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While much of the “Hamilton”-mania that consumed American culture during its 2015 Broadway premiere has since died down, the show remains equally as original and engaging to this day. Directed by Thomas Kail, “Hamilton” (The North American Tour) runs from Jan. 17 through March 12 at the Citizens Bank Opera House. The Philip Cast upheld the show's reputation as a bona fide Broadway classic. The Musical’s timeless appeal and undeniable brilliance protects it from many of the common pitfalls that accompany a touring production. Moreover, “Hamilton” in Boston benefits not just from its masterful lyricism, but also from several standout performances and highly inventive staging.
It is no secret that Lin-Manuel Miranda’s biographical reimagining, mostly consisting of rap and hip-hop songs, is a rather stunning lyrical feat. But until audiences find themselves seated for a live production of “Hamilton,” it is hard to fully comprehend the scope of Miranda’s genius. Unlike when watching the filmed production on Disney+, the immersive experience of seeing “Hamilton” live requires a kind of careful attention in audiences that is hard to replicate in a distraction-filled living room.
A key ingredient in the show’s impeccable musical composition is its consistent and effective use of lyrical and sonic motifs. With the entire show sung at a rather brisk pace, it seems as though “Hamilton” would be difficult to comprehend. However, the reality is exactly the opposite. Many of the show’s most famous songs, such as “My Shot” and “Satisfied,” have choruses that reappear throughout the show to connect the various events of Hamilton’s life. This mode of lyrical reprisal lends a pleasant cumulative dimension to the show, using short-term recognition to ease audience comprehension. The end result is the rare musical that simultaneously presents excellent music and powerful messages.
As for the performers giving life to Miranda’s work in Boston, there were no weak links among the cast. However, some stars shined especially bright. Nikisha Williams (“Eliza Hamilton”) stole every one of her scenes with a voice that dazzled the entire opera house. And when Williams performed “Burn,” perhaps the most vocally-demanding and emotionally-charged number in the show, she cemented her standout status by singing and emoting with a deep sorrow that touched everyone in the theater. By never sacrificing believability for excessive dramatics, Williams brought the theater to complete, awe-inspired silence. Jared Dixon (“Aaron Burr”) was also exceptional, as his smooth and rich vocals contrasted beautifully with his character’s increasingly frenzied state of mind.
And while “Hamilton” does cover much important historical ground in its almost three hour running time, Miranda thankfully infuses much of the show with a light, comedic tone. This dimension of the production is most obviously conveyed in the characters of “Thomas Jefferson” and “King George III,” portrayed by Jared Howelton and Neil Haskell, respectively. Both actors imbued their characters with very humorous personalities and mannerisms, eliciting uproars of laughter from the audience on many occasions.
In addition to wonderful performances, the scenic design by David Korins is notably captivating. While the somewhat bare, rope-filled set spanning multiple levels has become iconic, its real success lies in the innovative use of a double-rotating stage. The rotating element makes the eye-catching choreography more dynamic and engaging. And during “The World Was Wide Enough,” when the show opts for a rare moment of stillness among the actors, the jarring contrast with the usually motion-filled stage successfully adds weight to the words being sung.
While this advice may seem superfluous in a post-Hamilfans world, Boston residents and visitors should make every effort to see the show before it leaves Boston in March. This production may not seek to reinvent the original “Hamilton” formula, but luckily for audiences, it’s a winner either way. Whether a reluctant theatergoer, a crazed fan, or somewhere in between, “Hamilton” is an exceptional artistic and educational experience that will win over the hearts of even the most skeptical attendees.
—Staff Brady M. Connolly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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