History is written by the winners, or so I've been told. Now, if you took a slice of history and followed your beat, including a cast of creatives that would rival the American Revolution, you would come up with something like Hamilton. Add to this mix a correlation with today's unscrupulous political wranglings and, well, you would have a life's history lesson in the making.
Entering the Lyric Theatre on the opening night of any performance is a treat indeed: watching the audience filter in and take their seats is a show unto itself. Take your seat a fraction earlier and you can peruse the stage set up, the ropes, the lighting possibilities and future elements of surprise. What will they do with that? How will that work? Is that a revolving floor? Is this historic or a street scene in New York from the present day? Soon, my precious.
Show starts at 7pm sharp. "What's your name son?" "Alexander Hamilton." Crowd goes ballistic and I haven't drawn breath yet! Expectations? Oh yes – the audience is ready for this and the excitement is palpable. Lin-Manuel Miranda states, "Musical theatre isn't an art form. It's 14 art forms smashed together. And when they coalesce in exactly the right way, I believe it is more powerful than pretty much everything." I believe what he believes, and having 'borne witness' as the show unfolded, I could not sit still; neither could the capacity crowd at the Lyric Theatre. Wow. Boom. Hip Hop rewriting history. "That's hip hop, it's writing about your struggle, and writing about it so well that you transcend your struggle" says Miranda.
Diverse audience (ages ranging from primary school to great-grandparents) cheering after every musical encounter. Serving up energy synchronized with orchestrated band and string quartet; melding voices, seamless choreography and "18th-century-in-Technicolor costumes" to a brand-new world. Hip Hop? I am a convert! Poetry in motion and Miranda has composed "roughly 27,000 words to be performed over the course of two hours and 45 minutes". Time flies as history unfolds, with so many one-liners to take home and relish when the feast has finished. Repetition throughout the show enforced attention and story-telling at its finest. "I'm not throwing away my shot" raps Hamilton (Jason Arrow, you own it) during the course of the show; "Death doesn't discriminate between the sinners and the saints"; "As long as he holds a pen, he's a threat"; "Oceans rise and nations fall". Was that then, or is this now? So contemporary, and yet we are thrown into history with such eloquence and elegance.
Brilliant repartee, awesome music beating it out (Alex Lacamoire's orchestrations and music supervision made my heart sing) every member of the audience felt part of the show. Applause after EVERY SONG (gee, am I repeating myself?). 'Booms' and 'Wows' and heartfelt moments with so much happening at any given moment. Part of the set (like a turntable) transporting the cast through history (David Korin, love your work) and impressive 'now and then' costume design (Paul Tazewell, how do you do that?) bringing it home. Lighting creating elements of war, peace, love, fear and all the grab-bag of responses that lighting can manifest (Howell Binkley – they will name lightbulb moments after you from this day forth).
Comedy relief – enter the King. Massive applause and laughing like subjects, the audience ate him up. Brent Hill, you are royalty!
"I want to be in the room when it happens" sings Aaron Burr (Callan Purcell – I want to be in the room with you) and George Washington (Matu Ngaropo) you have my vote, please... run for President NOW!
Eliza Hamilton (Martha Berhane, you made us cry) showing what a loving wife and mother has to endure ("helpless" indeed) and Akina Edmonds (playing Angelica Schuyler) I want a sister like you (but I would keep a close eye on you, ha ha)! Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson (Victory Ndukwe) you are 'dualling' with yourself and we love you both.
Cannot possibly name all the magicians (cast by any other name) who make this show such a winner! Under Thomas Kail's direction and Andy Blankenbuehler's choreography, Miranda's book, music and lyrics come to life, transport us from history to now, and makes me realise that time is a line in the sand, with pen in hand, we can all be grand.
Curiosity begets knowledge (thank you Ron Chernow, historian and biography/writer for wondering why the American $10 bill has Alexander Hamilton's dial on it) and thank you, Lin-Manuel Miranda for marrying every musical element in the ether into a life form of its own. I will not be surprised to see your face on the next round of currency.
Jeffrey Seller, Sander Jacobs, Jill Furman, The Public Theater and Michael Cassel present
book, music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda | Inspired by the book Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow
Director Thomas Kail
Venue: Lyric Theatre, QPAC
Dates: from 27 January 2023