I was fortunate to see Hamilton, the new hip-hop musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda (who wrote the book, music, and lyrics, and is currently starring in the title role) in a preview performance at the Public Theater recently. I purchased the tickets as part of a benefit to support the Morris-Jumel Mansion, a historic house which had been visited by Alexander Hamilton when he was a cabinet member (and which was once the residence of Aaron Burr), without knowing much about the show. I’d seen In the Heights, Miranda’s prior musical, some years ago, and enjoyed it tremendously: this one, I’ve got to say, is even better.
If you think American history is dry and dull, or that the founding fathers were stogy old men, please see this show and be pleasantly surprised. Here is Hamilton as a scrappy immigrant: pugnacious, bold, driven, a bastard child, orphaned young, a New Yorker, a hustler, a survivor, a prolific writer, a financial genius, a flawed but loving husband and father (with a complicated relationship with his sister in law), George Washington’s right hand man, Thomas Jefferson’s political opponent.
The multi-racial cast was, without exception, excellent. Lin-Manuel Miranda embodied Hamilton and all of his conflicts and contradictions. He was inspired, in creating this musical, by Ron Chernow’s biography Alexander Hamilton, which I was heretofore unfamiliar with, but which I am immediately placing on my list of things to read this year.
Leslie Odom, Jr. as an envious and opportunistic Aaron Burr was a standout. Phillipa Soo played a sweet, touching Eliza Hamilton. Brian D’Arcy James took a humorous turn as King George III, and Okieriete Onaodowan brought a lightness to his dual roles as Hercules Mulligan and James Madison. Daveed Diggs, playing Thomas Jefferson (when not playing the Marquis de Lafayette), demonstrated frustration with, anger at, and eventually gratitude and a grudging respect for the man who, despite everything, practically handed him the presidency.
Hamilton argues, fights, drinks, gets embroiled in a sordid sex scandal, suffers grievous loss, and duels in New Jersey (everything’s legal in New Jersey).
The show is sold out through the end of its run, which has been extended to May 3rd, but see it if you can. There are always tickets (for the right price) on the secondary market. There are also a limited number of low-cost tickets available for each performance through ticket lotteries: http://publictheater.org/Tickets/Calendar/PlayDetailsCollection/1415/Hamilton/
There’s talk of a move to Broadway, and I certainly hope that happens. This is excellent entertainment.
Laura LaVelle is an attorney and writer who lives in Connecticut, in a not quite 100-year-old house, along with her husband, two daughters, and a cockatiel.
Laura can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Alexander Hamilton Image Courtesy of yurchello108 / Shutterstock.com