Theatre Review: ‘Hamilton’ at RBTL’s Auditorium Theatre

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.


Theatre Review: ‘Hamilton’ at Shea’s Buffalo Theatre

Well, it finally happened. “Hamilton” has arrived in Buffalo. I feel like we have been waiting for this time to come for years. Oh wait, we have. “Hamilton” fever is alive and well and I have done all I could to keep myself out of the fever zone so that I would go into this show knowing nothing. For the exception of one or two songs, I succeeded. I wanted to be surprised and I didn’t want any biases forming. I wanted to see if this show is worth the hype. I wanted to see if this show really was worth the emptying of bank accounts to see. Well here is my answer. It might not be worth emptying your bank account completely to see, but it is extremely refreshing, and I absolutely loved it.

“Hamilton” is sure to be Broadway’s new “Phantom,” running for the next 30 years. . .The American Dream comes alive in this musical.

“Hamilton” is the brainchild of Lin-Manuel Miranda, who brought us one of my favorite shows “In The Heights.” “Hamilton” tells the story of Alexander Hamilton and our founding fathers as they go through the American Revolution and form our government that we have today. Blind casting allows the actors portraying the founding fathers to be of any ethnicity and it is brilliant. Oh, and Miranda’s Hip-Hop and R&B score is exhilarating. It takes the Broadway formula, and keeps the pace flowing with songs that segue almost seamlessly from one to another. Lyrics are masterfully crafted with historical accuracy and are incredibly witty and intelligent. Miranda doesn’t skimp out on substance for style. The substance in this show is phenomenal and it is fantastic that not only are we being entertained, but we are learning something too. The music is perfect.

This story doesn’t rely on pageantry to be told. The unit set of rafters and wooden walkways are stylistically pleasing and effective. A rotating platform proves to be very useful and adds a wonderful dimension to the story. The ensemble helps build the settings of various locations and the audience is called upon to fill in the blanks. I love the minimalistic approach to storytelling, where the audience is employed to use their imaginations. It shows that the audience does not need everything spoon fed to them for the story to be told.

This cast is extremely talented. From the ensemble to the leads, there is not one person onstage in this production that does not deserve to be there. Leading the show as Alexander Hamilton is Austin Scott who balances the character’s intellect and arrogance perfectly. Scott makes great artistic choices to make this character believable and relatable. We are able to connect with him and we see that he is not a perfect man, that he has flaws like the rest of our founding fathers, but that he is real. Scott is fantastic and does not disappoint.

Josh Tower plays Aaron Burr, the narrator of our tale. Tower plays the show’s antagonist if you will, perfectly. Not only does he effortless set our story up for us, but he enters and exits the story so well. Tower brings real pain to the character, and he has plenty of heart. Again, Tower creates a character that we can relate too. Jealously, envy, and anger all color his performance. It is fantastic to watch. His performance of “The Room Where It Happens” is incredibly enjoyable as well.

Hannah Cruz is wonderful as Eliza in this production. She has the pipes to hit all the notes, and the audience instantly falls in love with her when she comes to the stage. She spills her heart and soul into “Burn” and I can say that I actually teared up during her performance. She does a wonderful job.

Paul Oakley Stovall is brilliant as George Washington. His voice booms throughout the theater sending chills down your spine. His demeanor and portrayal of Washington is unique and enjoyable.

My favorite comic relief in this show is Peter Matthew Smith as King George. Reminding me of King Herod in “Jesus Christ Superstar,” Smith is hilarious as the King. Deep belly laughs are sure to hit you every time he enters the stage.

If I had to find anything negative to say about this show, I would say that it runs a little long. Although I enjoyed the entire experience, 15 or 20 minutes less would have been welcomed in my opinion.

So, does this show live up to all the hype? Yes. “Hamilton” is sure to be Broadway’s new “Phantom,” running for the next 30 years. You need to see this show? Oh, you didn’t get tickets? Well, Shea’s is releasing tickets everyday, and there are still plenty of chances to be in the room where it happens!” The American Dream comes alive in this musical. Go see this show!

Running Time: 2 Hours 30 Minutes with one 15-minute intermission.

Advisory: Adult Language and Situations

“Hamilton” runs until December 9, 2018 and is performed at Shea’s Buffalo Theatre. For more information, click here.