REVIEW: Lexus Broadway in Boston’s ‘Hamilton’ – history and the hype
Having witnessed Lin Manuel Miranda’s dynamite, hip hop improvisational event Freestyle Love Supreme live in Boston prior to seeing Hamilton, it is easy to see some of the inspiration and contemporary influences on the renowned historical rap musical, Hamilton which centers around one of America’s founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton. As an illegitimate orphan immigrant from the West Indies, Hamilton created a legacy and became one of the forefathers of the constitution, but not without making enemies and causing scandal along the way.
Directed by Thomas Kail and inspired by the book, Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, Broadway in Boston presents Tony award-winning Hamilton live and in person at the Citizens Bank Opera House in Boston, Massachusetts through March 12. Click here for more information and for tickets.
One of Hamilton’s most memorable lines reflected on legacy. It is defined as “planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.” Hamilton has an innate urgency as big as Hamilton’s persistent and risk taking drive. Having emigrated from the West Indies where life was short to New York, Alexander knew many in the West Indies at that time did not expect to live past 20 as he arrived in New York with big aspirations according to the musical at 19 years old.
Hamilton’s life was lived without a second to lose and the show emphasizes this with vigor, roaring cannons by sound designer Nevin Steinberg while Howell Binkley’s peak lighting blares in the distance for My Shot. In spite of a mountain of obstacles, Alexander knew this was his chance to rise up and bring the United States to freedom.
Quite the opposite is the leisurely sarcasm of King of England’s King George, an amusingly smug performance by Neil Haskell as he waits in the wings for his estranged renegades’ surefire defeat and return. Wearing a gleaming crown, Haskell’ s droll and intriguing remarks are so certain and so methodically threatening in You’ll Be Back as he drives his once followers into submission from a distance. In feigned loyalty and villainy, he remarks, “You were mine to subdue.”
One of the strongest and most fascinating aspects of the musical is Jared Dixon’s regal, sophisticated and reserved Aaron Burr to Pierre Jean Gonzalez’s impulsive and expedient Alexander Hamilton. Dixon is exceptional as Burr, emphasizing how these two greats are so alike and so incredibly different as is demonstrated in the stirring number, Dear Theodosia. Burr and Hamilton’s building tension, especially while working with an inspiring Marcus Choi as wise, firm, reasonable and commanding George Washington, is among the best parts of the production. Aaron Burr Sir, Non-Stop, and The Room Where it Happens emphasize this gripping tension while Choi makes a formidable Washington as he delivers soaring vocals in an exhilarating rendition of One Last Time.
Hamilton’s reflective number Hurricane is an indelible performance fueled by Andy Blankenbuehler’s intricate and purposeful choreography while contemporary meets vintage colonial flair in a stream of clever storytelling for the playful Helpless and then the discerning Satisfied. Hamilton’s colonial era setting hits the mark with costumes by Paul Tazewell ranging from bustiers to velvet suits to sweeping ball gowns in muted colors. Ta’Rea Campbell is extraordinary as conflicted Schuyler sister Angelica. Her silvery vocals depict her charisma, determination, but steadfast loyalty established in Helpless and Satisfied. She has intriguing chemistry with Hamilton as she deliberately matches her sister Eliza with him. Nikisha Williams is well suited for wide eyed, altruistic, and unwaveringly supportive Eliza as demonstrated in the touching duet That Would be Enough with Gonzalez and the complex and poignant It’s Quiet Uptown enhanced by Blankenbueher’s sweeping choreography.
Hamilton has had quite a sterling reputation over the years. Witnessing this musical the first time brought incredibly high expectations, so perhaps those high hopes was not fair to the musical itself. It was a unique and immersive experience featuring some fast paced and catchy numbers, but also a wealth of heady and historical dialogue delivered in rap libretto, which sometimes made the musical difficult to follow. Streaming it with subtitles certainly helped on Disney Plus and returning fans of Hamilton are already familiar with the story and soundtrack, but though the style is contemporary and innovative, it was a bit frustrating trying to capture every word. Perhaps it is wise to experience Hamilton through the soundtrack and/or streaming before watching it live.
Much acclaim to Alexander Hamilton who literally picked himself up by his bootstraps and created such an incredible legacy. Hamilton is packed with some lesser known historical facts about United States history and history buffs will especially enjoy it as events unfold. Hamilton is full of patriotism and stands as a much needed reminder of the kind of timeless zealousness that originally established America’s independence and freedom as it pulses to its own contemporary beat.
Broadway in Boston presents Tony award-winning Hamilton live and in person at the Citizens Bank Opera House through March 12. Click here for more information and for tickets.