|Lin-Manuel Miranda (center) and the company of hoto: Joan Marcus.
A Revolutionary Hamilton Becomes the Shot Heard ’Round the Theater World
By Lauren Yarger
It could be called revolutionary, because it is. It also could be called exciting and fresh. Mostly, The Public Theater’s sold out run of Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s newest musical about the life and loves of Alexander Hamilton has been the shot heard ‘round the theater world, as its popularity has required three extensions at its Off-Broadway home and launched it to a new Broadway production this summer.
There for a while, producers were toying with the idea of bringing the show to The Great White Way this season in the hopes of stealing some Tony Awards in June, but apparently backed off in favor of giving Miranda (In the Heights) a chance to work some more on the piece first.
Wise move. While this musical is one of the most entertaining I have seen say, since Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson (do I see a historical theme here?), the two-hour, 30-minute run time should be cut by about 20 minutes (easily done—at least one of the 34 musical numbers can go and so can a couple of less-than-flattering references to women) and the book could use some tightening (lose the confusing references to Burr’s love for the wife of an English soldier). If those changes are made, Hamilton will be a contender (and possibly a sweeper) at the 2016 Tonys. Without it, I still wouldn’t be surprised to see it up for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama (for which Miranda was a finalist with In the Heights.)
Miranda, reunited with creatives from the Tony-Award winning In the Heights, (Director Thomas Kail; Choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler; Music Director and Orchestrator Alex Lacamoire, Costume designer Paul Tazewell and Lighting Designer Howell Binkley) not only writes the music, lyrics and book (inspired by the book “Alexander Hamilton” by Ron Chernow), but also stars as Alexander Hamilton.
The hip-hop musical (with a few ballads thrown in for variety) is about taking your shot, speaking your mind, and turning the world upside down.
This show certainly turns thoughts about the Founding Fathers upside down, thanks in part to a multi-ethic cast that has non-whites playing Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette (both portrayed by Daveed Diggs) and George Washington (Christopher Jackson) for starters.
The focus is on asking how to tell the story of Hamilton, an illegitimate, orphan immigrant who ended up being Washington's right hand man forming the nation’s economy (“Who lives; who dies; who tells your story?” asks the playbill). Later, he becomes the center of the country’s first sex scandal and is probably most known for his duel with Aaron Burr (Leslie Odom Jr.). The influence of Hamilton’s life on America today is felt in the modern feel of the costumes (there is a mix of period look with more modern wear with Revolutionary influence) and in modern language.
Besides Hamilton’s part in the Revolution and in helping to build America ( he wrote a majority of the Federalist Papers), the book includes some of his personal life. He marries Eliza Schuyler (Phillipa Soo), but also maintains a relationship with her sister, Angelica (Renée Elise Goldsberry), who had wanted Hamilton for herself (one number intriguingly and movingly replays the scene where Hamilton and Eliza meet from Angelica’s perspective).
Later, Hamilton finds himself embroiled in scandal following an affair with Maria Reynolds (Jasmine Cephas Jones) and suffers the loss of his son, Phillip (portrayed a bit creepily at age 9 and then later as an adult by Anthony Ramos) who dies in a duel, foreshadowing his father's own end.
A scene about forgiveness, brought tears to many in the audience.
Despite the needed tweaks mentioned above, I found myself totally enjoying the show, told mostly in song and Manuel’s clever lyrics as well as through Blankenbuehler’s choreography, enhances the storytelling without getting in the way.
Kail keeps the pace moving with precision and good back action that rounds out a scene. Performances and singing voices are terrific across the boards. The strong ensemble is comprise dof Carleigh Bettiol, Andrew Chappelle , Ariana DeBose, Alysha DesLorieux, Sydney James Harcourt, Sasha Hutchings,Thayne Jasperson, Stephanie Klemons, Javier Muñoz, Jon Rua, Seth Stewart, Betsy Struxness, Ephraim Sykes, and Voltaire Wade-Greene…. Ensemble
Very funny is King George (Jonathan Groff), the hapless sovereign who doesn’t quite get why the colonists are upset with him:
“You’ll be back. When push comes to shove I will kill all your friends and family to remind you of my love,” he sings in a perky number.
Note: Groff replaced Brian d’Arcy James, whom I would love to have seen in this role -- I am not sure who has been cast in this role for the Broadway engagement.
If you don’t already have tickets to the sold out run at the Public, you are in luck. Tickets are on sale for the Broadway production which begins previews at the Richard Rodgers Theatre July 13 for an Aug. 6 opening.
Hamilton runs through May 3 at The Public Theater’s Newman Theater, 425 Lafayetter St., NYC. This run is sold out, but cancellations may become available so check the box office at (212) 967-7555 orwww.publictheater.org for last minute availability.
The Public and TodayTix will continue to offer “Hamilton for a Hamilton” ($10), furthering the innovative new partnership with TodayTix and The Public’s ongoing commitment to making theater accessible to everyone. During the run of Hamilton, a pair of tickets will be available for each performance for $10 per ticket. The lottery will begin each day at midnight for the performance that same day, and winners will be notified three to four hours before show time. Winners will make the payment in the TodayTix app and collect the tickets at the box office. A limited number of $20 tickets, subject to availability, will be distributed via a lottery in the lobby of The Public Theater. For full details on the lottery, please visit publictheater.org. These tickets are $20, cash only, with a limit of two tickets per person.
The Library at The Public (212-539-8777) is open nightly for dinner before or after a show
starting at 5:30 PM. Please RSVP via email to HamiltonRSVP@publictheater.org
Tickets for the Broadway engagement at the Richard Rodger Theater, 226 West 46th St. NYC (previews begin July 13 with an official opening Aug. 6) are available at www.ticketmaster.com; 800-745-3000.
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