The Legacy of Alexander Hamilton: A Theatrical Review of Miranda’s Hamilton

imageLin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, the hip hop historical musical about the rise and fall of the divisive Alexander Hamilton is the hottest ticket on Broadway, now playing at the Richard Rodgers Theater. Thomas Kail is its director.  It had its first theatrical run at the Public Theater early 2015, where it performed to sold out crowds for the entire season. It was impossible, except through the Public’s lottery, to get a ticket shortly after its debut. Although a member of the Public Theater, I snoozed on trying to purchase a ticket to see it. I did not rush to get a ticket because I did not think that I would be interested in a historical musical about Alexander Hamilton. All I remembered about him from both my high school and college days was his position on a national bank. As a result, I did not immediately try to purchase a ticket. Unfortunately, when I read stellar reviews, and tried to purchase a ticket, I could not get a ticket at the Public Theater. I tried multiple times to get a ticket through the lottery at the Public Theater, but to no avail. After the Public announced that the production was headed to Broadway, I knew that seeing it there would be my best option. The tickets to many of Hamilton‘s upcoming Broadway performances were selling out quickly. I managed to secure my ticket to see Hamilton several months before seeing it on October 15th ( I went alone because it was easier to get one ticket instead of two or more). In hindsight, I should have just purchased a ticket when It was announced as part of the Public Theater’s season. I should have relied on the strength of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s previous work, In the Heights, instead of thinking about whether I would be interested in a historical musical ( I also almost snoozed again on Eclipsed, starring Lupita Onyongo at The Public Theater). Miranda, inspired by the book Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, wrote the book, the lyrics, and the music for the musical. Miranda casts no well- known actors in the show to increase ticket sales, but his success is from adroitly written lyrics with synchronic music, dances performed with rhythmic precision through stunning choreography and acting performed with great intensity. If a performance is great, it need not have a Hollywood actor perform in order to have boffo box office sales. Hamilton is mostly played by people of color which gives them an opportunity to play roles that would have been conventionally denied to them because all of the historical figures that they depict are white. The perspicacious and talented Miranda plays the steadfast Hamilton, the sophisticated Leslie Odom plays the cunning and murderous Aaron Burr, the ruminating Christopher Jackson plays the intense president and commander George Washington, the Suave and debonair Daveed Diggs plays the honorable Lafayette and the double-minded Jefferson, the refined and comely Phillipa Soo plays the strong and memorable Eliza Hamilton, the humorous Jonathan Groff plays the bitter King George, and the resolute Okieriete Onaodowan (He was ill during the performance, but he never missed a beat) plays the determined James Madison. The remaining members of the cast grandly support the entire production. The entire cast and its creative team add heft to the show through excellent choreography, passionate acting and stupendous directing. The musical has accurate references to historical documents, historical events including the framing of the Constitution and the development of the Bill of Rights and it even metaphorically references Shakespeare’s Macbeth. That was pure creativity at its highest!

The cast

Alexander Hamilton, a man of letters, rises up from indigence and from orphan status. Newly arrived in the United States from St, Croix, he desires to have his “one shot” at success in spite of his past. He becomes George Washington’s right hand man during the American Revolution. The musical depicts both his personal and his political struggles. His views were often contrary to many of the other founding fathers, despite the forged friendship with Washington and with others that helped catapult his political career. The other founding fathers often vehemently disagree with Hamilton on how to manage the state’s economy. The musical focuses on Hamilton’s shortcomings as a husband and as a politician. It portrays the conflicts that he had with Aaron Burr, Jefferson, and Madison. The performance rivets the audience when Hamilton’s son is killed by Burr and when Hamilton himself is killed (that scene is awesomely choreographed and acted).

Lin-Manuel Miranda

Hamilton is electrifying, engaging, and inspiring! Its frenetic pace thoroughly engrosses its audience into the historical framework of the American Revolution and into the lives of our founding fathers, and the decades that follow. It leaves the audience wanting more, and even saying “my $165 (had I not snoozed it would have cost me less than half that amount) was well spent!”   “Yes, it really is that good”, to quote Ben Brantley of the New York Times. The characters have such vigor, such enthusiasm, such vibrancy, such palpable emotion that one feels all of the passion connected with the characters themselves. It causes refection of one’s own legacy. It causes the audience members to ponder who will write” my story”? And even makes one ask if he or she has a story to tell and how will it be told. With its ponderous conflict, the audience member makes connections with his own shortcomings, with his own indiscretions, with his own conflicts, internal and external, and with his own passionate political stances vehemently and sometimes detrimentally held. At the end of the performance during the finale, the question is asked: What is your legacy? It is then that the self- reflection begins, which caused me to do an introspection and to look circumspectly at my own life. It’s rare for a musical to entertain, educate, and inspire one to live a better life. Politically and personally, the events of Hamilton’s life mirror events of today (marital indiscretions and the woman who ultimately “stands by her man”, and “back door deals” in “the room where it happens” about which few know). All of the Washington politicians who have flocked to see this musical, may have paused for self-reflection.

Both the music and the lyrics of each song produce great synchronicity that one’s attention never leaves the stage. Miranda through his writings adeptly tells Hamilton’s story. The lyrics are clearly performed at a pace that allows the audience to hear and understand every rap uttered word. The words as well as the actions of the characters add great meaning to this historical figure. The story is told well mixing contemporary with traditional subject matter, allowing for a story, that otherwise may have been lackluster, to be told with such verve and with such ebullience that the applause seems to still be reverberating in my ears.That is pure genius! Last month, to further develop his craft as an artist, Miranda won a MacArthur Fellowship or Genius Grant of $625,000 paid over five years. Rush to get your tickets. You may not be able to see it until the spring or later, unless, like me, you only need a single ticket. Trust me, you will not be disappointed!

2 thoughts on “The Legacy of Alexander Hamilton: A Theatrical Review of Miranda’s Hamilton

  1. I am so glad you got to see this show. I ordered the CD yesterday and am looking forward to listening to it. Your perspective on the theme and strength of the show only makes me want to see it more. I am sure it will be running for a long time.

    Like

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