Richard and I saw this musical on Broadway on 3/22. We first heard about it when it ran off Broadway last spring at the Public Theater. People were raving about it, it was a hot ticket. It moved to Broadway in the summer and we thought about buying tickets - - but all of the promotions I saw were focusing on the hip hop element of the show, and that is not my favorite kind of music, so I stayed away. But then I heard more raves, some of them from friends whose opinions I respect. And it was seeming more and more like a show we should see, whether we were going to like it or not! So sometime around October we decided to make it happen.
I had heard horror stories about people playing $500 for a ticket - - not even a scalper's ticket, a ticket from the box office. But I imagine those are people who absolutely have to see it right away. I thought I'd go online to see what the cheapest seats are: they were $78, which is entirely in our price range. But the first time they had tickets available at that price was March. The five months have flown by (in an old movie they'd show the pages flying off a page-a-day calendar) and there we were, at the theater.
The show has a book, music, and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, and stars him as Alexander Hamilton. It's inspired by the 2004 biography of Hamilton by Ron Chernow. Miranda read the book on vacation years ago and was overwhelmed with a desire to turn it into a musical.
The show was fantastic! Dazzling. One of the best things I've ever seen on Broadway. It's a real audience pleaser, the audience ate it up with great relish. They were attentive and totally tuned into the frequency of the show.
I had the strangest combination of references and reactions streaming through my brain, which says something about the crazy quilt quality of the show. Within twenty minutes I became aware that I was listening in a heightened way, that the lyrics of the show were hitting my intellect on a deep level. Something about that experience felt familiar, and I realized it's the same feeling I get when I see a Pinter play, the same feeling of being in the presence of great writing. But then on the other hand, in the next scene, which featured Hamilton's wife and her two sisters, I was thinking, "The oldest sister needs to be played by Beyonce in the movie." I imagine it's pretty rare for a show to spark thoughts of Pinter and Beyonce...
The real genius of the show is that the whole thing holds together and makes sense. Miranda mashes up hip hop, straight up pop, a splash of Broadway, and whatever musical language he chooses, it's the perfect language for that moment in the show. It always makes sense, both logically and dramatically.
I wasn't bothered at all by the contemporary references and musical style of the show, but one moment did furrow my brow: in the wedding scene, he has the orchestra play a snippet of the wedding march from *Lohengrin.* Which had me saying, "Come on, that wasn't written until 1850." Of all the things!
Miranda did a great job as Hamilton. Clearly he's passionate about the show, is a savvy performer, and delivers the goods in the role - - but I'm wondering if someone else would be stronger in the part. I could call this the Clint Eastwood Syndrome: when I saw *Million Dollar Baby*, I thought Eastwood was good in his role, but Paul Newman would have been so much better (he was living then). But Eastwood was in charge, so of course he would give the leading role to himself.
Jonathan Groff played George III and had three of the high points of the show - - he didn't have three songs, he had the same song three times, each time with new words. I was grinning like an idiot each time. Leslie Odom Jr. was Burr, he gave a very strong performance. Daveed Diggs was marvelous in the double role of Layafette and Jefferson, he oozes charisma.
The Schuyler sisters were played by Philippa Soo as Eliza (who marries Hamilton), Renee Elise Goldsberry as Angelica (who has an unrequited thing with Hamilton), and Jasmine Cephas Jones as Peggy (she showed up in another, juicier role in the second act). The three of them had a great impact in their scenes together, they totally embody sisterhood. And ya know, sisters are doing it for themselves!
Soo gave a lovely performance but her singing bothered me a little. Her singing is often too inward, it doesn't come across, sometimes she was just plain inaudible. And as Richard said, "When a show is miked as much as this one is, and you can't hear the actor, that's a problem." Goldsberry was powerful as Angelica, she lit up the stage every time she appeared. And Cephas Jones was impressive in her second act role as Hamilton's mistress - - her voice has a slowish vibrato, which made her sound soulful and sort of damaged-goods, perfect for the character.
Director Thomas Kail did an expert job of keeping the show moving, shifting focus, and using the most of the stage. I haven't seen a double turntable used more effectively since *Lulu* at Glyndebourne in 1996. The lighting designer is Howell Binkley, easily the best lighting I've seen on Broadway: imaginative, rich, playful, meaningful. He didn't just put light on the stage, he added meaning to the show.
The choreography of Andy Blankenbuehler was perfect when it was being done by one of the main characters, but too often he has members of the ensemble dancing in the background while a main character sang. I have three words to use about these moments: Sold Gold Dancers.
The show was brilliant, it'll sweep the Tonys, it'll run forever. Those of you who live in the Midwest, it's opening in Chicago at the end of September, check it out.