The past few months have been horrific for theatre fans as they have been deprived of their beloved musicals and plays. Theatre fans were gifted with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit musical, ‘Hamilton’ being put up onto Disney’s streaming service, Disney+ last Friday (3rd July). Having never seen this musical, I thought I would use this release as an excuse for a cheeky theatre review.
‘Hamilton’ follows the real-life story of one of America’s foremost founding fathers and first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton. Filmed live on Broadway in 2016 from the Richard Rodgers Theatre with the original Broadway cast, this is one of the biggest streaming events of the year.
Lin-Manuel Miranda stars as Alexander Hamilton. This man’s talent has no bounds. The way he seamlessly raps, sings and acts within this production really shows the ridiculous talent he has as an actor. Of course, there is much more to be said in terms of Lin-Manuel’s involvement in this production, he is the writer behind the clever book and stunning music featured within ‘Hamilton’. I will discuss this later with the other creatives of this production. Continuing with actors, Leslie Odom Jr. as Aaron Burr gives us a showstopping and simply astounding portrayal as Hamilton’s friend come nemesis. The emotion, energy and journey we see this character go through via Leslie’s use of Lin-Manuel’s lyrics is perhaps the most engaging portrayal within the musical.
Phillipa Soo as Eliza Schuyler/Hamilton delivers us a delicate and beautiful portrayal as Hamilton’s wife. Phillipa radiates kindness and an innocent soul for this character which works perfectly as she really is the cleanest character in this musical, which is filled with damaged characters. Her lovely, pitch perfect voice also really suits the musical numbers that Lin-Manuel Miranda supplies, especially ‘Helpless’. In the final moments of this performance, Phillipa gives an open and truely emotional end to her character’s journey, one which stays with the audience after viewing.
Renée Elise Goldsberry’s portrayal of Angelica Schuyler is brilliantly complex which shows a woman who is mixed up in Hamilton’s life. The way Renée shows feminist power through use of Miranda’s lyrics is a complement to her acting talent. Renée also delivers one of the best songs in the show with ‘Satisfied’ mainly due to how well Renée picks up the style of vocal work needed to deliver this musical number perfectly.
Daveed Diggs as Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson is an absolute delight. The lighthearted portrayal he delivers for both these characters acts as a much-needed relief within this musical which has a very realistic and at points, dark plot. Not only that but Daveed’s performance in terms of rap and singing is unfathomable, he is unbelievably talented and this production was blessed with him making his musical debut. Okieriete Onaodowan as Hercules Mulligan and James Madison really does well in adapting for both these characters, using their social status as a device for how he can angle himself within each of these portrayals. This is probably the two most adaptive portrayals within the musical from one actor.
Christopher Jackson’s emotional portrayal of George Washington is unbelievable. For a political character that is not heavily featured within my own country’s personal history, I found myself hooked and emotionally invested in this heroic portrayal from Jackson. His performance of ‘One Last Time’ is one which prompted a lump in my throat for the real passion and the fact that Christopher really was in that moment. The only way to describe the final moments of ‘One Last Time’ is, stunning.
Anthony Ramos as John Laurens and Philip Hamilton gives so much energy and charisma to both of these historical characters. When it comes to singing and rapping, Anthony is supremely talented, he makes it seem effortless. His portrayal of Philip Hamilton has a clear character journey and the emotion provided by Anthony is one which impacts the audience greatly. Jasmine Cephas Jones delivers superb vocals and a devilish portrayal of Maria Reynolds. Let’s not forget her blink and you miss it portrayal of everyone’s favourite Schuyler sister, Peggy.
Johnathan Groff as King George, is hilarious! His presence on stage in the small stage time he has is crazy. The humour he manages to deliver while singing ‘You’ll Be Back’ and ‘What Comes Next?’ pitch perfect is great. The only small criticism from his portrayal is his English accent isn’t perfect. But that can be forgiven for this great supporting performance.
Sydney James Harcourt as Philip Schuyler, James Reynolds and Doctor gives a good supporting role and does well to adapt to each role.
This production had a great ensemble delivering outstanding backing vocals and breathtaking physical theatre throughout the performance. The ensemble (according to IMDB) are as follows; Carleigh Bettiol, Ariana DeBose, Hope Easterbrook, Sasha Hutchings, Thayne Jasperson, Elizabeth Judd, Jon Rua, Austin Smith, Seth Steward and Ephraim Sykes.
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s book, music and lyrics turn the story of one of America’s founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton, into one of the biggest theatrical events of all time. The ingenious music featured within this production brings musical theatre into the 21st century, taking inspiration from hip hop, R&B, pop, soul and traditional-style show tunes. ‘Hamilton’s score is unlike anything you’ll have heard in a musical before. The use of this score to tell Alexander’s story removes any possibility of this historical re-telling being boring. It’s exciting and at points the quick pacing of this story hits the audience with the unexpected. Thomas Kail’s direction of this story does so well to rely heavily on an ensemble to support the story telling rather than physical set. The minimalism present within this production is one which allows the creative team and performers to fully rely on their talent. Thomas removing limitations for his performers to just use their raw talent is probably what makes ‘Hamilton’ one of the best theatrical productions in the world.
Andy Blankenbuehler’s choreography is once again another highly creative and rare element to add to the already stellar creative ideas present within this production. Andy’s choreography resembles physical theatre more than dance as there are so many physical components to each scene, it is like a machine. You can watch this performance more than ten times and see something new happening through movement with a member of the ensemble. The choreography in this musical is ingenious and visually stunning. Another aspect of this production which helps the movement on stage is David Korins’ scenic design. Implementing the rotating section of the stage is brilliant as it adds to a lot of scenes. Also, the minimalism appears once again in David’s stage design, with beige colouring and bare minimum furniture for each scene, it works brilliantly for this musical. Howell Binkley’s lighting design compliments David’s set beautifully visually. The final component which brings this production together is Paul Tazewell’s suave and colourful costume design, it adds again to the visual components of the style this creative team have excellently put together so carefully.
This musical production is one which theatre fans around the world have so desperately been craving for the last three months. ‘Hamilton’ not only shows why theatre is so important within our world but also how diversity within the theatre industry is an unstoppable force. This cast are insane and this musical tells such an important story in a simply stunning and exceptionally creative way.
Written by Lewis C. Baird
You can watch Hamilton on Disney+ via the link below: