“Hamilton” – ASU Gammage

Theater Review – September 8, 2021


ASU Gammage
Tempe, AZ

By Chris Curcio
Theater Critic

Concurrently to the “Hamilton” Broadway reopening of the enormously popular musical that vibrantly explains our country’s birth with a contemporary twist, a new national tour of the show debuted at ASU Gammage, marking the show’s second local engagement.  Like the previous tour, the new one smashingly re-creates the brilliant show with the original’s sharp and defining perfection.

Each familiar historical character is beautifully crafted in accordance with “Hamilton’s” creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s, new interpretations of these figures based on Ron Chernow’s book.  Miranda introduces many interesting things to the story including hip/hop music along with conventional tunes plus contemporary sounding dialogue that opens a richer understanding of the often stodgy and didactic interpretations of these characters and situations.  The new slant allows a more logical way to grasp the complexities involved in the country’s founding.

Miranda’s brightly breezy score creates wonderful musical numbers that aide characters in explaining details of their thinking but Miranda doesn’t avoid revealing the hypocrisy of the all-white males who birthed the United States.  Many creators owned slaves and treated women as second-class citizens.

Thomas Kail’s staging and Andy Blankenbuehler’s choreography make superb use of David Korins’ unit set with a turntable that further enhances the story’s revealing historical look.  Stylized costumes and artfully focused lighting make “Hamilton” a pleasure to view.

As perfect the physical production and staging are, “Hamilton” couldn’t be remarkable without a cast adept at utilizing the contemporary touches to tell this historic story while adding deft humor where appropriate to channel the challenging journey the founding fathers tackled.  Many of the historic characters are played by African-American actors reminding audiences of the country’s awful discrimination practiced by our founding fathers.

There isn’t a misstep in the new touring version of this musical triumph.  The show’s revelations fall primarily on the insightful views of Hamilton etched with flawless aplomb by Edred Utomi.  Bryson Bruce’s playful Thomas Jefferson can’t escape his owning slaves. Peter Matthew Smith has rousing fun with King George, while Josh Tower makes Aaron Burr a larger player in the country’s development.  Zoe Jensen brings out the rich emotional support Hamilton’s wife, Eliza, provided.  The remainder of the large cast dance and sing impressively while adding bits of dramatic details missing in history books.

“Hamilton” is an impressive show that brings rich insights to the history we thought we knew.  It makes these historical figures more real and explains their tireless efforts to create a more representative government.  A filmed version of “Hamilton” is available on the Disney television channel but it is vastly superior in person.  ASU Gammage’s quirky acoustics allowed some dialogue to escape detection marring some of the show’s detail and humor.  “Hamilton” continues to October 18.  For tickets, contact the ASU Gammage/Ticketmaster box office online at www.ticketmaster.com.

Grade: A