Last week I was fortunate enough to see Broadways biggest hit, Hamilton: An American Musical written by Lin Manuel-Miranda, in Chicago. Like many of us, I had become obsessed with the Original Cast Recording. With tickets sold out through next fall and going for $700+, it seemed unrealistic that I would see the show anytime soon. Of course, upon hearing that I would be seeing the show from the second row I was hysteric. However, is the experience worth emptying your wallet for?
Opening the show was the very articulate and expressive Carl Clemons-Hopkins as Aaron Burr’s understudy. Carl’s distinctive voice contrasted very well those of the other principles, which works well given Burr’s unique relationship with the other characters. Miguel Cervantes played the title role of Alexander Hamilton and did a wonderful job. The powerhouse voice of Miguel harmonized beautifully with his counterparts, Ari Afsar as Eliza and Karen Olivo as Angelica, and sounded more polished than Lin Manuel Miranda, who originated the role on Broadway.
Ari Afsar, Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, has a bright and cheerful voice which really shines through in “The Schuyler Sisters”, “Helpless”, and “Take a Break”. Having said that, he brightness of her voice docent quite work in her favor in the second act, when Eliza goes through major emotional turmoil. Hence, Ari’s voice didn't quite support Eliza’s more emotionally driven moments such as “Burn” and the finale. Additionally, I wasn't always totally convinced with Ari’s acting in the second act. This could partially be due to her age, at 25 I don't expect she has first hand experience with being cheated on and loosing a child. The forgotten role of Peggy Schuyler and Maria Reynolds were played by the adorable Samantha Marie Ware. Samantha brought a sweet and loving innocence to Peggy that never failed to get an applause yet completely changed her physicality and voice to play Maria Reynolds, Hamilton’s mistress. Stealing the show, however, is the Tony Award winner, Karen Olivo as Angelica Schuyler. Her voice was extremely fluid and consistent thought the show and her portrayal of Angelica was both motherly and flirty (quite the interesting combo). Other notable performances were those of José Ramos as John Laurens/Phillip Hamilton and Alexander Gemignani as King George. Both of which had strong vocal performances and comedic timing.
Andy Blankenbuehler’s jaw dropping choreography in tandem with Alex Lacamoire’s orchestrations and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s lyrics all came together flawlessly. The choreography brought the music to life, capturing the emotion and drive of each song while showcasing the talents of each individual performer. The costumes, designed by Paul Tazewell, and the set, designed by David Korins, both captured the essence of the period while simultaneously remaining contemporary. The shade of the simple ensemble base costumes beautifully contrasted the shade of the bricks on the set. David’s innovative use of double turntables brought a new level of sophistication to Andy’s choreography. As for the theatre itself, be cautious of the orchestra seats. The lip of the stage is extremely high, obstructing the view of the stage floor for those sitting in the first six rows. Being priced at such a high margin, it should be noted by the box office of the obstruction. Nevertheless, Hamilton: An American musical is definitely the musical of the decade and should not be missed. Hamilton is currently playing at the Rickard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway, the PrivateBank Theatre in Chicago, and the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco until August before moving to Los Angeles as they begin touring the county. If the high price point is a little too much the $10 Hamilton lottery is a must do!