An American Musical
Book, Music & Lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda
Based on Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton
Directed by Thomas Kail
Choreographed by Andy Blankenbuehler
Music supervision by Alex Lacanaire
Produced by Broadway In Chicago
At the CIBC Theatre, Chicago Theatre District
Stunning hip-hop/rap opera is an amazing theatrical experience!
After all the hype, I was impressed by the brilliance of the theatrical experience that makes Hamilton a groundbreaking hip-hop/rap opera! The entire experience of this show is much more that the total of its individual elements! This ingenious work dares to take the Broadway musical into new, uncharted territory that combines history with contemporary language, current musical styles to make history come alive in a most engaging manner. The concept by Lin-Manuel Miranda and his creatives grabs us and keeps us flowing with spectacular movements and dances with provocative rhymed vernacular and haunting, emotionally-charged music. Throw-in a campy King George (Alex Gemignani) for comic relief and Hamilton makes the history of the founding of America come alive.
Using an inter-racial cast (African-American and Latin) of players while dressed in 18th Century costumes to present and sing Alexander Hamilton’s story was brave and ambitious. But the chutzpah of Lin-Manuel Miranda and his producers paid off with sold out houses on Broadway and eleven 2016 Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Score & Book plus Best Director. Now, at the Private Bank Theatre (18 W. Monroe), Chicago’s Hamilton features the same creatives from Broadway but with a fresh vibrant cast determined to infused Chicago theatre patrons with the emotional power of Hamilton’s unique style of storytelling!
While I have not acquired a taste for the hip-hop/rap style of songs nor the haunting musical style, the all-around style, especially the fabulous choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler that included dances, marches, fighting movements to emphasis and enhance the action of each scene makes Hamilton sizzle! The ensemble, who are on stage for most of the two hour and forty-five minute production, are the real stars of Hamilton. You’ll not find a more fluid ensemble at any musical playing anywhere.
The featured players include Miguel Cervantes as the determined political operative Alexander Hamilton who came from the West Indies to New York than became George Washington’s (the commanding Jonathan Kirkland) right-hand man. The charismatic Joshua Henry plays Aaron Burr, Hamilton’s rival. while Chris De Sean Lee has panache as Thomas Jefferson another Hamilton rival.
The second act featured fine storytelling including R & B ballads and jazz-blues number that was the strongest showstopper of the show: “The Room Where It Happened” instantly became a memorable anthem. Hamilton powerfully tells the story of one of the most influential Founding Fathers truthfully utilizing contemporary musical styles and rhymed language by a mixture of modern American inter-racial players.
Hamilton lives up to the hype as it is engaging, high-energy and an emotionally thrilling theatrical experience. It is an opera, a rap show, and an accurate history lesson that presents as dazzling entertainment. In this breakthroughs work, Lin-Manuel Miranda has moved the Broadway musical (opera) into new areas. It is terrific storytelling that bravely takes pop culture into the world of opera and Broadway musicals. The good news is that he has brought a new audience to musicals as young folks love this show.
As I watched Hamilton, the style slowly started to grow on me as the theatricality engaged me throughout. I’m still acquiring an appreciation of hip-hop and rap. Maybe for us traditionalists they should consider using Super-titles like the opera?
Hamilton is a major theatrical achievement that refreshes live stage shows with a ‘today’ sensibility. It is a ‘must-see’ event that will grace Chicago for the next year or two. Watch for promotions and special events to help you snag a ticket. Put Hamilton on your bucket list.
At the Private Bank Theatre, 18 W.Monroe, Chicago, IL, call 800-775-2000,www.broadwayinchicago.com, tickets $65 – $400, on an open run.