I’ve spent the last week listening to the new Broadway cast recording of Hamilton.
For those of you who are unaware, Hamilton is Lin-Manuel Miranda’s (In The Heights) latest musical. It played to a critically acclaimed sell-out audience at the Public Theatre in New York (read our review), and has now transferred to the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway, where it has fast become the hottest ticket on Broadway.
Hamilton, is the musicalisation of the life of Alexander Hamilton, a founding father of the United States who is responsible for much of the nation’s financial system and the establishment of the United States Coast Guard, amongst other things. It is therefore apt that he is represented on the American $10 note.
From the first bars of the opening number, you get a distinct impression that this man was something extraordinary:-
“How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman,
dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean by providence,
impoverished, in squalor,
grow up to be a hero and a scholar?”
The next 2 hours and 23 minutes provided for me, possibly one of the most exciting and moving experiences in musical theatre in recent years. Hamilton is nothing short of an extraordinary achievement. I must have now listened to this amazing recording twenty times in the last seven days and I’m certainly finding it very difficult to stop listening.
Hamilton utilises a variety of modern musical styles, including hip-hop, to bring this story alive, it’s a heady mixture that helps make this musical something very special indeed.
The Hamilton cast recording manages to audibly convey the incredible highs and lows of Hamilton’s story. Miranda’s performance brings the bullish, scrappy but incredibly intelligent Hamilton to life. It’s an incredibly compelling performance by a man who I think has only just begun. I can’t wait to see what comes next!
Like the relationship between Valjean and Javert in Les Miserables, no story would complete without the antagonist, who in this piece comes in the form of Aaron Burr, played by Leslie Odom Jr. Odom Jr’s performance is stunning, you can’t like him but nor can you completely hate him (at least for the most part).
Performances from Christopher Jackson as George Washington, Daveed Diggs as Maquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson, Okieriete Onaodowan as Hercules Mulligan / James Madison and Renee Elise Goldsberry as Angelica Schulyer give the piece texture and provide some of the best supporting parts written in modern musical theatre, all performed with consummate skill. Jonathan Groff as King George comes close to stealing the show on several occasions as the ebullient British monarch.
Hamilton’s cast recording is completed by Phillipa Soo as Eliza Hamilton and Anthony Ramos as Philip Hamilton. Sections of the second act featuring Miranda, Soo and Ramos had me in tears, a reaction which also seems to have been the case with friends who are now amongst Hamilton’s legion of UK fans. Eliza’s relationship with Hamilton provide some of the most moving moments in the show, and her moment of writing herself back into the narrative is incredibly moving and stamps Eliza as one of the strongest female characters in modern musicals.
Will almost completely through sung story, the cast album of Hamilton conveys the story completely. It wasn’t until the fifth listen that I decided to look at the show’s libretto.
Hamilton is without doubt, one of the most intelligent, well-written and unforgettable musical theatre scores I have heard in recent years. It is an incredible achievement by Lin-Manuel Miranda which should be celebrated around the world not just on Broadway.
I can safely say this is the first time I’ve heard the term in loco parentis used in a musical. Hamilton for me continues to be an educational experience and I can’t wait to get to see the show.
As an Aussie now transplanted to the UK, musical theatre cast recordings were my entry point to new shows and the fuel that stokes my passion for musical theatre. The Hamilton cast album is a dazzling ambassador for the show, one that I am sure is going to bring an entire new audience to the theatre and excite those who have loved musicals previously.
Go out and get a copy of Hamilton and prepared to be dazzled. Brilliant!