NOTE: Be sure to see the update at the bottom of this review.
First let me admit up front that I fully recognize I am not the target audience for this musical.
I am not an aficionado of hiphop (not a musical style that particularly appeals to me) and I would venture to say I am much older than most people who are. Yet, I greatly enjoyed seeing Hamilton in Boston last night, feel like I was treated to an evening of innovative theatre, and certainly woke up this morning more culturally literate. And it IS a staggering achievement to turn what for most is dry history into something so lively and engaging.
A Few Observations and Recommendations:
I loved the color-blind casting which made me realize, for the first time, how much white privilege rules casting in Broadway shows. And the art world in general. What is so clearly demonstrated in Hamilton is that it really doesn’t matter to an audience whether sisters are all of the same race or whether the leads are white or people of color. Talent is all the matters.
I felt this musical was my first glimpse at theatre of the future. It offers such a fresh approach to staging, combining elements of traditional theatre with the kind of theatricality that we more often associate with rock concerts. That pairing is remarkably powerful, without requiring a lot of elaborate costumes or scenery or scenery changes.
The musical style and the speed of delivery caused me to miss A LOT of lyrics. I did NOT, unfortunately, do what I should have. Which was to listen to the soundtrack multiple times, in advance, while reading along with the lyrics. This would have helped me immeasurably in following the story. I plan to do this now, but I would have appreciated the show more if I had done it in advance. If you are not familiar with the soundtrack, I strongly recommend getting at least somewhat familiar with it in advance.
I feel compelled to add, however, that even though Lyn Manuel Miranda’s style is a welcome departure from traditional musicals, I still think it’s reasonable to expect a show to be accessible and understandable to EVERY attendee. Especially given the price of tickets. I’m certain I was not the only person in the audience who missed a lot.
This musical is most definitely a vehicle that showcases an ensemble cast. There were so many strong performances! So much so that it was impossible to identity one clear star. Not even Alexander Hamilton.
I saw an understudy, Edred Utomi, in the role of Hamilton who was very good, though perhaps not quite as strong as the other regular cast members: Nicholas Christopher (Aaron Burr), Hannah Cruz (Eliza Hamilton), Paul Oakley Stovall (George Washington), Sabrina Sloan (Angelica Schuyler) Bryson Bruce (Thomas Jefferson) and Peter Matthew Smith (King George).
It’s been a long time since I learned about the American Revolution and the founding of the United States. And I did not read up on Alexander Hamilton before attending the show (another good idea). But I did leave the performance wanting to know more about Hamilton and did read more about his life online the following day.
For someone whose two best Broadway experiences have been Les Miserables and The Wiz, I did not find the first act of Hamilton very emotionally gripping. But the second act made up for it and I did wind up crying at the end (always a good sign). I also appreciated the humor. At least the bits of humor I was able to catch.
Perhaps surprising to many, I bought my tickets the morning of the performance. And NOT at a “last minute ticket” sales venue. When I went online to explore, I assumed all shows were sold out. But using Ticketmaster, I found a few scattered opportunities for all the performances I looked at.
Some seats were priced at $1000+ a pop (more when all the fees get added). I ignored those! But I was able to find two nearly center orchestra seats in Row 11, for about $360 each. (I could have paid less if I’d been willing to sit in the balcony.) Still pricey, but because the venue of the Boston Opera House is quite intimate, my seats turned out to be FABULOUS! And I suspect the balcony would have been just fine.
It appeared, from my research, that the closer in time to the performance, the better the price. So, my strong recommendation, if you are interested in seeing this show, is to invest some time, at the last minute, and look for tickets to a same day performance.
Update (two days later): So now I have listened to the lyrics. And the program is even more brilliant that it first appeared. The detail that Miranda includes about Hamilton’s life is remarkable. And the artistry required to both entertain and educate so skillfully is downright impressive. Once again, BE SURE to get familiar with the lyrics before seeing Hamilton. You simply can’t fully appreciate the production unless you do.