You’ll not see me among the first in line at an Apple store to purchase the newest iPhone or at Walmart on Black Friday to buy a wide-screen TV. Fortunately, delayed gratification isn’t an issue for me, which also applies to seeing blockbuster films on opening weekend or buying books when they become bestsellers. The same goes for hot-ticket Broadway shows. But I have to say, ever since the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning “Hamilton” first premiered Off-Broadway in 2015, I have been champing at the bit to see it, but for one reason or another, the opportunity had eluded me. Biding my time, I prayed a national touring company would eventually find its way to Indy before the show became a tired old chestnut….and voila! The third national tour, officially dubbed “And Peggy Tour,” of “Hamilton” opened Tuesday. Presented by Broadway in Indianapolis, one of the most talked-about shows in theatre history is currently playing at Murat Theatre at Old National Centre until Saturday, Dec. 21. I finally had my chance to see what all the fuss was about, along with a full house, on Wednesday.
Created by theatre mega superstar Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote the book, music and lyrics based on Ron Chernow’s 2004 acclaimed biography of Alexander Hamilton, the production was directed by Thomas Kail, with choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler and musical supervision and orchestrations by Alex Lacamoire.
Hamilton, one of The Founding Fathers, is the subject of the groundbreaking work that combines various musical styles from hip-hop, R&B, pop, soul and traditional show tunes. Also making the piece distinctive is its color-conscious casting of people of color as The Founding Fathers and other historical figures. With these innovative methods of storytelling, “Hamilton” is American history as told by people who will eventually represent a majority of this county.
As far as the plot, the musical covers Hamilton’s life in two acts. Also featured are various other historical characters who influenced his life, such as Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, Aaron Burr, Hamilton’s wife Elizabeth Schuyler, his son Philip Hamilton, former presidents George Washington, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and others. Those accustomed to the poetry structure of hip hop will easily follow the story, which is mostly sung, but I strongly suggest if you’re older and perhaps not familiar with this style, you should read a synopsis of the show for the historical detail. And even then, some historians take issue with “Hamilton” because some of its content, in which Miranda used artistic license, is not historically accurate, so it might be helpful to do some simple online research before you see the show.
Clocking in at two hours and 45 minutes, which includes an 18-minute intermission, the show is like opera, completely sung with very little spoken dialogue. The rapid pace of the show matches the cadence of the hip-hop rhythm and nonstop action, with accompanying high-energy dancing and more lighting cues than I have ever seen outside of a rock concert.
As far as the show’s cast, long gone are the days when touring companies were known for featuring lesser talents than those on Broadway. Recently, I saw a Facebook post from someone who complained about the local show’s ticket prices (with some as high as $400+), pointing out it’s “only a third company tour.” Having seen numerous Broadway shows over my lifetime starring the biggest names in theatre, I can assure you the vocal, acting and dancing performances in this production were first rate, including that of Joseph Morales as Hamilton, Emily Jenda as Eliza, Nik Walker as Aaron Burr, Ta’Rea Campbell as Angelica and Marcus Choi as George Washington. Also, standing out was Neil Haskell as the foppish King George. They, as well as one of the hardest-working choruses I have ever seen, were simply stupendous.
With all the brouhaha about the show’s ticket prices and whether or not it’s worth it, I would say if you can afford it, then you definitely should see “Hamilton,” described by Miranda as “America then, as told by America now.” As I perused the audience, I could not help but notice, however, that among the mostly Caucasian, seemingly well-heeled audience, there were just a handful of non-whites in attendance. My hope is that over the course of the run, more people of color, especially young ones, will see the show for what it represents. As far as its elevation of hip hop, many people may not realize that Miranda previously showcased what has become a legitimate art form in his show “In the Heights,” which premiered on Broadway in 2008. A film version is scheduled for release in June 2021. Regarding the show’s use of minority actors to play white characters, especially our founding fathers, I found it thoroughly refreshing. As a Latino, to see American history through Miranda’s cultural lens, with its depth of feeling and wit, as told by those representing the marginalized in this country, was a satisfying reward and inspiration well worth the wait.
For tickets and information about “Hamilton,” visit indianapolis.broadway.com. For information about the digital lottery for $10 tickets (40 tickets sold for each performance) that begins two days prior to each performance, visit hamiltonmusical.com/lottery to register. Also, use the Hamilton app for all iOS and Android device available in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.