by Mark G. Auerbach
Can one of the most talked-about and hyped entertainments ever live up to its advance word-of-mouth? Can a musical so popular with the populace be worth second mortgaging one’s house, standing in line at a box-office for days, or emptying your IRA be worth the price of admission? Well, in some ways, yes…
Hamilton is one of thoe theatre experiences that may change the direction of the musical theatre, like Showboat, which in 1927 proved that a musical could have serious themes. Or like Oklahoma in 1943, which proved that a merger of dialogue, song and dance could propel a musical into an experience. Or like Hair in 1968, which proved that rock music and the rhythms of the streets could have a valid home amongst the standards and showtunes.
Hamilton takes a truly American story about an immigrant who comes to America to make a better life, told in the hip hop rhythms that envelop today’s future leaders. Through Lin-Manuel Miranda’s seamless fusion of script, song, and movement, as told by a cast representing a rainbow of cultures, and staged and designed in the best practices of today’s theatre, Hamilton is superlative in every sense. I doubt any other play or musical around can exceed the power and ounch that Hamilton delivers, and I’m a jaded theatergoer who has seen a lot of good works. There’s something to be said when the enthusiasm of the audience converges with the performers to create a charged atmosphere in the room where it happens. Hamilton and audience are totally charged. It was so exciting to be a part of this experience.
Inspired by Ron Chernow’s book Alexander Hamilton, Hamilton is the story of Alexander Hamilton, written and composed by Lin-Manuel Miranda and staged by Thomas Kail, two guys who met down river as students at Wesleyan in Middletown, CT and first made a Broadway splash with the award-winning In The Heights. There’s another local tie. Scenic designer David Korins is a graduate of the UMass/Amherst theatre department.
Hamilton is non-stop music and movement from opening note to final curtain, briskly staged by Tomas Kail, with movement and choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler. David Korins’ simple multi-leveled set with revolving stage is used to the max, brilliantly lit by Howell Binkley. The ensemble are well-costumed by Paul Tazewell, and Alex Lacamoire’s orchestrations are heavy with percussion and strings.
The ensemble performances were sharp, and there are some standouts, including Austin Scott as Hamilton, Josh Tower as Aaron Burr, and Peter Matthew Smith as King George. Isa Vriones, Hannah Cruz and Stephanie Umoh are great as the Schuyler Sisters, and the company makes the score shine, from the haunting “It’s Quiet Uptown” to the pulsating “The Room Where It Happens”.
For information on availability of Hamilton tickets, start at The Bushnell’s website. https://bushnell.org/hamilton Do not buy tickets from any venue other than The Bushnell box-office. Hamilton runs through December 30 in Hartford, and visits The Providence RI Performing Arts Center beginning July 23 and Schenectady’s Proctor’s Theatre beginning August 13.
The Bushnell presents Hamilton. Book, music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Directed by Thomas Kail. Musical direction by Andre Cerullo. Choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler. Music supervision and orchestrrations by Alex Lacamoire. Scenic design by David Korins. Costume design by Paul Tazewell. Lighting design by Howell Binkley. Sound design by Nevin Steinberg. Through December 30 at The Bushnell, Hartford, CT. 860-987-5900 or www.bushnell.org.
Mark G. Auerbach studied theatre at American University and the Yale School of Drama. He’s worked for arts organizations and reported on theatre for newspapers and radio. Mark produces and hosts ArtsBeat Radio on 89.5fm/WSKB Radio.