Review: “Hamilton” lives up to the hype and high standards

Review: "Hamilton" lives up to the hype and high standards

The Philip cast brings fresh takes and camaraderie to the modern classic musical.
Published: March 17, 2022
"Hamilton" will be at the Landmark Theatre from March 16 to March 27.

“Past patiently waiting” is an understatement when it comes to how long I have been waiting to see Hamilton live, in-person, on a stage. To put this wait in perspective, I was a junior in high school when I became enamored with the show and am now in grad school seeing it live for the first time–that’s almost seven years that I’ve had to “wait for it.”

It’s odd reviewing a show that I already know every word of. It was hard to not sing along to every song or compare the current performers to those who originated the roles on Broadway. However, from the moment the first notes of “Alexander Hamilton” played, I was swept away by the amazingly talented Philip Cast as they told the story of the man on the ten-dollar bill.

It’s clear that this cast was having a great time up on that stage. Their comradery shown through the interactions between Hamilton, Marquis De Lafayette, Hercules Mulligan and John Laurens with each other during songs like “Story of Tonight” and “Winter’s Ball.” It genuinely felt like they were four men at a bar having a drink and sharing inside jokes, as if the audience wasn’t there.

The other relationship that stood out was between Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Warren Egypt Franklin played Jefferson with flamboyant swagger, while Marcus John, an incredible swing, played Madison with a cool, calm and collected ease that worked as a great foil for Jefferson. Madison acts as Jefferson’s quiet hype man in the background, and the two bring some much-needed fun to the tonally heavy second act.

The three leads of the show, Pierre Jean Gonzalez as Hamilton, Stephanie Jae Park as his wife Eliza and Jared Dixon as his rival Aaron Burr all carried the show through its ups and downs. They beautifully showed the audience the nuances to each character through their songs and interactions with other characters.

Dixon played Burr in an understated and quiet manner, yet there was an underlying tension behind that collected demeanor that made Burr incredibly complex. In “Wait For It,” Dixon sang quietly until the very end, when he raised his voice to show the audience the depth of his anger. Then, at the end, he immediately brought his voice back down to sing the final line: “Then I’m willing to wait for it.” This subtext bubbled under the surface of all of Burr’s songs, creating a brilliant contrast to Gonzalez’s outspoken Hamilton.

The Philip cast of "Hamilton" performs with passion and complexity.

Park brought light-heartedness to Eliza’s earlier moments and great depth and despair into her final scenes. When she was joyfully singing “Helpless” during the first act or playfully beatboxing with son Philip Hamilton during “Take a Break” in act two, you could feel her love for her family. Then at the end, she ripped my heart out with her performance of “Burn,” making me feel her pain.

During the first week of performances, Desmond Sean Ellington is filling in for Marcus Choi in the role of George Washington. Ellington typically plays Mulligan/Madison, but his take as Washington was absolutely astounding, harkening back to how Christopher Jackson played him in the original Broadway cast. He played Washington with a cool, composed swagger that showed off his crucial role in the formation of the United States government.  When he sang his final song “One Last Time” he carried himself beautifully and sang the song with ease, leaving me teary-eyed.

Complementing these brilliant performances was the innovative technology and choreography, which told the story with minimal props and great power. Andy Blankenbuehler’s choreography illustrates vital moments of the story, like the duels and the battle of Yorktown. The lighting complemented the choreography and helped pull the audience into different moments on the stage or emphasize the end of the big number. Every single aspect of the show worked seamlessly together to create an absolutely astounding end product.

The show held itself up to its high standard and left me more than “Satisfied.” It lived up to every expectation I had for it during six years of singing along to the soundtrack on repeat in my car and watching the film on Disney+ during the peak of the pandemic. Seeing these wonderful actors bring their own touches to the show made it fresh and new, and I adored every second.

Don’t throw away your shot to see Hamilton during its stay at the Landmark Theatre from now until March 27.