously-paced choreography. The entire ensemble was an important part of the story, from singing back up to providing seamless set changes.
Transfixed, we went on a rollercoaster of emotions - laughing out loud at the hilarity in every moment belonging to King George (Jon Patrick Walker) "You'll Be Back" to the aggravation at Hamilton (Joseph Morales) "Say No to This," with the sizzling Maria Reynolds (Nyla Sostre), the devastation of Eliza (Erin Clemons) "Burn" and wiping away silent tears for "It's Quiet Uptown" at the unimaginable heartbreak at the loss of Eliza and Hamilton's son Philip, played exceptionally by Elijah Malcomb.
With book, music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, under the direction of Thomas Kail, with choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler and musical supervision and orchestrations by Alex Lacamoire, the Pulitzer Prize for Drama winner, "Hamilton" is a story based on Ron Chernow's biography. In 2016, the musical won eleven Tony Awards including Best Musical, Score, Book of a Musical, Direction of a Musical, Choreography and Orchestrations.
If you don't know the tale, "Hamilton" is about America's Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, a West Indies immigrant who earned a place at George Washington's side during the Revolutionary War and became the new nation's first Treasury Secretary. Led by a cast of mostly African-American and Latino actors, the musical follows his life - both career success and private life love, scandal and tragedy.
The handsome, charismatic Joseph Morales dominated the stage as Hamilton. He moved fluidly from rap to song and back again. The towering Nik Walker (Burr) impeccably served as Hamilton's frienemy and foil, a strong and sympathetic character. Marcus Choi gave us both strength and humor as George Washington and Kyle Scatliffe perfectly preened as the self-infatuated Jefferson who wondered "What'd I Miss."
Erin Clemons and Ta'Rea Campbell held their own in a predominantly male-dominated cast as Hamilton's wife Eliza and his confidante and her sister Angelica Schuyler. The voices of both women took your breath away.
The snappy narrative, flawless acting, music, lighting, staging, 18th century costumes, and choreography of this incredible show will stay with me forever. Everything worked. Relentless in its energy, I learned more about Hamilton that night than I ever did in history class.
What thoroughly impressed me didn't actually appear on stage. It was the humbleness of its cast. After the show, fans huddled by the barricaded Stage Door awaiting a glimpse of the characters they grown to know and love. The actors who portrayed Burr, King George, Madison, Reynolds, Peggy and Angelica Schuyler, Washington, Philip, and Jefferson, who had to be exhausted, utterly drained from the preceding strenuous three-hour performance came out, signed autographs and took photos with excited fans. A mother who stood next to me took a moment to ask for words of wisdom for her son who wanted to be an actor. They answered honestly about continuing to try, rejection and being hired, and writing. That last answer stayed with me - a response along the lines of write because it's something you can put into the world that will always be yours. There was no sense of hurry, no feeling of the actors wanting to be somewhere else - just kind, talented people showing appreciation to the fans that waited in a cold night to tell the cast how much they were loved.
At the Straz Center on a surprisingly cold winter night, "Hamilton" absolutely, positively, one hundred percent earned the standing ovation, living up to all the hype and anticipation that surrounded it.