Honestly, with the almost unanimous raves this show has gotten in 2015, wouldn’t the only story be if I absolutely despised it? Well, sorry, and happy, to disappoint. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s historical marvel opens strong, and ends even better. “Hamilton: An American Musical” presents us with a nice chunk of history, an astonishing first-rate cast, and music, book and lyrics by Mr. Miranda, exhibiting why the mega-talented composer, lyricist, and performer, is currently the much deserved “toast-of-the-town”. Now, I didn’t get to actually experience Lin-Manuel embody Hamilton at the Saturday matinée performance I attended, because that turned out to be the one show of the week that Mr. Miranda has his understudy take over. Was that a disappointment? Hell no! Javier Munoz is a very accomplished stage actor in his own right, and he also replaced Mr. Miranda as Usnavi, in last decade’s award-winning smash, “In the Heights”, also from Lin-Manuel. Mr. Munoz has also been a part of “Hamilton”, from its early days at the Public Theater. In other words–Javier is no slouch. And “Hamilton” was still electric with him in the lead.
My companion for this show is a bit of a history buff, and he assured me that a great deal of the narrative was quite accurate. “Hamilton” still had a couple of surprises in store, even for my friend, and I for one intend to soon devour the Ron Chernow biography upon which it was inspired. And it was in reading that book, that Mr. Miranda began to envision “Hamilton” as the musical that it eventually became. It’s an incredible achievement, that infuses elements of hip-hop, jazz, pop, rap, and R & B. And amongst the collection of rousing, energetic, and even soulful musical numbers, if you don’t find yourself repeating the lyrics of the firebrand “My Shot” for days afterwards–well, you’re a much more immune person than I. Also, it was liberating to see a Broadway giant completely ignore racial accuracy, with an array of black and Hispanic actors portraying historical figures that were predominantly caucasian. The effect is intellectually invigorating.Standouts are Leslie Odom, Jr. as Aaron Burr, Christopher Jackson as George Washington, and Daveed Diggs as Thomas Jefferson. And young Jonathan Groff provides hilarious comic relief as King George.
I don’t mean to ignore the ladies, but truth be told, a political examination from the 18th century is bound to be dominated by men. However, Phillipa Soo as Eliza Hamilton, as well as Renee Elise Goldsberry as Angelica Schuyler, and Jasmine Cephas Jones in a dual role, certainly make their mark. The staging of “Hamilton” is as sharp as a razor, and the choreography of Andy Blankenbuehler is nothing short of fantastic. Thomas Kail has already won a variety of awards for his direction…expect that streak to continue into next June. “Hamilton” has been continuously pelted with a variety of superlatives, such as “game-changing”, and “ground-breaking”. But it earns every exclamation ten-fold.
Possibly only my experience with Broadway’s “Rent” in 1996, carried with it the current of excitement and energy that surged through the Richard Rodgers Theatre last week. My bet is that will continue for months to come–“Hamilton” sports a very appreciative audience. The Public is building a nice track record with American historical musicals, between this and 2010’s “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”. But that satire received a lukewarm transition to the big stage, whereas the far more serious-minded “Hamilton”, has suffered no such misfortune. Obtain a ticket to “Hamilton: An American Musical”. Sit in the last row, as I did, if you must (sight lines were just fine, btw). This is can’t miss stuff, folks. All hail, Miranda!
This show rates a perfect 10