Company- HAMILTON National Tour. Photo: (c)Joan Marcus
Book, Music, and Lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda
Directed by Thomas Kail
A review by Kate Barry
Entire contents are copyright © by 2022 Kate Barry. All rights reserved.
Can you remember a time when Hamilton or Lin-Manuel Miranda was not a part of our pop culture conversation? Since 2015, the show has become a worldwide sensation and made Miranda a household name. The historical epic has spurred important conversations about representation, equal rights, and race. The current Broadway in Louisville run has appeared to be a hushed engagement compared to its inaugural stop three years ago. Perhaps it’s the convenience of the rap opera’s availability on the Disney+ streaming platform or the struggles of our modern post-shutdown times, regardless, Miranda’s show remains an opus on chasing dreams.
Told through the eyes of Aaron Burr (Jared Dixon), Alexander Hamilton’s sometimes peer and sometimes enemy, we see the parallels of decisions and impact made by each man with the ever-present backdrop of the New York harbor. Dixon’s performance as Burr is cool and collected with a simmering strain just below the surface. He provides smooth vocals for “Wait For It” and “Dear Theodosia” while reaching a fever pitch in the showstopper “The Room Where It Happens.” Pierre Jean Gonzalez as Hamilton is the foil to Burr’s cool level-headedness. Gonzalez plays Hamilton as a motivated yet stubborn student in search of greatness while wearing his heart on his sleeve. “My Shot” provides Gonzalez with a battle cry to rise up and take action while “Yorktown” and “Nonstop” sees the making of a powerful force behind America’s first president.
Dixon and Gonzalez are appropriate opponents and worthy adversaries. They bring chemistry with shared roots, a dire hunger for success, and a big reputation. At pivotal moments, Dixon’s Burr asks questions infused with curiosity, bitterness, and cynicism about Hamilton’s life. While Gonzalez’s Hamilton moves ahead, Burr moves with pensive forethought providing an exquisite juxtaposition. As one succeeds, the other meets rejection leading to a dramatic confrontation.
Ensemble and chorus dressed in whites and khakis seamlessly change in and out of period costumes during glimpses of Hamilton’s rise from humble beginnings to founding father. Throughout the show, King George pops in to provide his point of view from across the ocean. Neil Haskell peppers an upper-crust British lilt into his poppy tunes. Providing a steadfast mentor, Marcus Choi’s George Washington is a wise leader of the army turned the first president. Choi truly soars with “One Last Time,” providing one of the most powerful moments in the production.
Along the way, we meet Hamilton’s friends and brothers in arms. Lafayette (Warran Egypt Franklin), Mulligan (Desmond Sean Ellington), and Laurens (Elijah Malcomb) introduce themselves with the energy of a frat house party that continues until intermission. Their rendition of “Aaron Burr, Sir” blends a simple nursery rhyme quality with a flair of early hip hop. With dual roles, Franklin and Ellington deliver swagger and attitude as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Malcomb finds his own footing and hunger for success as Hamilton’s son, Phillip who meets a tragic end.
Ta’rea Campbell and Stephanie Jae Park are wonderful as Angelica and Eliza Schulyer. Park and Campbell serve up some girl group vibes with “The Schuyler Sisters” with the aid of Paige Smallwood as Peggy, of course. Park’s lovely soprano is sweet and lovelorn in “Helpless” and beautifully heartbreaking in “Burn.” Campbell is a master of vocal quality as she effortlessly shifts between rap and traditional song structure in “Satisfied.” Her lead vocal in “It’s Quiet Uptown” is affectionate and meditative like that of a beautiful eulogy.
The heart of Hamilton relies on the dreams of these young founding fathers and mothers. Wars are fought in the eyes of revolution, laws are made, and an early form of a democratic nation is shaped. A nation that continues the battles for prosperity laid out by Hamilton, Burr and so many others.
June 7- 19, 2022
Broadway in Louisville
Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts
501 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202
Kate Barry earned her Bachelors in English with a Theater minor from Bellarmine University in 2008. She has worked with many different companies around town including Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, Bunbury Theater, Louisville Repertory Company, Walden Theater, Finnigan Productions and you have probably purchased tickets from her at that little performing arts center on Main Street as well. In 2012, her short play “PlayList” won festival favorite in the Finnigan Festival of Funky Fresh Fun. She has written for LEO Weekly and TheatreLouisville.com as well. Thanks for reading!