Richard and I saw *Hamilton* again on 12/23 - - we saw it on Broadway in March and saw it again in Chicago. We were planning a trip to Wisconsin to visit my mother and Richard had a milestone birthday on 12/23, so we decided to spend a few days in Chicago before heading up north. I told him we had plans the night of his birthday, I called it "a cultural event." He was blown away that I had bought us tickets to *Hamilton,* he loved the show even more than I did, had listened to the recording many, many times, and was totally hopped up to see it again.
You can read my original review here, if you like:
The show is total genius. The Chicago production is the same as the Broadway production, the same set, costumes, staging. The had an all new cast in Chicago:
Miguel Cervantes played Hamilton. Of course it was a thrill to see Lin-Manuel Miranda playing that part when we saw it in March, but though he is a genius, it's as a writer, not as a performer. We both thought another actor would give a stronger performance, and we were right. The thrill of Miranda is that he wrote the show and totally believes in the show - - but with Cervantes we were seeing a really first-class actor and singer playing the role. Very different, and in many ways, better.
Joshua Henry played Aaron Burr, and he was as good as Leslie Odom Jr, who won the Tony. I was most excited to see Henry, I've seen him in four other shows: *The Scottsboro Boys,* *Violet,* *The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess,* and *Shuffle Along.* He's an extraordinary performer and I knew he would be great in the role. Odom was more tender, more slick - - Henry was more forceful, more impassioned. Henry showed the strain in Burr to hold it together. Both are valid and effective takes on the role, and I'm not saying that one was better than the other. But I am saying that I have a crush on Joshua Henry, so make of that what you will.
I've seen the show twice now, and I wonder if Burr is the better ROLE. Hamilton is, of course, the central character, but Burr is in many ways the more complex character. And Miranda said himself that he has the two best songs in the show. Hm.
Ari Afsar played Hamilton's wife, Eliza. I liked her much better than Phillipa Soo, she was much stronger. Soo was too sweet, too much of a doormat. Afsar had more backbone.
Karen Olivo (who had won a Tony playing Maria in *West Side Story* a few years ago) played Eliza's sister, Angelica. She was as good as Renee Elise Goldsberry, just as powerful. This is the best female role in the show.
Samantha Marie Ware had the double role of the third Schuyler sister, Peggy, and Maria Reynolds, the woman who plays a crucial role in Hamilton's downfall (no spoilers here!). Ware was very good, but I preferred Jasmine Cephas Jones, I loved her slow vibrato and smoky voice.
Alexander Gemignani played King George III. He played it more straight than Jonathan Groff, Groff was more playful. Again, like the two portrayals of Burr, an equally valid choice, and they both work. But I enjoyed Groff more.
Jonathan Kirkland played George Washington, and was so much better than Christopher Jackson. His voice was bigger, richer, deeper, and he was taller and more commanding. These might sound like trifles, but they're not. Washington, on Broadway, felt underwritten, a not very interesting character - - in Chicago he took his deserved place as one of the central figures in the story, purely by virtue of the performance by Kirkland. His performance was the biggest surprise in the show.
Chris De'Sean Lee played the double role of Lafayette and Jefferson. Daveed Diggs played him on Broadway and won the Tony, and he was stunning, totally oozed charisma out of every pore, it was a real star-making performance, the best performance in the show. I might have loved De'Sean Lee if I hadn't seen Diggs, but I had, so I didn't. He paled in comparison.
I think this show might be the greatest musical I've ever seen. Miranda takes the history and tells it as the personal stories of the people involved. The music, the use of words, the construction of the show - - it's genius at its very highest level. Richard and I are thinking of seeing it somewhere next, and I see it's playing in San Francisco in from March to August. Howard, how'd you like a visit?