Friday, October 21, 2016

Review of Hamilton: An American Musical (Broadway in Chicago)

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Hamilton. The book, music, and lyrics were by Lin-Manuel Miranda, inspired by the book Hamilton by Ron Chernow. It was directed by Thomas Kail. The music supervisor and orchestrator was Alex Lacamoire and the choreographer was Andy Blankenbuehler. Hamilton is my favorite musical; it was even before I saw the show. But this made me love it even more. It is about the Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton (Miguel Cervantes) fighting in the American Revolution, falling in love with his wife Eliza (Ari Afsar), having kids, establishing a national bank, his name being ruined, and also his death in a duel with Aaron Burr (Joshua Henry)...sir. I am really glad I got to see the actual show instead of just listening to the Broadway cast recording on repeat!

I think Aaron Burr narrates the show because he has killed Hamilton but he has also known him the longest. Hamilton calls him "My first friend, my enemy." I think that is really poetic. It is not like they were amazing friends or anything, but I think Burr understands Hamilton even though he doesn't realize it until Hamilton is actually dead. They both want a free country, they both want to be around for their children, and they both want to be better than the other. But they go about it in different ways. Hamilton is not afraid to express himself and Burr is really worried about making the wrong move. I think the best example of these two personalities is in "My Shot" and "Wait for It." "Wait for It" is all about waiting for the right moment and "My Shot" is about trying to make a imprint on history by snatching what you want right when you want it. I've never cried during "Wait for It" before, and I listen to that song usually twice a day, but when I saw it live, I started to cry because Joshua Henry did such a great job that he made you feel that he was very sincere about wanting to be with Theodosia and how sad he was not having the love of his parents around. And I was like, "Oh no! 'Burn' is going to be a sobfest." And it was.

"Burn" was especially sad because of the way this Eliza sang the song. She sang it so quietly and she seemed like she was in so much pain. It was really hard to take, and I didn't really take it. I just sobbed and tried to make it quiet (and failed) because there are so many pauses in the song. You could feel the whole audience holding their breath. But she didn't just seem broken and sad, she also seemed angry. That showed that even though she was sad she was going to be able to get through it. I think the saddest line in "Burn" is her saying she hopes that he burns, because you know that she doesn't really mean it, but she does then. "Burn" is probably the saddest song in existence. It is so good, but it is torture. No one should wear mascara to this show--ever. I also noticed that there is such a good transition into this song from "The Reynolds Pamphlet." The background music at the end is like the beginning of "Burn" because it has this piano or something playing the same series of notes in different orders. And it just continues. The transitions are so perfect in this musical. And Jefferson and Madison say, "His poor wife." It shows you how bad Jefferson (Chris De'Sean Lee) and Madison (Wallace Smith) feel about it; they have a moment of realization of what they have done.

"The Room Where it Happens" is such a fun song and has so many amazing visual elements. There is one part where Burr jumps up on the table and an ensemble member pulls the tablecloth out from under him and it is just so amazing because you see how much they would have to practice to perfect that. And I noticed that there was a mirror on the table to reflect more light on to him. They also do this dancing which is like jazz hands to the side, kind of like they are playing guitars or something. And Burr at the end of the song strikes a pose that looks like Hamilton at the end of "My Shot." It reminds you that they are not too far off from each other. And after this song, Burr becomes more like Hamilton in that he doesn't stand to the side anymore.

Hamilton and Burr learn from each other; Hamilton learns to watch things and see how they will pan out, like with his wife Eliza during "It's Quiet Uptown" and Burr learns to chase his dreams by trying to become president in "The Election of 1800." They become more like each other right before they duel, which I think is a really cool plot point. I noticed that in "Dear Theodosia" they both had similar things to say about their kids. That song is two men literally sitting in chairs on stage singing about how much they love their kids. It is like they are writing the letters to their next of kin that they talk about in the "Ten Duel Commandments" even though they aren't actually having the duel together until years and years from then.

King George (Alex Gemignani) is basically the villain of the story and also the comic relief. He has three songs ("You'll Be Back," "What Comes Next?" and "I Know Him") and each of them go along the same melody. His performance was not just a copy of Jonathan Groff's performance, who was the original King George on Broadway. It probably wouldn't have been very exciting if there weren't any differences from the recording, so I'm glad he changed it up. He was more deadpan and less cutesy. I didn't prefer one over the other; I liked that they were different. One of the various moments I found hilarious was when King George stayed on stage for the beginning of "The Adams Administration." He yells out the song title very giddily and then scoots off stage. That was very funny.

"What Did I Miss?" was a really great song. It was all about Thomas Jefferson coming home from France. This is one of the funniest and most fun songs because of the way that Jefferson was portrayed basically as a guy who doesn't really understand a lot about your duties to your country, and yet he is Secretary of State. The way that he dances I think is pretty fabulous. He dances with a lot of looseness and footwork which shows you that he doesn't really take anything very seriously. I think Thomas Jefferson thinks he is the best person alive, and I loved Lee's portrayal of that. It was hilarious and amazing. Lee also plays Lafayette, which I love. My favorite song in Hamilton is "Guns and Ships" and it made me so happy to see it live. Lafayette convinces Washington to get Hamilton back by rapping very very very fast. I have memorized the whole rap, and I am very proud of that, but I cannot do it even close to as well as he can. I think the best line in the history of all rap is "I'm taking this horse by the reins, making redcoats redder with bloodstains."

"Yorktown" I think is the song everyone thinks is the end of the first act, but when you know that it isn't you feel very smart about that. It is one of my favorite songs. I think it was the first one that I memorized. I memorized Hercules Mulligan's (Smith) rap. It gets you really pumped and ready for anything, basically. I felt like I could conquer the world when I memorized it. I really like watching Yorktown because there is so much going on at the same time. It is like a real battle almost--except more fun looking. The movement I think throughout the entire show is really awesome and fun to look at. It is mostly modern dance and hip hop with a few other things scattered around. It really helps to tell the story.

People who would like this show are people who like flawless transitions, bawling your face off, and making red coats redder with bloodstains. I think people should definitely go see this show. It's hilarious, hearbreaking, and you learn a lot. You will have a great time. I know I did. Click boom!

Photos: Joan Marcus

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