|Philadelphia audiences are truly, madly, deeply in love with Hamilton
posted by Ralph Malachowski on Sep 3, 2019 10:30am | comments
Broadway Philadelphia is presenting the touring company of the hit musical Hamilton at the Forrest Theatre until mid-November.
For those of you who haven’t paid much attention to current events, Hamilton has been a musical theatre phenomenon for the last several years. Its Broadway run is still so popular that it routinely turns people away while its touring companies are thriving. No surprises there, since Hamilton is now considered to be a modern masterpiece by Lin-Manuel Miranda who wrote the lyrics, music, and book, winning 11 Tony Awards, a Grammy Award, the Pulitzer Prize, and Drama League Awards for him personally performing in his work and for its outstanding production.
The plot centers about its eponymous title character, Alexander Hamilton, and his journey from penniless orphan born in the Caribbean to aggressive grifter to statesman. Upon his arrival in New York, his personal magnetism made the wealthy daughters of a distinguished, and somewhat shady family fall for him big time. He chose one of them for his bride, thereby entering – by marriage – into wealth and privilege. The Schuyler family, already several generations established in New York, had connections into the British nobility as well as a few unsavoury business connections which supplied them with great wealth. In the coming century, the Schuylers would intermarry with other distinguished families such as the Delanos and Roosevelts. It’s little wonder that George Washington saw much of himself in the young Hamilton. Washington also married a wealthy young widow to greatly increase his own fortune. Being a handsome man of 6’2” made Washington tower over most men of his age. All the more interesting in that Alexander Hamilton was only 5’7”, the same height as John Adams (James Madison was 5’4”). Like many famous men (Eisenhower, LBJ, MLK, and JFK, among others), Hamilton’s great fault was a roving eye. This affair is delved into in detail with several musical numbers in the show. Hamilton’s plan for a central bank which would control the United States’ Treasury remains controversial, but it did serve its initial purpose. All debts of the new nation would be consolidated and renegotiated at a new, lower interest rate. This was only mentioned in passing in the musical. Hamilton concludes with Eliza Hamilton outliving Alexander by another 50 years, and her accomplishments finally being told to a wide audience.
Hamilton is daringly cast with a predominantly non-white cast, which undoubtedly leads to its appeal among younger, diverse audiences not usually attracted to musicals. The uniformly excellent cast proves that diversity can and does work well. Edred Utomi, an actor with few credits to his name, leads the cast in the title role. He acquits himself nobly. Eliza Hamilton (seen until September 15, then another actress assumes the role) was magnificently portrayed by Hannah Cruz. Her heartbreaking solo, “Burn,” was especially telling. Angelica Schuyler, who first met Alexander Hamilton, and introduced him to her sister, was finely realized by Stephanie Umoh. Josh Tower miraculously portrayed the difficult, complex character of Aaron Burr. Next to Hamilton, it is Burr who takes us inside his mind and startles us with his skill and talent. His is a bravura performance. Peter Matthew Smith expertly and adroitly minces and camps it up as a swishy, fey King George. Bryson Bruce assumes both pivotal characters Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson. Although not an immigrant per se, Lafayette came to America for action and action he found. Without the Marquis lending monetary support and being an excellent general, we might still be a British colony. Again, the Marquis was a tall man, at 6’ with red hair. His is a story comparable to, or exceeding in swashbuckling detail, that of Alexander Hamilton. Someone someday should write a musical about the Marquis.
Tickets to see Hamilton may be difficult to obtain, and rather pricey, but if you try and keep a few dates open, you will be able to see this revolutionary (pun intended) musical. Previous generations had A Chorus Line, followed by Rent and The Lion King, and the more recent Book of Mormon. We now have Hamilton as the iconic musical of this era. There is a lottery run by the Kimmel Center to win tickets to Hamilton as well. The night we attended was packed to the upper rows. Those who aren’t as nimble, should be aware that there is no elevator, only stairs in this historic theatre. The mezzanine stairs are also rather steep, so be forewarned. There is little leg room for anyone over 5’4”, so practice yoga.
By all means, see Hamilton. You will not see a sharper, better rehearsed, performed, or sung musical hereabouts. Production values are stellar. The large, live orchestra is a rarity these days, and it adds enormously to the pleasure you will have seeing Hamilton.
To purchase tickets to Hamilton or for more information visit www.telecharge.com or www.forrest-theatre.com or call 800-447-7400, The Forrest Theatre, 1114 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA.