Stark Insider Broadway Review by Jeanne Powell: Hamilton at the SHN Orpheum Theatre San Francisco.
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s remarkable Broadway stage musical Hamilton celebrating America’s founding fathers, but especially Alexander Hamilton, is back in San Francisco on its third national tour.
The long-running popularity of this ground-breaking history lesson, composed in hip-hop rhythm, is just as amazing as the talents and energy of its creator. Miranda wrote the script, music and lyrics. He was inspired by the landmark biography, “Hamilton: The Revolution,” from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Chernow, published in 2005.
Historian Joseph Ellis referred to Alexander Hamilton as “the most brilliant, charismatic and dangerous founder of them all.” Chernow’s research reveals Hamilton to have been ahead of his time in terms of the ideas he championed for building a nation of prosperity and power from 13 scruffy little colonies newly sprung from England’s grasp.
And Miranda’s musical? It is as though Lin-Manuel channeled Hamilton as a man for our times, and the public seems to agree, because the musical has played to sold-out houses since its New York premiere in February 2015.
For this tour, Julius Thomas III dominates the stage as Alexander Hamilton, an illegitimate Caribbean orphan who rose to be one of the most influential figures in George Washington’s cabinet. Donald Webber Jr. is Aaron Burr, who served in Congress and later became vice president, always reminding young Hamilton “to talk less and smile more” so that people would not know what he was thinking. Isaiah Johnson is George Washington, Revolutionary War general and first president of the U.S.
Historian Joseph Ellis referred to Alexander Hamilton as “the most brilliant, charismatic and dangerous founder of them all.”
Simon Longnight absolutely delights as the Marquis de Lafayette and as Thomas Jefferson, future president of the U.S. Jefferson is chided both for the presence of Sally Hemings at Monticello – his late wife’s half sister — and his absence from the American fray while he was ambassador to France. Rick Negron is perfect as King George of England, wearing his crown, genuinely puzzled by the disloyalty and ingratitude shown by his 13 colonies. Negron also appeared in the recent Hamilton performance in Puerto Rico, where Miranda returned to the stage as Hamilton.
Abigail Adams once wrote to her husband and future president John Adams, admonishing him to “remember the ladies” when he and his colleagues create their new political world. Lin-Manuel Miranda does indeed remember the ladies in this musical which easily could have been a political bachelor party.
Hamilton speaks often of his mother Rachel, who died when he was 13. After immigrating to New York, Hamilton is pursued by the well-placed Schuyler sisters, Eliza (Julia Harriman) and Angelica (Sabrina Sloan). Eliza becomes his beloved wife and partner, while Angelica becomes the muse with whom he corresponds often. Their beautiful voices and poignant lyrics are a lovely respite from the male political bickering and maneuvering. Angelica Schuyler Church is buried not far from her sister Eliza and Alexander Hamilton, in Trinity Churchyard Manhattan.
Covering so many tumultuous years in American history with figures larger than life does take three hours. In this brilliantly written play, you are transfixed, fully realizing that the founding of the country was much more difficult that you were taught. You do not notice the passage of time. Some in the audience had seen the musical several times, on east coast and west coast.
Energetic and creative choreography is from Andy Blankenbuehler. Dance captains are Camden Gonzales and Dashi’ Mitchell. Ryan Kasprzak is dance supervisor.
Music director/conductor is Lily Ling. Michael Keller and Michael Aarons are music coordinators. Musical arrangements are by Alex Lacamoire and Lin-Manuel Miranda. The orchestra created a perfect atmosphere for complex lyrics onstage, making certain we could hear the singers above the viola, violins, guitar, bass, percussion, drums and keyboards.
Hamilton continues at the SHN Orpheum Theatre through April 2019. Check Web site for times and tickets. Do not delay.
Photo credit: Joan Marcus