“Hamilton – an American Musical” on Broadway: A Review
“Hamilton – an American Musical” is a phenomenon on Broadway. Since its debut in 2015, it became a super-smash hit and raised to rub shoulders with the industry’s finest. You can get great tickets for this amazing show on BroadwayPass.
“Hamilton” is an all-rounder. It has everything you want from a modern musical – plot, masterful acting and musical acts, considered by some to be revolutionary. The dancing and the acting are mesmerizing and at some points, it looks like the whole stage is in some super dynamic motion.
Lin-Manuel Miranda – the author of the book, the music, and the lyrics, as well as the “first” Hamilton, based his play on a historical biography of Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow and used Chernow as a counselor when writing the musical. Although causing some controversy within the field of expert historians, due to the historical Alexander Hamilton did not fight slavery more actively (his father-in-law Philip Schuyler owned slaves) and yet, some consider him to be an abolitionist by the standard of his time, especially as opposed to Thomas Jefferson, who Hamilton openly criticizing him for his views on people of African descent.
Act I can be dedicated to Hamilton meeting key figures in his life – Burr (who acts as the narrator of the play) and the Schuyler family. He meets Aaron Burr, John Laurens, Marquis de Lafayette, and Hercules Mulligan when he arrives in New York in 1776 and is accepted in their company for his rhetorical skills. Later on, he is introduced to the Schuyler where he falls in love with Elizabeth and marries her later on. Hamilton is placed as aide-de-camp to George Washington. Burr congratulates him for his new appointment but Hamilton expresses his wishes of a field command like Burr. First sparks fire between the two as Burr envies Hamilton for his swift rise to a right-hand man of Washington. This turns out to be the main story arc of the musical climaxing with the duel between the two. We can also see the maturing of Alexander Hamilton by advice given to him by Eliza and Washington – that he needs to slow down and that history “has its eyes on him” and that he has to be more cautious in general. His maturing climaxes with the song “Dear Theodosia” where he and Burr assure their children (Theodosia is Burr’s daughter) that they will do anything for them.
One of Miranda’s most avant-garde decisions was to cast actors of African-American and Latino descent in the roles of the Founding Fathers and the revolutionaries. This is considered to be a tribute to what are the United States of America today, and especially during the Obama Presidency. This also represents the colorful group that the revolutionaries were themselves – Alexander Hamilton himself was born on St. Nevis, from a half – British half-French mother and a Scottish father. Lafayette was French, and Hercules Mulligan was Irish. This is also considered a shot against racism, although controversial for the lack of historical color figures and a brief cameo by just one named black character – Sally Hemings. Still, the effect of such a cast was stunning for the whole entertainment industry and received high critical and audience acclaim.
Act II is more about Hamilton’s political career and the escalations of his relations with Burr. He encounters Jefferson twice (Cabinet battles #1 and #2) and achieves sounding success with the Compromise of 1790 and with convincing President Washington to remain neutral in the conflict between Britain and France. Hamilton and Burr’s ultimate falling out is depicted by the second’s switching of parties and his victory over Philip Schuyler. Here we also see the collaboration between Jefferson, Madison, and Burr to discredit Hamilton in the eyes of Washington. After Washington’s decision to retire we see him and Hamilton working together for one last time in writing the President’s speech. Hamilton and Washington’s close collaboration is one of the central arcs of the musical. Hamilton was Washington’s right-hand man during the war of independence and was made the first Secretary of Treasure when the General became the First President. Their collaboration turned fruitful and they remained together in history. One of Hamilton’s biggest failures is his affair with Maria Reynolds, thus creating America’s first sex scandal. Hamilton confesses everything with the Reynolds Pamphlet, damaging his relations with his wife and his sister-in-law Angelica in the process. Hamilton’s relations with Angelica, are another arc in the story. She introduces him to Eliza and sacrifices her feelings for him in order for her sister to be happy and to give her father the social prestige that she must bring to her high-class family as a firstborn child. Hamilton also loses his first-born son after a duel. Hamilton and Burr’s relations reach their climax after Hamilton’s endorsement of Jefferson in the Elections of 1800. The two travel to New Jersey for the duel, where Burr kills Hamilton, later stating “I am the goddamn fool who shot him”. The show closes with Eliza, along with Washington, Madison and Angelica lament the fallen Hamilton.
In Ron Chernow’s book, Aaron Burr is portrayed as the villain, who killed Alexander Hamilton. Both of them are presented in a very human way by Miranda. Burr is in the role of narrator and people in the audience often find themselves sympathetic with him. However, none of his envy towards his former friend is spared. Hamilton is presented as “young scrappy and hungry” with a great set of skills and strong power of will but at some point might be considered a careerist. Although both of them are great fathers, Hamilton may be held responsible for his son’s untimely demise. Hamilton isn’t spare the effect of his affair with Maria Reynolds and his downfall with his in-laws. Burr receives more sympathy for his regrets after Hamilton’s murder. There are no good or bad guys. Only King George III is somewhat of a villain (“I will kill your friends and family!”), but also may serve as comedy relief.
“Hamilton” is the first sung-and-rapped through musical. Lin-Manuel Miranda made a revolution of his own by bringing rap, hip-hop, and R&B to Broadway. Adding those to the more traditional pop, soul, and traditional-style show tunes made the musical the hit that it is to this day and give a good look at what is the US today – bright and colorful. The Original Broadway album peaked at #3 on the Billboard 200 and number #1 on the Billboard Rap albums chart. It also won a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album. And all began with a mixtape that Miranda performed in the White House that was inspired by Chernow’s book. The “Hamilton Mixtape” debuted at #1 on Billboard.
A lot of the songs became instant hits and fan favorites. From the opening number “Alexander Hamilton”, the one performed in the White House, and introducing Hamilton and Burr, “You’ll be back” – King George’s rather funny and joyful take on America’s independence, the mix of few genres “The Room Where it Happens”, epitome of Burr’s envy, the optimistic and romantic “Helpless”, the epic “Yorktown (the World Upside-Down), and “My Shot” that has the whole life and story of Hamilton in a nutshell. It took Miranda a whole year to write.
The colorful cast puts out a colorful performance. Lin-Manuel Miranda debuted as Alexander Hamilton and played the Founding Father for some time before stepping out. Today we can see Austin Scott doing his finest acting as Hamilton – strong, ambitious and with a great lust for power. His nemesis – Aaron Burr, is played by Daniel Breaker who surely isn’t breaking hearts with his performance and narrate. The sharp-tongued and sharp-minded Angelica is played by Mandy Gonzalez and her sister Eliza – by Denée Benton. James Monroe Iglehart juggles with the roles of Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson. The lovable villain King George III is played by Euan Morton who does a great job as a comedy act and gains a lot of sympathy with his singing.
“Hamilton” took the 2016 Tony Awards by storm with its sixteen (!!!) nominations, winning eleven, one short from the record of “The Producers”. “Hamilton” won Best Musical, Miranda himself took home three, losing only the Best Actor in Musical…to Burr (Leslie Odom Jr.). The historical irony…To spare the Hamilton family the disappointment of the evening, Eliza (Phillipa Soo) took home Best Actress in a Musical. Daveed Diggs won Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his roles as Lafayette and Jefferson (deserving two awards, maybe?) beating fellow “Hamilton” cast members Jonathan Groff (King George III), and Christopher Jackson (Washington) in the process. Here, like in most other cases that evening, “Hamilton” lost only to itself.
“Hamilton” has received a huge cult following, including many celebrities. Emma Watson, Jay-Z and Beyonce, TV Show host James Corden (who was hosting the 2016 Tony Awards, stolen by “Hamilton”), Neil Patrick Harris, The Obamas, and The Clintons among the rest.
The “Richard Rogers” Theatre is “The Room where it happens”. There’s a revolution every evening. If you are among the very few people that haven’t seen it yet, go to BroadwayPass as fast as you can and grab your ticket!