History meets hip-hop, courtesy of Tony Award winner Lin-Manuel Miranda. His new musical "Hamilton" opened Tuesday night at the Public Theater and it tells the story of none other than Alexander Hamilton. NY1 theater critic Roma Torre filed this review.
Lin-Manuel Miranda spent a long time fine-tuning “Hamilton” for the stage, and it shows. His rap musical about founding father Alexander Hamilton is consummate, recalling elements from Sondheim works and such classics as “Les Miz” and “Amadeus.” But Miranda’s gifts are uniquely inspired. "In The Heights" put him on the map. With "Hamilton,” he's re-drawing it.
Miranda stars, wrote the book, music and lyrics. It is an epic production, sweeping in its scope of history and yet intimately detailed in parts. Miranda clearly has an affinity for Hamilton who was born in the West Indies to unmarried parents and orphaned as a child. With Ron Chernow’s biography as his source, Miranda focuses on Hamilton’s life in New York. It is a fascinating story bookended by his adversarial relationship with Aaron Burr, the man best known for killing Hamilton in a duel.
The sung-through work features such famous figures as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and British King George, who reacts to America’s bid for independence as if a spurned lover. Brian D’Arcy James is utterly priceless. Hamilton’s marriage to Eliza Schuyler and his affection for her sister Angelica is nicely explored as well.
Miranda’s lyrics are brilliantly clever, crafted with a poet’s precision. His songs, catchy gems, capture the characters' subliminal intentions with rhythmic virtuosity. And his story telling is most engaging and deep.
Hamilton's immigrant status figures prominently as well. Actors of color dominate the cast and under Thomas Kail’s wonderfully fluid direction, each of the dynamite portrayals bristles with authenticity. Adding to the thrill: Andy Blankenbuehler’s choreography punctuating the action like grace notes in motion.
Hamilton has it all, and then some – relevance, humor, and touching emotion. How fitting, that by summoning the past, Miranda and his sensational company are ushering in the future of musical theatre.