“Hamilton” – ASU Gammage

Theater Review – February 7, 2018


Broadway Across America – Arizona, ASU Gammage
Tempe, AZ

Few Broadway musicals come with as much hype as “Hamilton,” the Lin-Manuel Miranda show about Founding Father Alexander Hamilton and our country’s establishment but it is all justified because the outstanding show is interesting and wonderfully entertaining.

We all know our country’s history and the nerve shattering complexities of our founding.  The stunningly well staged show under Thomas Kail’s sprightly direction and Andy Blankenbuehler’s richly integrated choreography has brilliant dialogue that keeps you interested and enchanted because the staging, set, dances, costumes, and lighting all contribute so perfectly as it relates otherwise dryly historic revelations about our country’s establishment.

“Hamilton” is so well conceived by Miranda and the creative team that the three-hour running time flies by and never feels long or drawn out unnecessarily. The show moves along the historic timetable quickly as it briskly and so interestingly keeps you glued to the stage.  Like “1776,” it makes are country’s creation anything but dry as history becomes vibrant, real, and so alive.

We all know the brief outline of our founding but Miranda throws into the historic timetable a myriad of informational tidbits never related in historic texts.  The title character had his share of out-of-wedlock sexual explorations and when his loyal wife discovers the truth, he must plead to get her back.  Hamilton had a wandering eye with a fair amount of illicit relations.  It is this heavy dosage of reality that keeps “Hamilton” so engrossing and engaging and is why “Hamilton” grips its audience.

“Hamilton” is also a new type of musical that preserves past traditions of many conventional musicals while whipping away standard story telling practices as new and creative ways of explaining the historic characters in such a vibrantly gripping way involve and engage the audience.

The show is operatic in that it is almost through sung as it spells out our founding.  The score has some pleasant tunes that will stick with you as you leave while other songs tell large sweeps of historic detail through interesting musical settings.  The stark unit set and costumes give the show the required period look without proving so overwhelming as to underlie the careful development our country had.

There are several people cast in the major roles and at the performance I attended, Ryan Alvarado tackled Hamilton with firm stature, exquisite understanding, but firm comprehension.  Aaron Burr was mean but helpful in Nicholas Christopher’s portrayal while Isaiah Johnson’s stalwart George Washington was steadfastly diplomatic as our first president.  Eliza Hamilton, Alexander’s unusually understanding and forgiving wife, was no push-over in Julia K. Harriman’s performance while her sister and Hamilton tease, Angelica, was well presented by Sabrina Sloan.  Hamilton’s major opponent, Thomas Jefferson, was firmly played by Desmond Newson.  Peter Matthew Smith was funny as King George while the large cast essayed other well known and less dominant roles with clear distinctions.

“Hamilton” caused high expectations that were well supported by the stalwart, moving, and realistic production.  Although “Hamilton” continues through February 25, the show is sold-out.  Expensive tickets are available through some reselling ticket agencies and you can always check with the ASU Gammage’s box office for a few tickets that become available at the last minute.  It’s worth your time to see this stellar production.  While the show will no doubt return to ASU Gammage in the future, it’s hard to know if it will look like the Broadway version or be as well played by such an excellent cast.  To inquire about available tickets, call Ticketmaster at 800-982-2787 or seek tickets online at www.asugammage.com.

Grade: A