Review: Hamilton Comes to Boston

by Vanessa Ullman

photography courtesy of Joan Marcus

Didn’t get a chance to see the critically acclaimed musical from the mind of Lin-Manuel Miranda? You can finally be “in the room where it happens” at the Boston Opera House this fall.

 

This production is one of the many running worldwide, with permanent companies performing in New York, Chicago and London. There’s a second U.S. tour currently running in North Carolina, as well as a highly anticipated Puerto Rico production, with profits going toward hurricane relief.

 

For skeptics, the hype over Hamilton can appear too commercialized, since the musical has been a hit for well over two years. But to quote the title character’s mantra, “do not throw away your shot” to see it live.

 

The musical is a vibrant, insightful and wildly creative take on the life of Alexander Hamilton, a founding father who was not culturally relevant until the musical’s premiere in 2015. From rap lyrics running off the tongues of a talented cast of actors, to choreography and staging taken straight from the original Broadway production, the Boston show is a masterpiece on its own.

 

Though fans might already be familiar with the lyrics, the musical takes a different turn on stage. The story comes to life, the characters feel more real than ever and you forget that you are watching a piece of history. Each “Alexander Hamilton” is a different actor onstage, but all of them emit the same relentless and boisterous energy famously portrayed by Miranda himself.

 

Austin Scott leads the charge at the Boston Opera House, showing off his charisma and vocal skills to play the lead role. Nicholas Christopher is equally magnificent as his rival, Aaron Burr, and the two shine onstage as life-long competitors.

 

The Schuyler Sisters, played by Sabrina Sloan, Hannah Cruz and Isa Briones, round out the cast as the strong female characters in the narrative. From songs such as “Satisfied” to “Helpless” to “Say No to This,” the women shine through as the passionate, soft-spoken and enchanting women who enter Hamilton’s life.

 

It is hard to shout out to all of the incredible company members, but main characters like Marquis de Lafayette (Bryson Bruce), Hercules Mulligan (Chaundre Hall-Broomfield) and John Laurens (Rubén J. Carbajal) were incredibly talented in their respective roles.

 

The ensemble is equally entertaining, with the original Broadway choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler that looks effortless and in line with the modern elements of the musical. “Satisfied” and “Non-Stop” show this extremely well, as do a handful of the songs that utilize a rotating part of the stage.

 

What is most impressive about Hamilton, though, is the ability to effectively portray racial and ethnic diversity onstage without it being the focal point of the narrative. That was the intention of the show’s creator, as he showcased an America now, telling the story of the American back then.

 

“I wanted to write a hip-hop, R&B musical about the life of Alexander Hamilton,” said Miranda in an interview. “If it had been an all-white cast, wouldn’t you think I messed up?”

 

This message can resonate with audience members of all backgrounds, although the inclusion message for people of color in lead theater roles is not often emphasized. The Boston production is no exception to Miranda’s concept, with all of the lead roles being portrayed by non-white actors.

 

The one exception is King George (Peter Matthew Smith), as this role of the entertaining British monarch, who shines onstage for his three songs, is specifically cast to a white actor in all of the productions. 

 

While ticket prices for the show are high, with luck there will be more productions and more opportunities for students to see this musical. Until then, enter the digital ticket lottery, listen to the soundtrack and check for discounted student tickets at the Boston Opera House.

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