‘Hamilton’: A story that belongs to all of us
BOSTON – In almost 26 years of reviewing professional theatrical productions, I’ve seen many long-running hit shows.
But until now I’ve never reviewed a work that in a few short years has become a cultural icon, a true theatrical phenomenon that has dominated both the box office and the conversation and has captivated a nation – and a new generation of theater-goers.
The national touring production of the musical “Hamilton” has finally planted its flag in Boston at the Opera House for a two-month run and generated the same buzz and excitement it has on Broadway and on other stops in its national tour.
The official opening night last week wasn’t just a show, but an event, news cameras flocking as the cast took its curtain calls.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote the show and performed the title role for 18 months on and off Broadway, told the tale with a cast dominated by people of color, and a score with a rich mix of musical genres, heavily influenced by the hip-hop music that has helped define the musical scene of the past few decades.
If you’re like me and you don’t speak fluent hip-hop or rap, no problem. You’ll quickly adjust to the cadence of Miranda’s dialogue and the songs are just songs, albeit very good and clever ones and in many cases, downright inspired. He is a is great songwriter, whether its simple, lovely ballads, upbeat funky hip-hop numbers, he is always telling the story.
If you saw the talent on full display in Miranda’s breakout work, “In The Heights,” you weren’t shocked to see him follow it up with another in the telling of the tale of Andrew Hamilton, inspired by the best-selling book by Ron Chernow.
Miranda tells the story, in his own form and fashion, of a young man with a Scottish immigrant father and a British West Indian mother, an orphan, in the tawdry terms of the day a “bastard” from the Caribbean who becomes a war hero, a strong supporter of the U,S. Constitution, the father of our country’s financial system and central government and our first treasury secretary, not to mention the face of the $10 bill.
In telling the story, neither Chernow or Miranda has elevated Hamilton to sainthood. He often neglected and sometimes betrayed his family; he was ambitious – often dangerously so – and impatient.
He had a complicated relationship with the Schuyler sisters, daughter of a famous general. Hamilton was loved by both Angelica (Sabrina Sloan) and Eliza (Hannah Cruz), but Angelica gave him up and it was Eliza he married
His own presidential ambitions ended when he was involved in a sex scandal in 1797, when he self-published a list of the blackmail payments he had made to the husband of a married woman he was involved with, causing his family and other loved ones great heartache.
Then came the heartbreak of the Hamiltons losing their son Philip (Ruben J. Carbajal) in a manner that foretold Alexander Hamilton’s own fate.
Austin Scott performs the title role, and he is a commanding presence on the stage but “Hamilton” is a true ensemble piece to and another major piece of the story is Aaron Burr. Former Winchester resident Nicholas Christopher is the brilliant, but often petty and jealous rival of Hamilton’s whose bitterness at not being there in “The Room Where it Happens” can never be assuaged,
For decades, their paths keep colliding and careers keep intersecting until Hamilton’s support of Jefferson over Burr in the presidential race of 1800 fans the flames even higher, and ends in a deadly duel.
Paul Oakley Stovall is also a commanding presence as George Washington, Hamilton by his side as he sees the nascent country through its war with Britain, the establishment of the government and its Constitution, and his eventual decision to step down as president lest he become too much the monarch the country struggled to free itself from.
Miranda has some fun with some of the other characters and even the Founding Fathers.
Bryson Bruce brings stylish flair to both the Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson, including the number “What’d I Miss?” upon Jefferson’s return from France.
King George (Peter Matthew Smith) of all people delightfully gets into the act as a “sore loser” in the number “You’ll Be Back,” warning the former colonies their revolution would be an experiment doomed to quickly fail.
“Hamilton” has become more than just a musical. It has helped to connect many millions of people, many of them young, many of them people of color, to an undertold story and to musical theater in general.
Miranda has been a careful caretaker of his work, making sure that the flagship Broadway production loses none of its luster,while also seeing to it that the Chicago production and this national touring productions are also up to the standards he has set for himself.
Don’t believe the hype. Believe what you see onstage. Miranda reminds us that the story of America’s birth and one of the greatest of the Founding Fathers belongs to all of us.
The national touring production of “Hamilton.” Book, music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Inspired by the book “Alexander Hamilton” by Ron Chernow. Directed by Thomas Kail. Choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler. Music Supervision and orchestrations by Alex Lacamoire. Scenic design by David Korins. Costume design by Paul Tazewell. Lighting design by Howell Binkley. Sound design by Nevin Steinberg. At the Opera House, Boston, through Nov. 18. BroadwayinBoston.com.