‘Hamilton’ discovers the fun in American history

By Daniella Ignacio ’17

Throughout the 2015-2016 Broadway season, there has been one show that everyone is buzzing about. If you like musical theatre and don’t know “Hamilton,” chances are many theatre kids will start throwing verbal rocks at you mediocrities. One might wonder whether the show is deserving of this outpouring of praise, love and even obsession. After watching the show recently, I can attest that “Hamilton” lives up to the hype and even surpasses it.

Its talented group of creatives is one reason why. Lin-Manuel Miranda, the show’s composer-lyricist-playwright-Alexander Hamilton, proves to be genius yet again after his success with “In The Heights” in 2008. Creating a rap musical about America’s first Secretary of the Treasury would at first glance seem disastrous, but his references to other famous rap, R&B and hip hop songs, his memorable tunes and characters and most importantly, his inclusion of many minorities on the Broadway stage allows for an incredible theatrical experience. Director Tommy Kail also plays a huge role in the creation of this musical, bringing out stunning characterization from every actor and allowing each cast member to showcase their talents, from the leads to the ensemble. And let’s not forget Alex Lacamoire, the musical arranger and conductor who lets Miranda’s music shine every night from the pit.

The multicultural cast of “Hamilton” serves the material well and proves that people of all walks of life can be incredible performers. In particular, Phillipa Soo as Hamilton’s wife Eliza, Reneé Elise Goldsberry as her sister Angelica and Jasmine Cephas-Jones, doubling as her sister Peggy and Hamilton’s mistress Maria Reynolds, steal the show, with their powerful voices displaying all ranges of emotion and acting ability. The fact that all three sisters have different ethnicities (Soo is half-Chinese, Goldsberry is African-American, and Cephas-Jones is Hispanic) shows that family knows no limits, even racial ones. Eliza, Angelica and Peggy are incredible examples for women to emulate today, and these actresses bring them to life spectacularly.

Hamilton’s friends and otherwise were played by Daveed Diggs, Jonathan Groff, Chris Jackson, Okieriete Onaodowan, and Anthony Ramos. Diggs stands out as one of the highlight performers of the night, doubling as Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson. His rapping skills are displayed throughout the night, especially in “Guns and Ships,” but his singing voice proves to be incredibly versatile, as he sings the jazz-inspired “What’d I Miss” to open Act II. Groff is another standout, as the comic relief for the night as King George III. In just three short songs, he takes over the stage and wins over the audience. Jackson is the voice of reason and a man of authority in the show as George Washington, Hamilton’s mentor. He commands attention in every scene he is in, as he has fantastic stage presence and an equally fantastic voice.

Onaodowan and Ramos, in their Broadway debuts, are also fun to watch. Onaodowan’s deep voice contributes to his characterization of both characters very well, showing toughness as tailor-turned-revolutionary Hercules Mulligan and suaveness in James Madison. Ramos’ youthful energy brings life to the abolitionist John Laurens and Hamilton’s headstrong son Philip.

One other performance of note was that of Austin Smith, who played the role of Aaron Burr for the first time that night. Leslie Odom Jr. had stepped out of the show in order to see “The King and I,” allowing his understudy to have the spotlight. Although he forgot the lyrics at the beginning of “The Adams Administration” (due to his realization that Jonathan Groff did hysterical improv reactions to Burr’s narration post-“I Know Him”), Smith’s performance stands on its own and gives a new take on the character. I particularly loved his portrayal of Burr’s turbulent emotions during “Your Obedient Servant” and “The World Was Wide Enough.” Seeing an understudy in such a beloved show was a wonderful experience; I’d love to return to the show someday to see Odom before he leaves the show.

“Hamilton” was just a fantastic experience all around. From the music to the story, from the actors to the creatives, everyone is putting their heart and soul into this production to pass on Alexander Hamilton’s legacy. If you are lucky enough to score tickets to this show, don’t take the experience for granted!