Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Hamilton: The Musical - A Wannabe Rebel's Reflection

For months I read all I could about this show. The hype surrounding the show was unbelievable. I haven't purchased a cast album since the release of Wicked. I haven't purchased an entire album on iTunes in YEARS. Songs here and there, but not an entire album. THIS? This was different. I NEEDED this. I harassed Chris Jackson about the release date of the cast album. Once released, I listened to the album on repeat for days, hearing new things every time-smiling and shaking my head at how brilliant Lin is with words and how amazing the cast is with giving his words life.

History has never felt alive for me. I mostly tolerated it in school. I knew little of our founding fathers because I had the attention span of a gnat most days in history class and I started getting glassy-eyed about 5 minutes in. Everything was rote. I just memorized what I needed to know for the test. I am forever changed, though, (and am seriously considering reading a book that is probably going to take me 10 years to get through because it’s 800+pages) all because of a few hours at The Richard Rodgers Theater.

This show is probably the only show to leave me truly speechless.  It is brilliant for so many reasons that I have a difficult time even knowing where to begin. The genius that is Hamilton is so many layers deep, that trying to dissect WHY it is so fantastic seems almost impossible. My experience in theater has taught me that I can’t do anything on a stage without the people behind the scenes. Hamilton’s brilliance – genius – couldn’t exist without some of the things that many people sitting in those theater seats are probably taking for granted.

The scenic design looks simple on the surface, but is truly complex – which is a perfect analogy for this show. The costumes are gorgeous. The staging is brilliant - the choreography is intense, moving as quickly as the words, at times. The lighting design is stunning. The sound design (which probably goes unnoticed by almost everyone) is so well done that I honestly don’t know where to begin. Because this show has singing (like a typical musical), as well as rap and hip-hop, the sound design had to be key. Otherwise, the audience was never going to be able to hear everything going on (because, let’s be honest, there is a LOT going on during this show). The sound design is beyond genius. Brilliance - layers deep, people. This show is tight and does not have a weak spot.

Tommy. The way he has kept a constant flow of each of the individual lives of the characters at the forefront with so many things going on is fascinating. No one character ever monopolizes the stage (well, except George). So many of the choices I saw on stage that night I know were his and it’s one of the major layers of genius in this show. “Satisfied” is probably one of the best examples I can give. Moments you see play out during “Helpless” physically replay during “Satisfied”. Mind blowing to watch.

Alex. Those orchestrations. Lin doesn’t do it all, people. There are so many brilliant people in his village.

Lin. I’m convinced the man doesn’t sleep and his brain works on creative levels I can only dream of attaining, but he gave one of the most moving performances I have ever seen. Not only is he a creative force to be reckoned with, he is also a fabulous performer. You, sir, are an inspiration. Thank you for sharing you gifts with the rest of us.

Leslie. Because of him, I no longer know how I feel about Aaron Burr. You never really think about things deeper than the surface. He shot Alexander Hamilton – jerk. That was the extent of my thoughts on Burr. Now, he’s much more. Leslie’s portrayal of Burr is another layer to this musical that is sheer brilliance.

Daveed. This guy spits rhymes at a pace that my ears can barely keep up with. He’s seriously amazing. His smile is infectious and as much as I love Lafayette, his Thomas Jefferson has me undone. This guy is the real deal.

Jonathan. The only performer in the entire production who demands a spotlight, his King George III is hilarious and show-stopping.

Let’s talk about the ladies for a moment. Those Schuyler Sisters can sing. The end.

Renée. I am slain. Undone. This woman raps and sings and looks like her daddy has money while she’s doing it. Class act. “Satisfied” is forever etched in my mind.  

Phillipa. Considering how little I knew of Eliza Hamilton and that I spent half of the show feeling a bit sorry for her then all of a sudden feeling like she was a force to be reckoned with, I think Phillipa’s performance is emotionally-charged and brilliant.

I saved my favorite for last.

Chris. He’s a brilliant performer. (Lin keeps him around for several reasons. This is one of them, I'm certain.) There’s something different about this performance, though. He’s a fantastic singer. I have always said he could sing the phone book and I would probably listen (at least for a while). However, while watching him as George Washington something happened that’s never happened before. I forgot it was Chris. I was so lost in the show, in his character, that for a moment in time, he was George Washington. 

I don’t want to diminish the brilliance of the other performers. The cast is 21 strong (I counted at curtain call) and each brings so much to the ‘Hamilton table’.  I was told while standing on the Hamilton stage that I wasn’t allowed to speak of Tony awards, but since I’m sitting on my couch, just let me say that there will be mutiny on the Broadway fan ship if I don’t see nominations for most of the following in June (take notes Tony nomination committee!):
Best Musical
Best Book of a Musical
Best Original Score
Best Performance of an Actor in a Leading Role
Best Performance of an Actor in a Featured Role
Best Performance of an Actress in a Featured Role
Best Scenic Design of a Musical
Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Best Orchestrations
Best Direction of a Musical

This musical is most certainly one for the history books. Sell your first-born and go see it. Or pray to the #Ham4Ham gods, show up 2 hours before showtime and try to win the lottery. 


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