Hamilton: An American Musical Review and Reflection


By: Jenny Moore

Hamilton: An American Musical is about the life of American Founding Father, Alexander Hamilton. The show’s lyrics, music, and book were created by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Miranda was inspired to create the musical after reading the 2004 biography Alexander Hamilton by historian Ron Chernow. The show first premiered on Broadway, with Miranda at the helm as Hamilton, at The Public Theatre in January 2015. By October 2016, a second cast made the PrivateBank Theatre in Chicago their home. A famous name you might recognize, who portrayed Aaron Burr from January to April 2017, is Wayne Brady. The theatre will continue to book performances of Hamilton until early 2018. Following continued success, the first national touring production was announced in January 2016 and began in San Francisco’s SHN Orpheum Theatre in March 2017. The production will soon be moving to the Hollywood Pantages in Los Angeles, with tickets currently available.

This is where this little nerd’s story begins. I currently live near San Francisco and for Christmas, I opened an envelope to find Hamilton tickets resting inside. Between you and me, seeing the tickets might have made me tear up, just a little bit, when I noticed that the performance we would be going to would be on my birthday. Getting your hands on tickets, I did not realize until doing a little research, was a pretty impressive feat that my boyfriend was able to accomplish. According to SFGate, within 24 hours of the tickets going on sale to the public, the online waiting room to purchase tickets reached numbers of over 110,000 people. This equates to roughly 5% of the San Francisco population!

A few months go by and finally, the day to see Hamilton arrives. I am so excited for the day that I am actually a little nervous. To make sure I had the full Hamilton experience, I did not listen to any music or watch any videos of the performance ahead of time. WARNING: My short summary and review of the musical is below. Be sure to skip to the bottom if you do not want to read any spoilers from the performance and learn how you can enter for a chance to win seats to opening night of Hamilton in Los Angeles for as little as $10! Believe me, you’ll definitely want to read more about how you can help donate to great organizations while getting an insane once in a lifetime experience that includes a meet and greet with Lin-Manuel Miranda!

Bottom Line: Wow, just wow. This traveling cast and crew just do a phenomenal job, from beginning to end. It is very easy to see why Hamilton: An American Musical swept the Tonys in 2016 with 11 wins and continues to be such a success around the country!

Act One

The musical begins by summarizing Alexander Hamilton’s early life before and as he arrives to New York in “Alexander Hamilton.” This song really helps showcase each of the great lead actors on stage while hyping up the audience. Everytime I hear the harmonizing and lyrics to this song, it just gives me goosebumps!

We then follow Hamilton, in the summer of 1776 in New York City, where he seeks out Aaron Burr (played by my favorite actor from this ensemble, Joshua Henry). Burr asks Hamilton to join him for a drink, where he advises an enthusiastic Hamilton to “talk less; smile more.” Hamilton is unable to comprehend why Burr would not want to fight for his beliefs in the song “Aaron Burr, Sir.” Michael Luwoye does an amazing job of balancing both the vulnerable and larger than life sides of Hamilton during this interaction with Burr as well as when he meets and bonds with his three new compatriots. The three allies Hamilton meets consist of abolitionist John Laurens (played by Ruben J. Carbajal), the flamboyant Frenchman Marquis de Lafayette (played by the handsome Jordan Donica), and the tailor’s apprentice Hercules Mulligan (played by the larger-than-life actor, Mathenee Treco). From here, Hamilton helps get the men excited to do what they can do for their country in “My Shot.” They then discuss doing what needs to be done, including laying down their lives for their cause in “The Story of Tonight.” Meanwhile, the wealthy Schuyler sisters — Angelica (played by Emmy Raver-Lampman), Eliza (played by Solea Pfeiffer), and Peggy (played by Amber Iman) — wander the streets of New York, in the iconic “The Schuyler Sisters.”

A message arrives from King George III (played by one of the actors from Broadway, Rory O’Malley), reminding the colonists that he is able and willing to fight for their submission “You’ll Be Back.” It’s easy to see why O’Malley replaced original King George, Jonathan Groff, on Broadway, as he hysterically gives a memorable rendition of this song while hitting impressive notes along the way.

The revolution is underway, and Hamilton, Burr, and their friends join the Continental Army. As the army retreats from New York City, General George Washington (played by Isaiah Johnson) realizes he needs help to win the war. Though Hamilton desires a command and to fight on the front lines, he recognizes the opportunity Washington offers him, and accepts a position as his aide-de-camp in “Right Hand Man.”

In the winter of 1780, the men attend a ball given by Philip Schuyler, and Hamilton sets his sights on the man’s daughters in “A Winter’s Ball.” Eliza falls instantly in love, and after being introduced by Angelica, Eliza and Hamilton soon wed “Helpless.” Angelica is also smitten with Hamilton, but swallows her feelings for the sake of her sister’s happiness “Satisfied.” These are great songs because of how different the two are from one another but how they both help give depth to Angelica, Eliza, and Hamilton. Hamilton, Laurens, Lafayette, and Mulligan drunkenly celebrate the marriage when Burr arrives to offer congratulations. While there, Burr admits that he is having an affair with a British officer’s wife. Hamilton tells Burr to make the relationship public. Burr, however, prefers to wait and see what life has in store for him rather than take any drastic measures in “Wait For It.” Again, Henry’s portrayal of Burr is just acting at its best and he is just my favorite from this cast. His voice is so hair-raising good and he gives this character that you love and hate real depth.

As the revolution continues, Charles Lee (played by Daniel Ching) spreads slanderous and vindictive rumors about Washington after being promoted then demoted in “Stay Alive.” Hamilton is offended, but Washington orders Hamilton to ignore the comments. Hamilton does not wish to do so, but cannot disobey a direct order. Instead, Laurens duels Lee, with Hamilton as his second, and Burr as Lee’s second. Laurens is satisfied after he injures Lee and Lee yields “Ten Duel Commandments.” Washington is angered by the duel, and orders Hamilton to return home to his wife “Meet Me Inside.” When Hamilton returns home, Eliza tells him she is pregnant and that she told Washington a month prior about the news and asked him that he let Hamilton return home. She reassures a hesitant Hamilton that he doesn’t need fame or fortune to live a happy life by her side in “That Would Be Enough.” Pfeiffer does a great job during this performance of balancing her angelic voice and demeanor with bold charisma and charm.

After several days of fighting, the Continental Army is victorious. The British surrender in the last major battle of the war “Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down).” This song helps showcase how fantastic the choreography and complete cast are.

Soon after the victory at Yorktown, Hamilton’s son Philip is born, while Burr has a daughter, Theodosia “Dear Theodosia.” This song is one of the most memorable and showcases Henry’s and Luwoye’s great singing voices. Hamilton and Burr both return to New York to finish their studies and pursue careers as lawyers. Hamilton is chosen as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in the summer of 1787 and enlists James Madison and John Jay to write The Federalist Papers after Burr refuses. Burr quickly becomes increasingly irritated by this and Hamilton’s continued success.

Act Two

In 1789, Thomas Jefferson (played by Jordan Donica) returns to the Virginia from Paris, France as an ambassador and is updated by James Madison (played by Mathenee Treco) in “What Did I Miss.” Madison asks Jefferson for his help to stop Hamilton’s financial plan, which Madison believes gives the government too much control. Jefferson and Hamilton debate the merits of Hamilton’s financial plan during a Cabinet meeting in “Cabinet Battle #1.”

Eliza and Angelica try to persuade Hamilton to accompany them on vacation for the summer, but Hamilton refuses, saying that he has to work on his plan for Congress, staying in New York while the family goes upstate in “Take a Break.”

While alone, Hamilton is visited by Maria Reynolds (played by Amber Iman), who claims she has been deserted by her husband. When Hamilton offers to help her, they begin an affair in “Say No To This.” Maria’s husband confronts then blackmails Hamilton for payment, who is furious with Maria but pays Reynolds and continues the affair.

Meanwhile, Burr is envious of Hamilton’s sway in the government and wishes he had similar power “The Room Where It Happens.” Burr switches political parties and defeats Eliza’s father, Philip Schuyler, in a race for Schuyler’s seat in the Senate. This drives a wedge between Burr and Hamilton; the latter believes that Burr holds no loyalties and will stop at nothing to gain influence “Schuyler Defeated.”

In another Cabinet meeting, Jefferson and Hamilton argue over whether the United States should assist France in its conflict with Britain. Washington ultimately agrees with Hamilton’s argument for remaining neutral “Cabinet Battle #2.” After the meeting, Burr, Jefferson, and Madison share their envy of Washington’s perennial support of Hamilton’s policies. They begin to seek a way to damage Hamilton’s public image “Washington on Your Side.” This song has great harmonizing and the one song that I find myself singing the chorus to the most.

Jefferson, Madison, and Burr believe they have found proof that Hamilton embezzled government money, effectively committing treason. When confronted, Hamilton admits to his affair with Maria Reynolds and his furtive payments to James Reynolds in “We Know.” Though the men swear to keep his secret, Burr reminds Hamilton that rumors grow, and Hamilton worries that the truth will get out. He reflects on how writing openly and honestly has saved him in the past “Hurricane,” and publishes a public admission about the affair, hoping to snuff out rumors of embezzlement and save his political legacy. His personal reputation, however, is ruined following the publication of his Observations, “The Reynolds Pamphlet.” Heartbroken by his infidelity, Eliza tearfully burns the letters Hamilton has written her over the years, destroying Hamilton’s chance at being redeemed and keeping the world from knowing how she reacted by “erasing herself from the narrative” in “Burn.”

Years pass, and Philip (played by Ryan Vasquez) is now a teenager who challenges George Eacker (played by Raymond Baynard) to a duel for insulting his father. Philip tells his father about the upcoming duel and decides to take his advice to be the bigger man and aim for the sky at the beginning to gesture Eacker to stand down, but at the count of seven, Eacker shoots him “Blow Us All Away.” Hamilton and Eliza arrives at the doctors separately, where Philip dies soon after in “Stay Alive (Reprise.)” In the aftermath of Philip’s death, the family moves uptown. Hamilton asks for Eliza’s forgiveness for his mistakes, which he eventually receives “It’s Quiet Uptown.”

The presidential election of 1800 results in President John Adams’ defeat, with Jefferson and Burr tied to win. Hamilton is upset that Burr holds no principles, and endorses Jefferson as president in “The Election of 1800.” Burr, angered, challenges Hamilton to a duel via an exchange of letters (“Your Obedient Servant”). Before sunrise on the morning of the duel, Eliza, unaware of the duel, asks Hamilton to come back to bed. Hamilton tells her he has an appointment, and tells her that he loves her in “Best of Wives and Best of Women.”

As he informed Philip, Hamilton aims his pistol at the sky and is struck in the chest by Burr’s bullet. During this scene, the stage direction in this is a very memorable. As the bullet comes toward Hamilton (via an actor’s hand and some lighting), the audience gets a sense of what Hamilton is thinking as he comes face to face with his fate. He dies soon after, with Eliza and Angelica at his side. Burr states that even though he survived, he is cursed to be the villain in history, remembered as the man who killed Alexander Hamilton “The World Was Wide Enough.”

The company congregates to close the story. Washington enters and reminds the audience that they have no control over how they will be remembered. Eliza ends the musical by explaining her life in preserving her husband’s legacy over the next 50 years. Addressing Hamilton directly, she tells him that she has established a private orphanage in his honor and she “can’t wait to see [him] again” in “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story.” Talk about a tearjerker ending. Oh man! Every time I hear Eliza sing the last few minutes of this song, it makes me a little emotional. What. A. Fantastic. Ending. (Where’s a clap emoji when you need it?!)

To make a long story short – believe me when I tell you that this traveling production of Hamilton: An American Musical is one that you will want to see for yourself! It’s somewhat challenging to put into words just how amazing the choreography, stage direction, and acting is throughout this production. Although the Hamilton stage is somewhat small and simple, they do such an amazing job of using every square inch to tell such a well written story.

Now, thanks to Miranda and Prizeo, each of you have an opportunity to experience this ground-breaking musical for yourself, while donating to a great coalition. By going to prizeo.com/hamilton and donating $10 or more, you will be giving to the Immigrants: We Get the Job Done Foundation and be entered for a chance to win tickets to opening night of Hamilton in Los Angeles! What a great way to give back, right?! Be sure to donate soon, as the contest ends July 31st. Since I have already made my donation, I will be joining the #Ham4All challenge by uploading a video of myself singing a few lines from my favorite song on Instagram and spreading the word of this great opportunity (as soon as I muster up the courage, that is). If any of you also decide to contribute, please let me know in the comments below or by tagging me in your own #Ham4All Instagram story. “Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now,” right?

A few of my favorite quotes:

“Let me tell you what I wish I’d known, when I was young and dreamed of glory. You have no control – who lives, who dies, who tells your story.” – History Has Its Eyes on You

“If you stand for nothing, Burr, what’ll you fall for?” – Aaron Burr, Sir

“I will send a fully-armed battalion to remind you of my love!” – You’ll Be Back

“And when my prayers to God were met with indifference, I picked up a pen; I wrote my own deliverance.” – Hurricane

You forfeit all rights to my heart, You forfeit the place in our bed. You sleep in your office instead, With only the memories of when you were mine, I hope that you burn – Burn

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