What I loved about Hamilton was the clever ability to tell the story of our country’s history in structuring the most important blueprint of our financial government — in a modern-day, culturally rich way — through various forms of Black music.
Who knew what to expect being that there was so much fanfare around this unique interpretation of American history? A Hip Hop musical about one of our country’s founding fathers — Alexander Hamilton? Really? Will this be another watered-down version of what Hip Hop should sound like to theater savvy attendees, or will this be the type of Hip Hop I grew up loving — pure, organic, honest and raw?
Hamilton is the story of the first United States treasurer told in a way that captures the historical recollections through the culture of Hip Hop, R&B and Gospel music. The mannerisms, the language and conversations that were documented in history but explained in a way that kept it as real as it got.
From the opening number, Alexander Hamilton, the jury was still out as the ensemble danced and rapped, setting up the audience for the lead-in storyline. But as each number progressed — it wasn’t just the diversity of music that had me on the edge of my seat — it was the talents of each character telling a story in a multi-generational way.
The character of Alexander Hamilton, played by Emerson College grad Miguel Cervantes, did a great job as the lead, delivering the interchangeable faucets of what an experienced emcee would do from the timing and b-boy mannerism — giving 17th Century fashion couture a “new type” of cool.
Although we are enraptured by his ability to carry the second-city debut of the Tony award-winning Broadway hit musical, it is the other leads of the ensemble that pop out.
Joshua Henry, who plays Hamilton’s nemesis, Aaron Burr, displayed both worlds of spitting knowledge between the musical influences of Hip Hop, R&B and Gospel. In the second part of the play — his vocal range on The Room Where It Happens was hands-down the best number, receiving roaring applause from the audience.
Another star on the rise to watch is Karen Olivo (Angelica Shuyler), whose magnifying vocals on the song Satisfied showed the natural ability to broaden her range from Broadway crossover to solid pop recording artist career.
The number Washington On Your Side is a great collage of lyrical stylings reminiscent of Eminem, and with a melodic soulful chorus describing the mentor-protégé relationship between Hamilton and President George Washington. There is no secret of our founding fathers’ scandalous indiscretions with Hamilton’s extra marital affair with Maria Reynolds, as he paid out her husband.
They blend the influences of Lauryn Hill’s Lost Ones and drops Notorious B.I.G.’s famous line, “If You Don’t Know, Now You Know” from Juicy on the production number We Know — pure Hip Hop ingenuity.
Inspired by the book Hamilton by Ron Chernow, Miranda does an excellent job entertaining as well as educating folks about the complexities of our founding fathers’ less-than-immortal problems while implementing the U.S. Constitution.
The blockbuster phenomenon’s book, music and lyrics were written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who, along with music director Colin Welford, costume designer Paul Tazewell and choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler, made an appearance at the Chicago opening night.
Chicago is the second city that was chosen to premiere the production, and tickets have gone on sale. Theater-goers can apply through a digital lottery for performance day to alleviate the misuse of ticket brokers and scalper abuse. On certain days, the lottery opens at 9 a.m. or noon and closes at 2 p.m. or 10:30 a.m. — depending on which day. Times and days are available on the Broadway In Chicago website.
All in all, the creators of Hamilton have selected a stellar ensemble cast to continue the Midas touch that has brought them rave reviews from their New York Broadway attendees.
Most impressive performances include Chris De’Sean Lee (Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson), Ari Asfar (Eliza Hamilton), Karen Olivo (Angelica Schuyler), Jose′ Ramos (John Laurens/Philip Hamilton), Wallace Smith (Hercules Mulligan/James Madison), and Samantha Marie Ware (Peggy Schulyer/Maria Reynolds). The highlight of the play was the gregarious, sarcastic King George III played by Alexander Gemignani — who did an excellent job.
Hamilton is well worth the price of admission and will leave you understanding why the build-up of its Chicago arrival was beyond just hype. During a crucial time when our democracy is questioned and challenged throughout this presidential election, Hamilton reminds us no matter how often we disagree—the three most powerful words still ring true: We The People.
Hurry up and get your tickets before this blockbuster musical leaves town. Hamilton runs into 2017.