COSTA MESA, CA- The Broadway hit musical Hamilton doesn’t waste time in taking your breath away. If you’re a member of the audience fortunate enough to witness this incredulous show, waiting for a slow, methodical storyline, then you’ve come to the wrong production. Hamilton doesn’t rock like that. The Lin-Manuel Miranda stage wonder moves you in a way that perhaps you’ve never been moved before.
I certainly wasn’t expecting what I saw. For the last couple of years, rave reviews of Hamilton have poured in almost as fast as rain drenching Northwest states like Oregon and Washington. The superlatives have been endless, to the point that I determined that I had to go see just what all the fuss have been about.
Hyperbole works wonders in the entertainment industry, but sometimes you can get so much hype about how great a TV show, a film or stage production, and then when you see it, you leave somewhat disappointed. That’s not the case at all with Hamilton. You are in for a two-hour, 45-minute ride of pedal-to-the-medal frenzied musical storytelling on the life of Alexander Hamilton.
And yes, this trip down the historical memory lane about one of our country’s Founding Fathers is worth coming to see again and again and again. The great thing about Hamilton is that you don’t have to wait until intermission to determine the veracity of all of those wonderful compliments the show has received over the years. You will find yourself blown away just from the opening number.
I know my jaws are still hanging on the floor with astonishment somewhere. Hamilton comes out and hits you much the same way that former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson used to deliver a lethal left uppercut before finishing off an opponent with a thunderous overhand right. I didn’t see this coming. It was bam-bam. The winner in this corner by way of knockout…Hamilton.
Before the audience at the Orange County-based Segerstrom Center for the Arts had even settled comfortably into its seats, Hamilton’s opening sequence made certain that the musical caught your attention from the opening bell. Not only are you left stunned with amazed numbness as the cast light it up with the uplifting and energetic number Alexander Hamilton, the slick and well-choreographed piece gives you insight as to why Hamilton is no ordinary production.
I wanted to toss out my live performance etiquette into the trash basket and stand up and salute the cast with a standing ovation right then and there, but I don’t think the production team nor the audience would have appreciated it too much if I had made such a gesture. I was so excited I felt like a 10-year-old going to see the Harlem Globetrotters for the first time.
So, after being hit in the gut and rendered emotionally spent from cheerfully soaking up the grandeur of Alexander Hamilton, which features the splendid and perfected rap dialogue between Joseph Morales (Alexander Hamilton) and Nik Walker (Aaron Burr), Hamilton doesn’t let up with its Sugar Ray Leonard-like flurries of musical numbers. In all, there are 17 numbers to digest in Act One of Hamilton. Act Two has an equal amount of songs and dance routines. That’s a whole lot of singing and dancing.
Yet every single number have the potency to knock you off your feet. The first half of the musical is fast and light as it highlights the political ambitions of the astute economist and touted Federalist. By the time Hamilton moves into its second phase, a more somber tone enters the building as the country’s first secretary of the Treasury wrestles with his consciousness and the political rift with Burr that would eventually end his life.
Even though there are tearful moments, Hamilton is not a sad story, rather it is a celebration of a man who was at the heart of creating and helped form our government the way we see it operate today. That would be my soliloquy for the day.
If you think you have time to catch your breath from the rapid-fire of songs and dancing much the way an exhausted prize fighter does as he sits on his stool in between rounds, forget about it. There is simply no downtime except for the 15-minute bathroom and stretch break. My wow moment in having the opportunity to see the hip-hop-flavored and historical conscious Hamilton turned out to be the entire evening. I must admit I have never seen anything like it.
This is one stage production you can see over and over again without it ever getting old. Walker as the charming but diabolical Burr and Morales as the validity-seeking Hamilton make like peanut butter and jelly on stage as their windless interaction with one another as they seamlessly come together in perfect harmony, even to the fateful end.
The dynamics of Burr’s and Hamilton’s tenuous relationship, which feigned heavily on political angst is what makes Hamilton captivating throughout the musical, told wonderfully by the talented actors making this presentation. Besides the obvious thespian theatrics, untouchable musical score and second-to-none storytelling, what makes Hamilton so remarkable is the diversity in the casting of talent.
Cultural and ethnic lines are perfectly blended in with one another as they re-tell the account of the political life and affair of honor death of Alexander Hamilton at the hands of political nemesis Vice President Aaron Burr. Besides the terrific job done by Walker and Morales (both of whom should be taking their extraordinary talents to the next level-whatever that may be), Hamilton ripples all the way through behind its powerful ensemble of mega-talent.
Shoba Narayan does more than an admirable job in portraying Eliza Hamilton. Marcus Choi hits a home run in his portrayal of President George Washington. And of course, the nimbly gifted Kyle Scatliffe (Thomas Jefferson) and Fergie L. Philippe (James Madison) make for great entertainment with their masterful paint strokes of the United States leading statesmen at that time and future presidents.
Anything superlative said about Hamilton would be an understatement. But like the way that Morales as Hamilton electrifies the audience with his prophetic “My Shot,” I will attempt to do so. I’m going to go for it without hesitation. Theater marvels come and go. Popular trends dissipate like the wind. It happens all the time. What doesn’t happen all the time is a production like Hamilton. Individuals like myself know we’ve just seen a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Those who have not I hope and pray you get that chance.