SCHENECTADY — For any true lover of theater, not just musical theater, “Hamilton” is, quite honestly, unmissable.
From just the artistic courage of the idea — an all-sung rap musical about a man who was formerly best known as “the guy on the ten dollar bill” — to its clever and inventive staging, unceasing movement, addictive score, and its vibrant, youthful and spectacularly talented cast, it is theatrical catnip at its finest.
The show is required viewing, a wild ride of epic and rewarding proportions. For those attending for the second, fourth or thirtieth time — no worries — buckle up and fly as the production at Proctors Theater through March 26, is first rate. For those on your first outing, I have some advice for you, in a little bit, that may make the experience just a bit better.
A synopsis of “Hamilton”? Someone described the show to me as “the story of America then, told by America now,” vague, but truly on the nose. Author, composer and lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda’s use of hip-hop, jazz, R & B as well as classic show tune tropes to create his modern history lesson and personal expose of an underappreciated founding father, Alexander Hamilton, is a modern gem of theatrical storytelling.
Combine Miranda’s gifts with Alex Lacamoire’s outstanding musical orchestrations, the artful contributions from designers David Korins, Paul Tazwell and Howard Binkley and then add in Thomas Kail’s ingenious direction and you’ll strike theatrical gold. Which is what the show did — “Hamilton” won 11 Tony Awards, including Best Musical in 2015.
What is astonishing and something to cherish and celebrate about “Hamilton” is that the show deepens with repeated viewings. As it whizzes by you — Andy Blankenbuehler’s Tony-winning choreography rarely allows the narrative to catch its breath — moments of previously missed brilliance land and make you say “Wow, how did I miss that!” Small pieces of rap and prose that escaped your ear the last time jump out to jolt you in their genius.
On this viewing, the relationship between Washington and Hamilton caught me with a fresh and vibrant significance and gave me a visceral slap. This was no doubt boosted by the electric and magnetic performances of Pierre Jean Gonzalez’s Hamilton and Marcus Choi’s General George.
And those are just two of the magnificent performances in an immensely talented cast. The aforementioned Gonzalez captures Hamilton’s aggressive ambition with just the right amount of charm and charisma. As energetic and effective as the actor is in all of our hero’s solos, Gonzalez impressed me most with act two’s heartfelt emotional “Hurricane.”
As Hamilton’s nemesis Aaron Burr, Blaine Alden Krauss expresses impressive vocal prowess in “Wait For It” and “The Room Where it Happens.” For me, Krauss’s take on Burr lacks some of the smoldering resentment and rage that one might expect, but it hardly detracts, only slightly puzzles. It’s still an impressive performance.
Jared Howleton’s Lafayette is foppish fun but his Jefferson proves a lethal weapon with “What Did I Miss?” Choi is sensational as Washington and nearly stopped the show with “History Has Its Eyes on You” and “One Last Time.” And Neil Haskell’s King George III is the perfect whipped cream.
While some of the expected snap and ‘tude from the trio of Schuyler Sisters may have been muted at Wednesday night’s performance, the sisters when working solo proved exceptional. Nikisha Williams sails through Eliza’s moment of bliss in “Helpless” while Lencia Kebede completely owned “Satisfied”; a brilliant take on Hamilton history sung in rewind from Angelica’s perspective.
Kudos to the ensemble — wonderful work and also to conductor Emmanuel Schvartzman and his top-notch orchestra.
So you want to be in the room where it happens, but it’s your first time? To alleviate apprehension and heighten your enjoyment, do a little prep before you walk through the door. Read at least the synopsis of the show to know the scope of the history lesson and which characters appear.
And, for the R & H fans, a big note — there is no overture. Nothing that gives you a listener’s digest of tunes before we dive in. There are eleven notes of orchestral introduction to the show. That’s it. And that’s not a lot to get you pumped and primed for what lies ahead. So maybe hit the ‘Tube of Yous’ and listen to a number or two from the show. You won’t be spoiling anything. Or ask one of your younger family members to grab two friends and ask them to perform “The Schuyler Sisters” number. Trust me they know it. You’ll be singing it on the way home. “Work.”
WHEN: Through March 26
WHERE: Proctors Theater, Schenectady, NY
HOW MUCH: $40 – $120.00
MORE INFO: 518-346-6204, proctors.org
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Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts