When John Szablewski previously reviewed “Hamilton” at Shea’s Buffalo Theatre for the Buffalo Theatre Guide, he purposely went into it with limited prior knowledge of the show and without having listened to the soundtrack. Contrary to Szablewski’s fresh take, I would consider myself a “Hamilton” fanatic. In fact I was among those considering selling a kidney to pay for tickets in Buffalo, and ended up successfully purchasing my own VIP seat in the very last row of the balcony. Coming from an experience where I had to use binoculars to live my musical theatre dream, I was ecstatic to have the chance to review “Hamilton” at the RBTL’s Auditorium Theatre in Rochester, NY. I wanted to see for myself if seating really does make a difference for this theatrical phenomenon.
. . .a must see whether you’re sitting last row of the balcony or front and center orchestra. . .
In case you haven’t heard of this show before, which would be quite impressive, “Hamilton” tells the story of Alexander Hamilton from age 19 through to the end of his life. It also includes other historical figures such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Aaron Burr, and King George. What’s truly impressive about this show is how it is able to tell the tale of the American Revolution and all that followed through an unchanging set and minimalistic costumes. “Hamilton” depends on the actors to thoroughly paint the picture through powerful music, intricate choreography, and raw emotional connections to the characters.
The audience’s support is immediately felt upon Alexander Hamilton’s (Edred Utomi) first entrance in the opening number when everyone bursts into applause. You immediately root for that main characters and feel moved by them and their stories. Utomi portrays Hamilton with the perfect balance of confidence, bluntness, and humility. The color-blind casting is so incredibly refreshing and allows for a diversely talented cast. Josh Tower as Aaron Burr keeps the show moving through his narrative as one musical number seamlessly transitions into the next. The ensemble is one of the most impressive parts of the show. Their constant presence on stage is accompanied by strictly timed choreography to music that is bursting with different beats, meters, and styles. I continued to watch the ensemble in amazement and wondered how they continued to throw themselves into the show so tremendously without becoming exhausted before the end.
Another key element of this show and its plot is the character of Eliza Hamilton (Hannah Cruz). Although Aaron Burr and Hamilton seem to be the primary focus, the show is arguably as much about her and her story as it is them. We follow Eliza as she falls for Hamilton, becomes his wife, and then must stay strong and supportive as he fights for his beliefs in a way that isn’t always entirely graceful. Hannah Cruz’s emotional dedication to the character and what she is going through is amazing. She makes you feel every word right along with her and has a powerful voice and presence.
Bryson Bruce is extremely likeable and hilarious in both of his roles of Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson. Peter Matthew Smith proves to be an audience favorite as King George, providing the perfect amount of comedic relief throughout the show. Paul Oakley Stovall is the perfect George Washington and accurately captures the expectations one has for one of the nations most loved founding fathers.
Truly this show is a must see whether you’re sitting last row of the balcony or front and center orchestra. Every angle of this masterpiece provides an exciting experience and a new perspective on the gorgeous staging and powerful music. Musical numbers are entirely clever, catchy, and expressive. I’ve no doubt this show will live a long and prosperous run alongside other classics like “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Wicked.” Lin-Manuel Miranda is a genius and provides a show that is all of the hype it receives. Musical fanatics and theatre newcomers alike will be singing Hamilton praises and searching for another opportunity to return again!
Running Time: 2 Hours 30 Minutes with one 15-minute intermission.
Advisory: Some adult language and suggestive content.
“Hamilton” runs until May 12, 2019 and is presented at the RBTL’s Auditorium Theatre in Rochester. For more information, click here.