Theater/TV Review ‘Hamilton’

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By Ben Miles

“A Bastard Immigrant, son of a whore” – this is the unflattering but accurate description of one of this country’s most brilliant founders, Alexander Hamilton, who became the nation’s first secretary of the treasury and designed the country’s banking system.. And those are the opening lyrics from the musical “Hamilton” – written by Lin Manuel-Mirada and based on Ron Chernow’s bulging biography of the same title. “Hamilton” with its thrilling uniqueness has been revving up audiences since it’s premier in 2015 at New York’s Public Theater; it transferred to Broadway’s Richard Rodgers Theater in 2016. Hamilton is now streaming on Disney + for a wider audience to appreciate.

At two hours and forty-minutes “Hamilton” the musical is jammed packed with historical anecdotes, gripping drama, forty-seven memorable songs (47 happens to also be the age that Hamilton was shot to death in a duel with Aaron Burr, a character thoroughly brought to life by Leslie Odom Jr.) and a multitude of many unforgettable performances, each underscored with elaborate signing and dancing (choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler, with marvelous direction by Thomas Kail.)

Lin Manuel-Maranda fulfills the title role with savvy sensitivity. Moreover, the music of “Hamilton” is conveyed in a rap style that easily reaches audiences of all generations and aesthetic proclivities. “My Shot,” sung by Manuel-Maranda demonstrates the intensity of Hamilton’s vision of the new nation as well as his dedication to personal achievement. “The Room Where it Happens” informs us of Arron Burr’s obsession to influence the formation of the American nation (Leslie Odom Jr.’s performance lends a charismatic characterization of the duplicitous Arron Burr).

In addition to the enrapturing rap delivery of the plot, a multiracial cast connects the late 18th century to the troubled times in which we currently live.

In addition to Manuel-Maranda and Odom, the cast includes such standouts as Daveed Diggs doing dual roles as Marquis de Lafayette and the complicated Democratic-Republican, Thomas Jefferson; the towering Christopher Jackson as George Washington; Phillipa Soo as Eliza Hamilton; Renee Elise Goldsberry as Angelica Schuyer; and Jonathan Groff in a treacherously biting, but tongue-in-cheek turn as King George lll.

This is but a partial listing of the extraordinary “Hamilton” cast and is not inclusive of the ever ready ensemble that adds motion and emotion to this re-creation of the founding and foundation of the American nation.

Moreover, the unique look of the “Hamilton” set with its catwalks and scaffolding, the trajectory of the floorboards, along with the hanging loops of rope all add a historic yet timeless essence to the proceedings with much credit due to scenic designer David Korins efforts. The same can be said for Paul Tazewell’s detailed costume designs, which add much early American ambience to the show.

Autobiographer Ron Chernow has penned another life story; like “Hamilton,” the title is eponymous – it’s called “Grant.” Might we see another glorious staging of the life of U.S. Grant. Let us hope, encourage and urge such a creation.

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