- Category: Volume 87 (Fall 2015 - Spring 2016)
- Published: 16 September 2015
- Written by KERRY BREEN | STAFF WRITER
On Aug. 6, Broadway’s newest sensation Hamilton opened to nothing but stellar reports and five-star reviews and praise from critics everywhere. Opening night—along with most other performances that followed—was sold out, and over 700 people lined the block in the hopes of winning lottery tickets.
Hamilton boasts an all-star cast, led by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who previously starred in and wrote In The Heights. Miranda was also responsible for the creation of Hamilton—he found inspiration in Ron Chernow’s biography “Alexander Hamilton,” and, upon finding out that nobody had ever written a musical on the historic figure, began working on the project. It would take him seven years to complete.
Other cast members include Philippa Soo as Elizabeth Schuyler-Hamilton (Hamilton’s wife), Renee Elise Goldberry as Angelica Schuyler-Church (Elizabeth’s sister, and Hamilton’s possible mistress), Leslie Odom Jr. as Aaron Burr, Johnathon Groff as King George, Daveed Diggs as Thomas Jefferson/Marquis de Lafayette, and Christopher Jackson as George Washington. Once a week, Miranda’s understudy Javier Munoz plays the role of Hamilton.
One of the most interesting concepts of the show is the color-blind casting that was used. Hamilton, Jefferson, Washington, and other Caucasian historical figures are now played by black and Hispanic actors, a move that Miranda said was intentional and should not require any suspension of disbelief.
“Our cast looks like America looks now, and that’s certainly intentional,” Miranda said, in July interviews with The New York Times and The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s a way of pulling you into the story and allowing you to leave whatever cultural baggage you have about the founding fathers at the door. We’re telling the story of old, dead white men, but we’re using actors of color, and that makes the story more immediate and more accessible to a contemporary audience.”
Miranda also uses a variety of musical techniques and styles in the show, including hip-hop, jazz, pop, and R&B. Much like his previous musical, In The Heights (which won the Tony Awards for Best Musical and Best Score), Miranda blends more contemporary, modern music with more classical Broadway tunes.
Hamilton premiered off-Broadway at the Public Theatre (which also produced 2015 Tony Award winner Fun Home), beginning previews on Jan. 20, 2015, and opening on Feb. 17. It ran as a limited engagement, ending on May 3, and received nothing but critical and public acclaim. The show is directed by Thomas Kail, who also directed In The Heights with Miranda.
It began performances at the Richard Rogers Theatre (which had previously housed In The Heights). Previews began on July 13, and opening night was Aug. 6. Even the most hardened critics have given nothing but positive reviews to the production.
“I am loath to tell people to mortgage their houses and lease their children to acquire tickets to a hit Broadway show,” said Ben Brantley, a theatre critic with The New York Times. “But Hamilton, directed by Thomas Kail and starring Mr. Miranda, might just about be worth it.” Brantley also gave the show five out of five stars.
While Hamilton is sold out for the foreseeable future (for the most part, the only tickets available are highly expensive resale tickets), those involved in the production have done their best to still make the show accessible. Hamilton boasts a lottery deal called “Ham4Ham,” through which a front-row ticket can be scored for the low price of $10. (The $10 bill has Alexander Hamilton’s face printed on it, hence the name of the lottery.) Those hoping to enter arrive at the theatre two and a half hours before showtime and put their names into a bucket to be drawn. Two hours before the show starts, the names will be drawn, and the lucky winners will be able to choose between winning one or two tickets. Some standing-room only and partial-view tickets will also be available for certain performances, depending on availability.
Before certain shows, a short performance is given at the lottery, organized by Miranda and other Hamilton cast members. Occasionally other Broadway stars make appearances, such as Tony Award winner Kelli O’Hara of The King and I, Matthew Morrison of Finding Neverland, Kyle-Jean Baptiste of Les Miserables (who recently passed away), and Beth Malone of Fun Home.
Hamilton’s off-Broadway production has also been nominated and won many awards, such as Drama Desk Awards for Best Musical, Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical (given to Renee Elise Goldberry), Outstanding Director of a Musical (Thomas Kail), and Outstanding Music, Outstanding Lyrics, and Outstanding Book of a Musical, all given to Miranda. The show has also won a multitude of other awards, and is also the current frontrunner for the 2016 Tony Awards, considering its public and critical acclaim and Miranda’s previous Tony wins.
Hamilton’s cast album will be released on iTunes on Sept. 25, and can be pre-ordered now. Tickets are available at the box office and online at sites such as Telecharge and Ticketmaster, and are currently available until June 2016.
IMAGE COURTESY of nypost.com