Sunday, February 15, 2015


Here are some of the shows that have excited me as much as Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton:

  • A Little Night Music (original Broadway production)
  • Pacific Overtures (original Broadway production)
  • March of the Falsettos (original Off-Broadway production)
  • Cabaret (1997 Broadway revival)
  • James Joyce's The Dead (original Off-Broadway production)
  • Caroline, or Change (original Off-Broadway production)
  • Next to Normal (original Broadway production)
  • Fun Home (original workshop; original Off-Broadway production)
Renee Elise GoldsberryLin-Manuel MirandaPhillipa Soo
Photo: Joan Marcus
What do these shows have in common? Well, they're all brilliant, for a start. But more than that, they expand what musicals can do, whether in form, content, or both. Most of them deal with serious topics, with humor, compassion, and humanity. And their craft is absolute top-of-the-line, with every song a new and precious gift.

Hamilton is also filled with gifts. Miranda's palette goes from the 18th century to the 21st, and he combines history, politics, personal relationships, contemporary music, musical theatre tropes, and an insane amount of talent to make a whole new thing. He then infuses the multifaceted results with joy. Miranda's words are fun, catchy, smart, and downright educational. His music is often gorgeous and always right. Hamilton features dozens of songs, and there's not a loser in the bunch. The book is equally effective.

The current production of Hamilton at the Public Theatre is superb. Thomas Kail's direction is well-paced and clean, allowing the show to come across in all its glory. I assume I should thank Kail and music director Alex Lacamoire, as well as the cast, for the fact that 95% of the words are clear. And I do! One hundred percent would be better, obviously, but considering the speed of some of the hip-hop, it may not be likely. Andy Blankenbuehler's exciting choreography brings a different sort of clarity, of movement, emotion, and passion.

And, oh, that cast. The night I saw it Miranda was in the audience taking notes. Any disappointment I might have had was quickly mitigated by his understudy Javier Muñoz's wonderful performance. I don't see how Miranda could be any better. Of the rest of the cast, particularly outstanding were Leslie Odom Jr. (Aaron Burr), Daveed Diggs (Marquis De Lafayette, Thomas Jefferson), Renée Elise Goldsberry (Angelica Schuyler), Phillipa Soo (Eliza Hamilton), and Brian d'Arcy James (King George). But everyone else was wonderful as well: Carleigh Bettiol, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Andrew Chappelle, Ariana DeBose, Alysha Deslorieux,  Sydney James Harcourt, Sasha Hutchings,Christopher Jackson,  Thayne Jasperson, Stephanie Klemons, Lin-Manuel Miranda,  Okieriete Onaodowan, Anthony Ramos, Jon Rua, Seth Stewart, Betsy Struxness, Ephraim Sykes, andVoltaire Wade-Greene.

My one (slight!) reservation about Hamilton is that some cast members spend a fair amount of time in period underwear. I get why, I think, but it didn't sit right for me. The rest of the costumes (Paul Tazewell) worked well, as did the scenic (David Korins), lighting (Howell Binkley), sound (Nevin Steinberg) and hair and wig design (Charles G. LaPointe).

I hope that Hamilton moves to Broadway and has a healthy run (though not until next season, since Fun Home deserves to sweep the Tonys this year). Even more, I hope it is done for years in regional theatres, universities, high schools, and middle schools--and revived on Broadway periodically. A work of art of this quality deserves a long life.

(row J; member ticket)

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