Thursday, January 11, 2018

National Tour Of “Hamilton” Lands In San Diego And Is Nothing Less Than Awesome

What more can be said about the hip hoppin’, jazz, blues, rap centric, R&B mega hit “Hamilton” that hasn’t been said already? Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and eleven Tony Awards including Best Musical, the life and times of Alexander Hamilton comes full circle for over two hours in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s historical unfolding of America’s beginnings
Alexander Hamilton
As one who is, let’s say a virgin “Hamilton” apprentice, well except for listening endless hours on my CD, to reading the making of the show, to watching clips on YouTube, to watching him bring “Hamilton” to the White House, to memorizing some of the lyrics, I was finally in the lobby of the Civic Theatre where one might have expected another revolution to break out, the energy ran so high.

Everyone with umbrellas, to soggy haired patrons carrying tickets with the famous “Hamilton” logo on them (I wanted one) showed up en mass at the Civic Center the night I attended all looking to have the experience of a lifetime and relieved that THIS moment in San Diego theatre had finally arrived. The national tour of “Hamilton” through Jan. 28th with last minute changes in casting (that could have fooled me) was about to happen

Cast of Hamilton
Da dada da da dada da dada da da

Curtain Up!

“Alexander Hamilton”, (“How does a bastard, orphan son of a whore -And Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean by providence impoverished -In squalor, grow up to be hero and a scholar?”) was the very first number that went from my CD straight to David Korins’ open stage design with a slow moving turntable and room to fill any necessary props, brought in by cast members. It was awesome and the audience went mad!
Scene from Hamilton
In retrospect, the show exceeded my expectations and the entire production blew my mind away. The fact that it is the most talked about, featured and bragged about from those who paid up to a thousand dollars to see the original production with Lin-Manuel Miranda in New York several years ago, to those who have seen it more than once (I would see it again in a heartbeat) to yours truly who has nothing to compare it with, deserves all the hype afforded it.

Inspired by the 2004 biography Alexander Hamilton by historian Ron Chernow, “Hamilton: An American Musical” with music, lyrics and book by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the story traces the life of one America’s Founding Fathers, Alexander Hamilton; statesman, Secretary of the Treasury, author of economic policies under George Washington, immigrant from the Caribbean, born ‘out of wedlock’ and brought to New York as a teenager to pursue his education, became a representative to the Congress of the Confederate and, his likeness appears on our U.S. $10.00 bill.

His back -story is more interesting than his credentials as played out in the musical. Miranda puts a face on the young patriot who steadfastly pushed his way into the making of a country as vulnerable as he, writing a majority of articles and or essays called the Federalist Papers defending the ratification to the U.S. Constitution.
King George III as portrayed by Rory O'Malley
With a cast as colorful (read multi ethnic), and somewhat as diverse as our founding father’s, Alexander Hamilton is played by he talented and charismatic Austin Scott. When he isn’t going face to face to face with his nemesis (“I’m Not Throwin Away My Shot”) Aaron Burr, (Ryan Vasques who was brought in on opening night to replace Nicholas Christopher, and nailed it… “The Room Where It Happened”), he tests the waters by supporting the revolution to break away from the Mother Land and Monarch King George III, played with scrumptious wit and snooty arrogance by Rory O’Malley (“You’ll Be Back”).

Even though the women in most bios of the founding fathers get short -changed, Hamilton was as much a romantic and a rogue that he almost threw away his marriage while engaging in an outside affair. Early on he met and married, the love of his life, one of the Schuyler Sisters, Angelica “I’ll never forget the first time I saw your face”, Sabrina Sloan “Satisfied”) who introduced him to her sister Eliza (Raven Thomas) at the Winters Ball
The Schuyler Sisters
The women in his life played a large part and Miranda, equal opportunity master that he is, gives the women some of the most compelling lyrics and music with which to express themselves. (“The Shuyler Sisters”, “Wrek”, “Helpless”, “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story.”)

On the battlefield and in the planning of the revolution, Hamilton won the respect of George Washington (the full voiced Isaiah Johnson “Right Hand Man”) much to the chagrin, consternation, and I might add jealousy of Burr. As long as Washington stayed in power, Hamilton was protected from his enemies.
Jordan Donica as Thomas Jefferson
The minute Washington stepped down after the battle and independence a reality, with the help of the Marquis de Lafayette (Jordan Donica who also plays the dandy Thomas Jefferson to perfection), Hamilton was open game and Burr was clearly out to break the man. Unfortunately, Burr’s claim to fame was that he shot and killed Alexander Hamilton. (“It’s Quiet Uptown”).   
Scene from Alexander Hamilton
“Hamilton” is such an ensemble piece that it’s difficult to pick out some that caught our attention although Amber Iman as Maria Reynolds (She also played a short time as sister Peggy) whose affair with Hamilton almost wrecked his life, is devastated when he breaks it off-  “Say No To This”) does show up as an important piece of the puzzle in Hamilton's life. Later it will be her husband, James Reynolds (Desmond Newson) and Burr that will bring Hamilton down almost ending his marriage and deepening his rivalry with Burr.

Overall the large cast with precision choreograph by Andy Blankenbuehler is in a category by itself with some beautiful and muscle bound bodies making this spectacular another reason to be there.

With outstanding conducting by Julian Reeve’s, musical supervision and orchestrations by Alex Lacamoire (more than appreciated in the large Civic Theatre thanks to Nevin Steinberg’s sound design) and deftly directed by Thomas Kail, and outfitted by Paul Tazewell, and with Howell Binkley’s dazzling lighting, beg borrow or sign up for the lottery to have an experience of a lifetime.  

Do listen to the music and clever lyrics and try to familiarize yourselves to have the full understanding of what’s being said. One such outburst in the show “Immigrant’s we get the job done!” is cheered by an audience that understands that each of us has a stake in the prosperity of this great nation of ours.


See you at the theatre.

Dates: Through Jan. 28th
Organization: Broadway San Diego
Phone: 619-570-1100
Production Type: Musical
Where: 1100 Third Ave., San Diego, CA. 92101
Ticket Prices: Check with Box Office or enter lottery 

Venue: Civic Theatre
Photo: Joan Marcus


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