Broadway Review: ‘Hamilton’

Hamilton review Broadway
Joan Marcus

Hamilton” was a sensation in a 299-seat house at the Public Theater, where the blazing inventiveness of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop musical tribute to one of our illustrious Founding Fathers played right into the downtown vibe. But this innovative show is shaping up to be just as much of a phenomenon uptown, playing in a Broadway house with four times the seating capacity, and to a more traditional but no less enthusiastic audience.  That universal appeal to crossover audiences is one unmistakable sign of a groundbreaking show.

Whatever technical adjustments might have been necessary to move the production into a larger space are not evident from an audience’s perspective. The wonderful dancing chorus seems to have more room to perform its leaps and bounds, and the individual characters have always been larger than life in the first place. In fact, Leslie Odom Jr. seems even more invested in the difficult character of Aaron Burr, really sinking his teeth into the frustration and yearning that this troubled character reveals in “The Room Where It Happens.” And Christopher Jackson’s manly General Washington is even more moving when he acknowledges, in “One Last Time,” that his days as the nation’s leader are indeed over.

The only new actor in the cast is Jonathan Groff, who assumed the regal role of King George when Brian D’Arcy James decamped to play the lead in “Something Rotten!”  Although his predecessor can still out-sneer his replacement, Groff comes by his own laughs honestly by allowing himself to become swallowed up in the monarch’s elaborate robes and oversized crown.

Like any true landmark, “Hamilton” stands up to repeated viewings. After six months, the show’s initial impact hasn’t dulled a bit; in fact, the qualities that made it so extraordinary the first time around are all the more striking. Miranda’s fundamental insight — that Alexander Hamilton, like other early American patriots, landed on these foreign shores like any other homeless, clueless immigrant in search of a new life — seems all the more electrifying on reflection.

As Lafayette, that heroic Frenchman, reminds Hamilton, they are cut from the same rough cloth — “Immigrants! We get the job done!” — not the aristocrats who served in government, but the people who fought the wars and built the country. With actors of color playing most of the roles in this show, those past truths reassert themselves by surviving into the present day.

The other thrilling contribution that “Hamilton” has made to the American musical is the amazing score — and what it says about the future of the Broadway musical. Contrary to the shorthand use of “hip-hop musical,” that isn’t quite accurate; the score is far more revolutionary than that. The show does open with a great hip-hop number — a five-minute, fact-packed musical narrative that sums up the first 100 pages or so of Ron Chernow’s biography of Hamilton and tells you all you need to know about the man, his history and his future. That rapper style, with its interlocking interior rhymes and pounding cadences, perfectly captures Hamilton’s feverish intelligence and hyperarticulate manner.

But instead of keeping to a single uniform musical style (hip-hop or otherwise), as traditional shows often have, Miranda continues to draw from all available styles and musical sources, from nursery lullaby to rock ‘n’ roll and operetta, in order to capture the soul of a character and the spirit of the moment. If this sort of thing catches on, the old, reliable Broadway showtune may be a thing of the past.

hamilton-review-broadway

Broadway Review: 'Hamilton'

Richard Rodgers Theater; 1321 seats; $167 top. Opened Aug. 6, 2015. Reviewed Aug. 5. Running time: 2 HOURS, 45 MIN.

Production

A Jeffrey Seller, Sander Jacobs, Jill Furman, and Public Theater presentation of the Public Theater production of a musical in two acts, with book, music, and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, inspired by "Alexander Hamilton" by Ron Chernow.

Creative

Directed by Thomas Kail. Choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler. Music direction and orchestrations by Alex Lacamoire. Sets, David Korins; costumes, Paul Tazewell; lighting, Howell Binkley; sound, Nevin Steinberg; hair & wigs, Charles G. LaPointe; arrangements, Alex Lacamoire and Lin-Manuel Miranda; production stage manager, J. Philip Bassett.

Cast

Daveed Diggs, Renee Elise Goldsberry, Jonathan Groff, Christopher Jackson, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom, Jr., Okieriete Onaodowan, Anthony Ramos, Phillipa Soo.

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  1. Sandra says:

    Unfortunately, the people who often see these shows don’t really care for them because they get to see so many. With the prices of the tickets being what they are, I’ll stick to listening to the fabulous Broadway recording until the 2 years it’ll take when I can afford them

  2. The Emperor’s New Clothes or the real McCoy? Only time will tell…but at these prices I’ll never find out.

  3. ellen traeger says:

    We saw the show last night and the only negative was the audience. This was a crowd that thought they were attending a rock concert, and that other members of the audience wanted to hear THEIR crappy voices instead of the actual performers. Seriously? ?? Be prepared to shush your neighbors like kindergartners in church if you want to focus on the show. We will need to see it again and hope for a more respectful audience.

  4. I simply don’t understand why there can’t be room on Broadway, and in general for variety, the spice of life, …right? I love the theater, I love the classical and the contemporary, I love opera, I love tradition, I love classical music and yes, I love rap. Hamilton was fabulous. The actors/singers/rapper were wonderful and they made an otherwise “forgotten” story come alive. I mean I can’t wait for the next American History turned contemporary musical because of these guys. I would definitely pay to see Hamilton again. I purchased the soundtrack and my daughter and I listened to the entire thing on our drive home afterward. We also loved Wicked, we loved Les Miserable, I loved Cats, and Phantom… that is the thing about art and beauty, one can appreciate an entire spectrum of artistic interpretation without being disloyal to tradition. It doesn’t have to be either/or, it can be both. I no more want all musicals to be “rap” infused shows than I want them all to be operas. I want artists to be free to tell their stories their way, because that is what makes good art, right… true heart. I think that this interpretation of Hamilton’s life has a wide audience. The show that we saw had patrons from 8 to 80 and at the end everyone was standing, even the lady that was helped in with her walker. It is not a “rap” show, it is a show that happens to use elements of rap to convey a story. But it also uses other musical forms, all of which I and the rest of the audience that I sat with seemed to appreciate with rousing applause.

  5. “This will flop”

    No it won’t….. it’s virtually sold out through June and people are asking when will the next block of tickets will be released. This will be a continuous trend until the show goes on tour in which it’ll make more money. Facts please…. no conjecture based on your own tastes. I don’t like hip hop/rap but I absolutely love this. Why? Because I get it. I learned something and it’s certainly more exciting than my history teacher lecturing us out of an outdated textbook. I cried during several points of the beautifully told story. The one thing that resonated with me the most was how incredible a woman Elizabeth Hamilton was and how both Elizabeth and Angelica defied the role of women during that time. Never learned that in high school.

    • Michael says:

      Please, read history books on Hamilton and Jefferson’s dueling philosophies before engaging in giving a work of fiction like this any credence. Here’s reality: Hamilton is buried in the heart of Wall Street because of his dedication to creating the strong banking business that brought us to the brink of disaster. The show comically shows a black actor that was supposed to mock Jefferson but wound up serving him instead…despite the underlying slavery issue…really?!
      As for rap, if this is your bag , spend the dough but the keynote act I saw on TV was a catastrophy and looked like a badshow in Vegas from Cirque d’Soliel. Just sayin’.

      • Kate Reznikov says:

        So much talk about this show.
        So I tried to book tickets. OMG! $800 is the cheapest!!!
        Who can afford it? Who are you people?
        I am a NYC public school teacher. Can’t even imagine paying this.

  6. chris says:

    ABSOLUTELY HATED HAMILTON!!!! Pure garbage. If this is the future of Broadway, count me out!

  7. Rachel says:

    After seeing the show just once, I absolutely can’t shake the incredible emotionality it has evoked. Both my 18 y/o cousin and 84 y/o grandmother have proclaimed it to be their #1. The storytelling approach, choreographic style, heartfelt performances, and era-bridging commentary put “Hamilton” in a caliber of show like no other I’ve seen… a production that will undoubtedly reveal new depths, complexities, and gifts with each subsequent viewing.

    The “poo-pooers” just wish they could’ve been ‘in the room where it happened’ ;)

  8. HCB says:

    The sour-grapers calling the show overpriced and overhyped and predicting a quick closing would be well advised to remember that the same things were said about “Wicked” (which didn’t get nearly the unanimous raves this is getting) and that’s still playing to full houses all over after more than a decade.

  9. Lindsay says:

    All of the people claiming this will “flop,” do you realize the show has already surpassed over $30 million in ticket sales? And that’s BEFORE next year’s Tonys, where the show is going to sweep many of the major categories and ensure not only years of robust ticket sales but also numerous touring productions. Everyone involved with this is about to make a boatload of money.

    More importantly though, this show is fantastic. I’ve seen almost 70 Broadway shows, and nothing left me shaking my head out of amazement like this one. Mr. Miranda is an American treasure.

    • Ann Jeffries says:

      Not hard to pass $30 million in ticket sales at the exorbitant prices they are charging. It’s ironic that a show about immigrants scraping it together to make a life for themselves is priced so only the elite can afford it. Oh wait – there’s a lottery – for the poor huddled masses – how big of them…

      • Joshua Azenberg says:

        The theatre is not charging what you think. Those are re sale tickets that were already purchased by outside buyers.

  10. Jimmy Green says:

    This over-hyped, over-priced, over-long “musical” will have a short run once word of mouth begins revealing its atonal rap induces headaches and sore eardrums. Not one memorable tune or lyric for nearly three hours is a flop in the making.

    • SowhatdidImiss? says:

      Fact check…… it’s not going to flop and it never WAS going to flop. It has made more money in this short period of time than most shows dream of. Flop? Please do some research before you post nonsense.

    • fin says:

      Overpriced? 6 years ago Jersey Boys was $300 for orchestra seats for a show filled with pop tunes that you could hear on the radio for the past 20 years – and it’s still running! Tickets for Beautiful (the Carol King musical) cost more. Hamilton is amazing. I’ve already seen it twice and if I can get a ticket I’m going to go again, but it’s sold out already for the next few months. I’m sure your waiting for CATS to return. Enjoy!

    • Matt Dominguez says:

      The $30 Million advance maaaaaay prove you wrong, there.

  11. Paul Mendenhall says:

    Musical eclecticism has always been the norm in musical theatre. There is nothing remotely revolutionary about it. As for the “old, reliable Broadway show tune,” it has been “a thing of the past” for the past forty five years. And that is a tragedy, not something to be celebrated.

    • Jimmy Green says:

      Correct. When Sondheim tried to push his hideously discordant Pacific Overtures on the public, ticket sales began falling when word of mouth began accurately revealing it was trash. Producers will take a bath on this.

      • Donna says:

        Traditional Broadway music has always been my favorite genre of music. The thought that this might become a “thing of the past”, and that this would be considered a good thing, absolutely terrifies me. Especially if it is replaced by hip hop/rap, which I despise.

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