I have two pieces of advice regarding the musical Hamilton. Number one: GO!. Do whatever it takes to get yourself a seat, short of meeting a creepy guy in a Starbucks with cash in hand. Play the lottery. Sit in a lawn-chair in front of the theater all night. Or stick a pin in an available night in 2017. Because if ever there was a piece on Broadway that deserved to be called “must see”, this is it. And that’s not Kool-Aid talking. The music is catchy (and, praise be, memorable). The lyrics are clever. And the cast is off-the-charts talented.
Number two: Whatever the components of that particular performance — whatever city you are in, wherever in the house you sit, whomever you’re with, and whichever cast members are on stage — enjoy *your* experience of it. It will only be one degree away from all the other fabulous ways you can see this show. I heard deep sighs of disappointment when some audience members noticed that the part of George Washington was being played by Austin Smith instead of Christopher Jackson. But by the time he boomed out his farewell speech, he had won over even the most ardent fan of the soundtrack album. I have heard similar stories about several of the other standbys. There are no weak links here. Even if, as happened to me, Lin-Manuel Miranda is resting his vocal chords, you will not be the least bit disappointed to catch the magic of Javier Munoz in the title role. In fact, my theater friends tell me it’s become the “in” thing to grab tickets for the Sunday matinee in order to guarantee seeing his interpretation. His vocal technique brings out more of rich seductiveness of Hamilton in contrast to Miranda’s sharp edged frustration. Both are equally important aspects of this increasingly famous Founding Father.
So strong is every player that it’s hard to single out just one or two. But in the interest of keeping this review at appropriate blog length I’ll start with Daveed Diggs. His flashy Franglais Marquis de Lafayette in the first Act is only topped by his effected and slightly bitchy Thomas Jefferson in the second. Leslie Odom, Jr. makes a commanding yet penitent narrator in the form of Aaron Burr. And how could I not give special mention to the utterly delightful and hilarious Jonathan Groff as the spitting mad King George III. My mother is tone deaf and even she can’t stop humming his theme song.
Fortunately, all this talent is in service to a truly remarkable book, music and lyrics by national treasure Lin-Manuel Miranda. You’ve no doubt read about how, inspired by Ron Chernow’s biography, he saw an immigrant story in Hamilton’s humble beginnings as an orphan on a Caribbean Island who is sent to New York at 14 to make his mark. I can’t begin to fathom how he turned the revolutionary war and resulting establishment of our government into such dizzying entertainment. Surely the word genius applies. Deep appreciation goes out to choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler and director Thomas Kail for adding perfect movement and motion to Miranda’s work. There isn’t a dull moment to be seen.
Best of all is the probability that Hamilton will do for theater what Harry Potter did for reading: bring in a new generation of enthusiastic participants. There were dozens of students in the theater and their energy was thrilling. (Special shoutout to the young man who stepped off his school bus wearing a white tuxedo jacket, black bow tie and wide smile.)
Hamilton is currently playing at the Richard Rodgers Theater. For tickets and information visit http://www.hamiltonbroadway.com. Sign up for email notices and/or the lottery. And PLEASE heed the warnings about counterfeit tickets.