A Review of Hamilton: An American Revolution
With over one million soundtrack downloads, 20,520 words, and 11 Tony Awards, Lin Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton: An American Revolution has secured its legacy as a monumental Broadway musical.
The story revolves around the life of Alexander Hamilton (Austin Scott), a destitute young immigrant, as he strives to build the young United States after the American Revolution. The opening number reveals Hamilton at just 19, traveling to America and leaving his homeland and former job at a trading company. The audience is also introduced to Hamilton’s comrades, Hercules Mulligan (Wallace Smith), Marquis de Lafayette (James Monroe Iglehart), and John Laurens (Anthony Lee Medina), as well as Aaron Burr (Daniel Breaker), the man who becomes envious of Hamilton and slaughters him in a duel many years later.
The musical embodies everything that American society is today, while telling the story of what America was like in the 18th century. The 46 total tracks provide audience members with a taste of almost every musical style, ranging from rap to traditional broadway show tunes.
The most American-like element, however, is the cast. Hamilton consists of singers of all races portraying the all white characters of the time. It was Lin Manuel Miranda’s intention when composing the original cast to empower African American individuals by placing them in roles like George Washington, a powerful general and first President of the newly independent United States. The current Broadway cast is consistent in honoring this moral.
The first Act introduces the wealthy Schuyler sisters, Angelica (Mandy Gonzalez), Eliza (Elizabeth Judd), and Peggy (Joanna A. Jones), to the scene. The consecutive songs Helpless and Satisfied follow the girls’ first interaction with Hamilton at a ball. Angelica meets him first, and is mesmerized by his eyes, but after Eliza sees him, Angelica gives up her shot at love to her sister. Eliza falls in love with Hamilton in Helpless, oblivious to the great deed her sister had done. The interlude between the two numbers reverses back to when Angelica first laid eyes on the becoming aristocrat while the stage lights up with somber colors and slow moving dancers, and tells the tale from her point of view in Satisfied.
The two perspectives of Alexander and Eliza’s love story differ greatly, and the tension between Hamilton and Angelica is nothing to be desired. The brilliant presentation is admirable and successfully conveys the powerful emotions between the three.
The intermission is preceded by Non-Stop, a fast moving piece that follows Hamilton through his support of the Constitution, and his rise to gaining political power. The number combines themes of all the characters, overlapping to exude feelings of excitement and chaos.
I had the pleasure of viewing the show over Spring Break at the Richard Rogers Theater in New York City. The theater is located on 46th Street and Broadway, and is filled with intricate details on the interior. The stage set is made up of wood, with stairs and a balcony lining the perimeter of the stage. The floor also has circular turntables, which create stunning visuals in songs like Take a Break and The World Was Wide Enough.
The Second Act starts off exuberantly with What’d I Miss, which introduces Thomas Jefferson (James Monroe Iglehart) as the first Secretary of State. Jefferson’s extravagance is mirrored in his musical theme, and can be characterized by the powerful notes and choreography.
The subsequent numbers Cabinet Battle #1 and Cabinet Battle #2 modernly explain Hamilton and Jefferson’s disagreements in a lively way. The “rap battles” are uncommon for musicals, but are efficient in delivering lots of information quickly and with attitude. These songs usually get the most involvement from the audience, especially after a character delivers a clever comeback.
As the songs continue, Aaron Burr seemingly becomes more and more angry with Hamilton for personally endorsing Jefferson over him in The Election of 1800. The rage festered until Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel in Weehawken, New Jersey in 1804. Burr was confident that Hamilton would shoot, and in defense shot his bullet into Hamilton’s ribs.
Hamilton delivers a soliloquy as Burr’s bullet travels across the stage in which he reveals that he is finally ready to look death in the eyes. The silence is gut-wrenching, and forces listeners to hear his every word.
Hamilton died at the age of 49, and with him died his brilliant brain.
In the final track, every character complements Hamilton for his relentless writing and his financial system that shaped America to what it is now. The song reflects the understandable grief of the characters after losing the most influential non-President that has yet lived. Eliza, who lives 50 years following the death of her husband, reveals that she wanted to leave her own legacy, and funded the Washington Monument and established the first orphanage in New York City.
As the final track reaches its end, the audience is left with what some call the “Hamilton effect”. The musical reveals the story of a young immigrant who worked his way to the top, a goal of which many Americans can relate. The intimate telling of the before unknown tale, with many elements of modern America, inspires all to follow the American Dream and work to solve the problems facing the country.
The cast of Hamilton Broadway is one to be admired. The most notable voices were Carvens Lissaint and Daniel Breaker, who brought their characters of George Washington and Aaron Burr to life. Their emotion in, not just the vocals, but the acting, revealed the essence of the characters on the stage.
Adam Scott as Alexander Hamilton perfectly conveyed the strong-willed mind of the Founding Father. His greatest performance was in Right Hand Man, in which the audience saw the excitement of Hamilton as he became Washington’s closest asset.
The brilliant musical written by Lin Manuel Miranda is fast paced and brilliantly composed. The soundtrack combines pleasing musical themes and valuable information, making the composition one that will never be forgotten.