By Barry Reszel
Yep. All that and a bag of chips.
That’s the answer to the question on the mind of every Chicagoland musical theatre aficionado wrapped up in the frenzy, holding tickets for February or awaiting the next block’s sale announcement: Is Lin-Manuel Miranda‘s musical phenomenon Hamilton really that good?
The mesmerizing production opened its new Chicago company’s indefinite engagement October 19 on the heels of a Broadway run that gave Times Square ticket brokers greater retirement security than Wall Street stock brokers. It also swept this year’s Tony’s, earned Miranda a Pulitzer Prize, grabbed a Grammy, gave birth to a cottage industry of books and paraphernalia, ushered in a new era of Broadway stars (including Libertyville native Phillipa Soo) and established itself, squarely, as THE musical of this generation.
Hamilton deserves every accolade it’s received and all those still to come. Welcome to Chicago!
Every moment from the opening rap:
How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a
Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the
Caribbean by providence, impoverished, in squalor
Grow up to be a hero and a scholar?
to the closing, haunting lyric:
Who lives? Who dies? Who tells your story?
is crammed with unparalleled creative genius in music, lyrics, orchestration, sets, lights, sound, acting, singing and dance.
The political biopic, love story and morality tale is the story of America’s Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant from the West Indies who became George Washington’s right-hand man during the Revolutionary War and was the new nation’s first treasury secretary. With a score blending hip-hop, jazz, blues, rap, ballad, R&B and Broadway, it is the story of America then, as told by America now.
The entire purposefully multi-racial cast is stellar, albeit lacking the greater presence of hometown stars, which is at least a tad disappointing. Principal roles are played by Ari Afsar as Eliza Hamilton; Miguel Cervantes as Alexander Hamilton; Alexander Gemignani as King George III; Joshua Henry (the brightest star in this luminescent constellation) as Aaron Burr; Jonathan Kirkland as George Washington; Chris De’sean Lee as Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson; Tony Award-winner Karen Olivo as Angelica Schuyler; Chicago native and from Chicago and Chicago Academy for the Arts graduate José Ramos as John Laurens/Phillip Hamilton; Wallace Smith as Hercules Mulligan/James Madison and Samantha Marie Ware as Peggy Schuyler/Maria Reynolds. The ensemble includes: Sam Aberman, José Amor, Amber Ardolino, Remmie Bourgeois, Chloë Campbell, Yossi Chaikin, Carl Clemons-Hopkins, John Michael Fiumara, Jean Godsend Floradin, Aaron Gordon, Jin Ha, Holly James, Malik Shabazz Kitchen, Colby Lewis, Dashí Mitchell, Justice Moore, Joseph Morales, Eliza Ohman, Samantha Pollino, Antuan Magic Raimone, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Gabriella Sorrentino and Aubin Wise.
The book, music and lyrics are Miranda’s with direction by Thomas Kail, choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler and music supervision and orchestrations by Alex Lacamoire. Hamilton is based on Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton.
Hamilton‘s creative team previously collaborated on Miranda’s 2008 Tony Award winning Best Musical, In the Heights, currently enjoying a production at Chicago’s Porchlight Music Theatre (See our review here). It features scenic design by David Korins, costume design by Paul Tazewell, lighting design by Howell Binkley, sound design by Nevin Steinberg and hair and wig design by Charles G. LaPointe. The musical is produced by Jeffrey Seller, Sander Jacobs, Jill Furman and The Public Theater.
If there’s a pre-attendance suggestion, it’s to listen to the Broadway cast recording ahead of time. The aural spoilers will be more than made up for by the production’s delicious visuals in staging and dance. And familiarization with Miranda’s rhythms and stylings will enhance any patron’s understanding and enjoyment.
So take a second job. Sell a kidney…or a kid. Scrounge. Save. Beg. Borrow. Steal. Just get thee to the room where it happens.
Because visiting the room will rock your world and change your life.
Broadway in Chicago presents “Hamilton” at The PrivateBank Theatre, 18 W. Monroe St. Tickets ($65 – $180) are now on sale for performances through September 17, 2017. More information is available online here. There is a digital lottery for 44 day-of-show tickets which will be sold for every performance for $10 each. Day-of-show digital lottery details are found here. Photos by Joan Marcus.