Lest you think I am subordinating Hamilton to a dusty history lesson, what Miranda has created is nothing short of astounding. Using a musical genre not frequently associated with musical theatre, hip-hop, he uses the form's intrinsic story-telling capability and marries it beautifully to a musical-theatre frame. He brings Hamilton and other pivotal characters in America's early history to life as never before.
Watching Hamilton made me wish I had had Miranda as my 11th grade history teacher. Using Ron Chernow's 731-page biographical tome, "Hamilton," he has boiled the life of Alexander Hamilton down to a two hour and forty minute pulsing, fast moving, engaging production. He has captured Hamilton's personal and professional life and woven them into a well-rounded character that Miranda also brings vividly to life.
Alexander Hamilton's effect on the United States as we know it today can't be denied. Of the 85 Federalist essays, Hamilton was personally responsible for 51 of them. These essays form the basis for much of our constitutional law. The financial framework by which our country still operates is attributable to Hamilton. He founded the Federalist Party which controlled the Federal government from the 1790s until 1801, as well as the oldest currently running bank, the Bank of New York (now Bank of New York Mellon). Not bad for a bastard child born on the small island of Nevis in the Caribbean Sea and orphaned as a boy.
Hamilton's rival, and the man who killed him on the bluffs of New Jersey overlooking the Hudson River, Aaron Burr, is a likeable villain. As played by Leslie Odom, Jr., Burr is debonair and stylish. Daveed Diggs plays both the Marquis de Lafayette and a cocky, strutting Thomas Jefferson. James Madison is played stoically by Okieriete Onaodowan. Christopher Jackson is the steadfast George Washington.
As Hamilton's wife Eliza, Phillipa Soo is charming and vulnerable as she is publicly humiliated by her husband's dalliances. (In real life Eliza was a champion of her husband's legacy until she died at the age of 97.) She is one of the three Schuyler sisters, one of the most politically connected families in New York. It appears that Hamilton had a bit of a thing for more than just one of the Schuyler sisters. Angelica Schuyler ( Renée Elise Goldsberry) initially introduces her sister to Hamilton and ends up regretting it.
Jonathan Groff is delicious in the comedic role of King George. Each time he returns to the stage the audience giddily anticipates the number to come. He has three solo numbers, "You'll Be Back," "What Comes Next?" and "I Know Him." Each of the three songs is in the style of 1960s pop, sung as if by a jilted lover.
Director Thomas Kail has partnered with choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler to create a production that stands out for its fluidity of movement and direction (the stylized sending of a letter from Hamilton to his wife, the pantomiming of women opening the windows on the second level of David Korins' simple and utilitarian set). The team uses concentric turn-tables ingeniously to speed up and slow down time, as it whirls around Hamilton who is stuck in the center of the chaos. The wedding scene which features the song "Satisfied," sung by Hamilton, Eliza and Angelica is beautifully written and executed as it tells of Angelica's desire for, and loss of, Hamilton to her sister Eliza.
The period costumes, designed by Paul Tazewell are simply stunning. Sitting in the third row, one could see how beautifully made they were.
Made up of black, Latino and white actors, the show has been cast with a color-blind eye. This further assists Miranda as he cross-pollinates between hip-hop and musical theatre. In doing so, he serves both art forms as well as their adherents. The theatre is lucky to have Miranda, the Stephen Sondheim of his generation. Hamilton is just ingenious.
Edited by Bruce W. Greenwood