Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Hamilton (Broadway)


Would-be American founding father Alexander Hamilton (Miguel Cervantes) leaves Nevis for New York in the 1770’s and meets some influential people during his stint at King’s College who will define his future and eventual legacy. One of them is Aaron Burr (Nik Walker), a lawyer who will fight alongside him during the American Revolutionary War of 1775. Throwing their support behind George Washington (Tamar Greene), the two will bear witness to the birth of the United States after winning the war of independence against Great Britain. Ego bruised, King George (Euan Morton) asks through song how America will survive on its own. Given his wit and gift of the written word, Hamilton becomes instrumental in the power play that ensues as more political aspirants rise through the ranks. He also becomes a father as his wife Eliza (Krystal Joy Brown) gives birth. Changing allegiances along the way for his political career to survive, he ends up dead in his late 40’s after a gun duel with Burr.

I got my ticket during the pre-pandemic reopening period for $160, which is considerably cheaper than the normal cost north of $400. I have always known that Hamilton exists and is widely popular but always avoided it because of the prohibitive admission ticket price which could buy me four to five different shows. In all honesty, I had no idea how the musical was going to be. And so, when the first act began and the actors started rapping, I was well beyond amused. Damn, there are plenty of worthy additions here to one’s Broadway showtunes repertoire!

“My Shot” seems to be the popular favorite, even though “Wait for It” appears to be the more appropriate albeit ambitious audition song choice. Most of the musical numbers are predominantly rapped, while some resemble what seems to be a mix of rap and rapid spoken word. As such, one needs a little getting used to as far as lyrics are concerned. If you are new to the material, you will probably be playing the soundtrack on loop on Spotify for the days to come.

As far as subject matter is concerned, American History has never really been a favorite of mine. Since Hamilton belongs to the performing arts, it goes to show that artistic liberties have obviously been taken. Perhaps the real strength of the show in this regard is to serve as some sort of taster for the subject. If you decide that the topic is of interest to you, there are countless books about American history you can refer to in that quest for knowledge. In the end, though, at the core of Hamilton’s storyline still lie the fundamentals of the founding of modern-day America, anchored on Alexander’s life.

Lin Manuel Miranda really shat on the Brits with the portrayal of ‘Merica’s ex-colonizer here. King George is depicted as pompous and cynical, which I suppose is just the right kind of reaction after losing his biggest colony. But then again, history is always written by the winners. Lest we forget, ‘Merica won this war. So perhaps the caricature is warranted as a way of stoking nationalist sentiments and patriotism. In any case, King George’s “You’ll Be Back” is, without a doubt, one of the highlights of the show. Vindictive and utterly bitter, it is a hilarious tour-de-force performance that just brings the house down.

Overall, it’s easy to see how Hamilton has captured not just America’s hearts but also that of the theater world in general. Unconventional thanks to its preference of rap over traditional belting one tends to witness onstage, it breathes new life to an otherwise boring topic many students usually sleep through in class, all that via revolutionary rap battles and literal mic drops that the American Founding Fathers probably wouldn’t have had the breathing technique and talent to pull off, but will definitely catch enough of your attention if you want to get to know them better afterwards, whether out of sheer curiosity or just brushing up on your American history.

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