‘Hamilton’ continues to reshape theatre culture

COSTA MESA, Calif. (News4usonline) – Seeing “Hamilton” is an experience. The Lin-Manuel Miranda creation is something you’ve never seen before. As for this writer, I have been fortunate to see different versions of “Hamilton” on multiple occasions.

Each time I am left with an awe feeling after seeing it. Each time, I feel more connected to the Founding Fathers and all their drama as they struggled to lay the foundation of America’s democracy. 

Segerstrom Center for the Arts – HAMILTON And Peggy National Tour – Company5 – Photo by Joan Marcus

Each time, I have been simply blown away by all the noteworthy performances that make “Hamilton” a must-see production. Even if you’re not a live theater/musical enthusiast, “Hamilton” will help you change that tune. There is a whole lot more to “Hamilton” than being a Broadway sensation.

The winner of 11 Tony Awards, “Hamilton” is a cultural undertaking that has transformed the theater world. The Hamilton And Peggy National Tour, which opened its run (Sept. 28-Oct.16, 2022) at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, emphasizes this point.

One of the beauties of “Hamilton” is that it integrates people of color into starring roles as America’s Founding Fathers. So, instead of having a cast that is more representative of the dominant culture, “Hamilton” puts the onus on talented individuals with various ethnic backgrounds to make the theatrical production come to life.

The translation in all of this is that most of the actors are Black and brown, a brilliant revolution in itself. The “Hamilton And Peggy National Tour takes it one step further, at least on the show’s opening night. As the cast went about executing the show’s opening number (Alexander Hamilton), I couldn’t help but be blown away by the fact that all the major players were Black.

Black actors performing with excellence in live theater is not a surprise or anything new. That revelation takes place regularly-in small theaters as well as those performing on national tours. A person can view Black excellence on stage by checking out the Tony awards every year or even in their local hometown. It’s just that I was pleasantly caught off guard that the usually diverse cast of “Hamilton” looked like me.

This spoke volumes to me.

From Alexander Hamilton (DeAundre Woods), his nemesis Aaron Burr (Donald Webber Jr.), Eliza Hamilton (Morgan Anita Wood), George Washington (Darnell Abraham), Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson (Paris Nix), Hercules Mulligan/James Madison (Brandon Louis Armstrong), Angelica Schuyler (Marla Harmon), and John Laurens/Philip Hamilton (Jared Howelton), the dynamics of presenting “Hamilton” through the prism of actors of color is both a testament to the superb talent of these incredible thespians and to the amazing people working behind the scenes like producers Jeffrey Sellers, Sander Jacobs, Jill Furman, and the Public Theater.

The attraction of having a well-diversified cast without question appeals to a demographic audience that would not otherwise have an interest in these forms of entertainment. What “Hamilton” has done in reaching a global audience is akin to what Tiger Woods has done in the sport of golf, but more on a grander scale.

Fused with rap, hip hop, and a bit of jazz, along with great dialogue and the heroic and tragic storytelling about the life and rise of Alexander Hamilton in American politics, is sensational. The mood of the musical is one that goes from a journey of self-exploratory to hard work to triumphant to the egotistical side to being embedded in the unthinkable tragedy of perhaps the most influential Founding Fathers.

Woods, in his portrayal of Hamilton, brings a bag of swag and a dash of sensitivity to the leading role. When Hamilton is riding high or when he is mourning the passing of his son, Philip, whom he lost in a shootout duel, Woods magnetically stands out. Whether he is hastily confronting Burr or sharing a quiet moment with his wife, Eliza, Woods gives Alexander Hamilton a sense of realism as we go through his rollercoaster ride of life with him.

Hamilton helped shape the U.S. Constitution by writing 51 of the 85 articles of the Federalist Papers (Federalist: A Collection of Essays). If we were to put this phenomenal achievement with the proper lens, Hamilton is quite the unsung hero of all the Founding Fathers. His life story is an amazing tale of determination and overachievement. It is also laced with jealousy and tragedy.

The emotions we ride on through the performance of “Hamilton” is far-reaching. In one moment you’re bouncing or rocking to the ensemble’s take on “Alexander Hamilton” and “My Shot” to the endearing “Helpless,” sung beautifully by the trio of Wood, Harmon and Rebecca E. Covington (Peggy Schuyler/Maria Reynolds) to the anthem-tinged “Ten Duel Commandments” to the sobering “It’s Quiet Uptown,” a song that probably doesn’t leave a dry eye in the building. 

With “Hamilton,” you celebrate. You laugh and you cry.

The laughter comes in many moments of quick-witted one-liners. The biggest of light-hearted moments comes by way of Rick Negron with his humorous portrayal of King George III. Negron is wickedly funny singing “You’ll Be Back” as the King of Great Britain pouts at the fact that the colonies had gained their independence by way of the American Revolutionary War.

What we also learn about “Hamilton” is that your friends can sometimes wind up being your enemy. We see that in Hamilton’s relationship with Burr, who eventually would become his greatest antagonist. The wide swing of emotions of “Hamilton” is well crafted and told with heartbreaking detail during the cast’s “Finale.” 

As Eliza (Wood) broods over the loss of her beloved Alexander, she wonders out loud with one of the more poignant lines ever as she and the ensemble belt out the lines “who will tell your story” that hits with both heartache and remarkable love. It is a stark reminder that the people who say they love you will keep your memory alive by any means necessary.

We are all so fortunate that the creators of “Hamilton” allows us the opportunity to see that “The World Was Wide Enough” for this passionate immigrant to help shape the foundation of America.

Featured Image Caption: Segerstrom Center for the Arts – HAMILTON And Peggy National Tour – Company1 – Photo by Joan Marcus

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