The Paramount Theatre
Through September 11, 2022
Get tickets and more info here.
Hamilton! In case you’ve been under a rock, you should know that it’s the smash hit musical from the genius of Lin-Manuel Miranda. The show has swept the United States and the world with its updated view and new way of telling the story of one of America’s Founding Fathers. Currently playing at the Paramount Theatre, the show is definitely one of the few that lives up to the hype that surrounds it.
The story adapts the biography of Alexander Hamilton from a young immigrant to being the first Secretary of Treasury in the newly founded United States of America. Young Hamilton is ambitious and comes to the mainland to study law. He meets the revolutionaries of Marquis de Lafayette, Hercules Mulligan, John Laurens and the man who will become his adversary, Aaron Burr As Hamilton’s position rises by marrying Eliza, the daughter of a wealthy pro-revolutionary, and by becoming George Washington’s secretary, the war of Independence rages on all around him. While he personally longs for a leading military position to earn a legacy, he is continually kept as secretary to the General, and his incredible talents of writing are used where they are most helpful. After the war, Hamilton practices law and continually parallels the life of his friend/rival Aaron Burr. As Hamilton’s political path reaches heights and pitfalls, Aaron Burr always seems to be excluded from “the room where it happens” until the inevitable confrontation of a duel is set between the two men, and their destiny is forever joined.
The cast is excellent! They work hard, many of them doubling up their roles to further extend the cast of characters. The Ensemble is wonderful in making the story roll forward effortlessly. One of the major joys of watching live theatre (opposed to a recorded video stream) is that you can watch the background; the Ensemble, and those little nuances that make a show memorable. With any prerecorded platform (no matter how good) the audience’s eye is forced to follow where the camera leads, and not enjoy the full spectrum of the supporting cast. The talented cast of Hamilton should be enjoyed with all its glory – they are definitely worth it.
The three Schuyler sisters, Angelica (played by Marja Harmon), Eliza (played by Victoria Ann Scovens) and Peggy (played by Rebecca E. Covington) all have strong presences and great voices. Ms. Harmon (Angelica) easily conveys the strength of her character’s mind and wit in every scene. Her voice is clear and powerful, especially when she sings “Satisfied”. Despite the fact of the breakneck speed of her patter/rap, her pronunciation and annunciation are precise as they clearly express her feelings of longing and potential regret for giving Hamilton to her sister, Eliza. Ms. Harmon remains strong as Angelica ages and grows more regal. Ms. Scovens (Eliza) at first seems miscast for portraying Eliza as naïve instead of challenging, like Angelica. The moment she opens her mouth to sing, the underestimation is immediately corrected. Her voice is beautiful and expressive as she renders herself “Helpless”. The love she feels for her husband is as undeniable as her devotion. In the second act when Eliza realizes Hamilton’s betrayal, her voice is full of emotional conviction and pain as she sings the haunting imagery of “Burn”. Ms. Covington (Peggy) has little to do in the first act aside from uttering the (now) infamous words, “And Peggy”. It is in the second act – as seductress Maria Reynolds – which the audience finally gets the pleasure of hearing the sultry voice Ms. Covington possesses in “The Reynolds Pamphlet”.
The three men in Hamilton’s life are: John Laurens (played by Andy Tofa, who in the second act doubles as Philip Hamilton), Hercules Mulligan (played by Brandon Louis Armstrong, who doubles as James Madison), and Marquis de Lafayette (played by Paris Nix, who also plays Thomas Jefferson). Mr. Tofa plays the more gentle roles of the three. He portrays the Revolutionary Abolitionist John Laurens with a spark that can set off a powder keg. His portrayal of young Philip (Alexander’s son) mixes young bravado with the fears of regret once his fatal duel is in action. Mr. Armstrong portrays the spy Hercules Mulligan with fire and verve as he sings about passing information from the British to the Sons of Liberty. Mr. Nix that plays both the Frenchman Lafayette and the third President, Thomas Jefferson. His voice is incredible as he sings/raps with lightning precision during “Yorktown”, and in fact the original actor in this role is currently in the Guinness Book of World Records for the very same thing. His portrayal of Jefferson is more of a fob, and while it is the way the role is written, Mr. Nix takes it to an extreme.
The audience favorite is that of King George (played by Rick Negron) despite that the character is on stage for less than a collective 15 minutes. It’s a comedic role with the hit song “You’ll Be Back” (and the two reprises) to allow plenty of word play for the true historians in the audience. This role is so popular that it tends to get exaggerated for laughs and effect. [The same thing happens to the role of the “Thénardiers” from Les Miserablés; it has become such a comedic audience favorite that the role can become campy.] Mr. Negron does his best to keep this to a minimal, and performs the role with proper amount of humor, both subtle and direct.
It is the two men cast in juxtaposition of their lives, both political and professional, that truly makes this show. Julius Thomas III brilliantly plays the title role of Hamilton. His stage presence is easily observed from the first moment he walks on stage and speaks his character’s name. When Mr. Thomas breaks into the show’s anthem, “My Shot”, his voice echoes through the theatre. He is first rate when making his emotions understood, and easily conveys the character’s ambitions, dreams, hopes and weaknesses to the audience. There is joy in his voice as he sings “One Last Time”. There is human weakness and desire in “Say No to This”, and pure raw emotion in the sentimental “It’s Quiet Uptown”. Mr. Thomas presents all this with great clarity and a beautiful vocal range.
The man at the other end of Hamilton’s taper is Aaron Burr, portrayed by Donald Webber, Jr. It is this character that is the show’s narrator, antagonist and doomed hero from the very beginning. Mr. Webber portrays the right mixture of cockiness, at the beginning of Burr’s career, and the slow building of resentment to Hamilton’s success over his own. Mr. Webber’s voice is tender as he sings, “Wait for It”, and “Dear Theodosia”. It is the song “The Room Where it Happens” that shows Burr reaching his breaking point. Mr. Webber allows his character to shine with a dark, incandescent light from deep within, and the transformation is completed from ‘Frenemy’ to ‘Nemesis’.
The true star of this show is undeniably Lin-Manuel Miranda who wrote the book, lyrics and music. The man is a true wordsmith, and his lyrics evoke the full range of emotions, as well as beautiful imagery. The music is infectious, without a doubt, whether it is a patter of words at lightning’s pace, or the tenderness found in the most delicate of ballads. It is for good reason his work has been compared to the (late) great impresario, Stephen Sondheim.
And for those that are hesitant because of Hamilton’s reputation of being a ‘rap’ musical – fear not: Every lyric was succinctly pronounced and annunciated without issues.
Hamilton has become a favorite musical from Broadway to the White House, to the most common of households in The United States. Like any other musical based on facts, liberties have been taken with the plotlines. Lin-Manuel Miranda was purposely extremely liberal with the original casting of race within the character roles to make his point of diversity.
Hamilton should not be missed. Seeing it live unites the audience and connects them with a synergy of excitement that cannot be duplicated by any streaming service.
Hamilton opened on Broadway August 06, 2015 and it is still currently playing. It was nominated for 15 (2016) Tony Awards and won 11 including: Best Musical, Best Leading Actor in a Musical (Leslie Odom, Jr as Aaron Burr), Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Daveed Diggs as Lafayette/Jefferson) and Best Direction of a Musical. Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton, Phillipa Soo as Eliza, and Jonathan Groff as King George were all nominated for originating their roles.