A review of Chicago’s Hamilton

Owens Outlook reporter finally gets her shot

By Izzy Dennis, Staff Writer

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From the moment I sat in my seat for Chicago’s ‘Hamilton’  several weeks ago, I was an excited adult who ended up crying like a baby by the end of this hip-hop and diverse musical show.

‘Hamilton,’ which first snagged my attention back in 2015, brought me to both laughter and tears. I was not ready for how wonderful the musical was, and, I must say, the album does not do it justice compared to seeing it live.

Created by two-time Tony Award winner Lin-Manuel Miranda, ‘Hamilton: An American Musical,’ was based off of a 2004 book called ‘Alexander Hamilton,’ written by historian Ron Chernow. According to a review in the New York Times, Miranda had an agenda, and he carefully thought out how he wanted the cast of ‘Hamilton’ to be organized.

There are many Broadway shows that have specific requirements for someone to play a character, and honestly, there aren’t many musicals out there where the lead is a person of color, or people of color in the musical aren’t slaves. So, seeing typical Broadway shows of historical value would have been boring, in my opinion.

Photo by Izzy Daniels
An autographed PLAYBILL.

However, Miranda had something else in mind. He created a diverse cast, all of whom came from different backgrounds. He also played the main character of Alexander Hamilton. Miranda stated many times he is happy with the idea of having diverse America tell the history of how it began.

So, on that note, I HAD to go see what this play was all about. However, it’s hard to get tickets. Luckily, Miranda had his team created the Hamilton app for smartphones. The app puts you in a lottery for winning tickets to the musical, and with much dedication [two years to be exact] I won tickets to the Chicago show at the CIBIC theatre.

That was my first time ever going to a Broadway show, so my excitement was through the roof. However, I have been listening to the Hamilton album for two years, so I’ve become used to the original cast, and Miranda as Hamilton. I admit it was really hard not to be judgmental of the Chicago cast.

The musical starts with the tune “Alexander Hamilton,” which you will hear throughout the whole musical as the storyline progresses. Within the first song, viewers get a glimpse of who Alexander is. Played by Miguel Cervantes, we learn that Hamilton came to America as a starving bastard child, survived death, and that his mother was a whore and died from sickness. From here, we meet the whole cast and everyone who is involved with Hamilton. The stage was a rotating circle for the actors to glide on, making it feel like it was a moving street.

We also meet his first friend (and eventual killer) Aaron Burr, played by Gregory Treco, who narrates the musical. It was so hard to readjust from listening to Leslie Odom as Burr. As the musical progresses we meet Lafayette, Mulligan and Laurens. Altogether, the men are exciter to fight in the War of Independence for America, as they sing their drinking song, “Not Throwing Away My Shot” and “Story of Tonight.”

Then we meet the Schuyler sisters, Angelica, Eliza and Peggy. They sing the highly catchy song, “The Schuyler Sisters.” My goodness, the actresses did a phenomenal job. Honest, I wasn’t a fan of Eliza’s voice, but I managed to love them all anyway.

Then we meet the spunky and sarcastic King George, singing “You’ll be back, played by Andrew Call. Lin wrote a depressing situation into sarcastic humor. King George had the whole CIBIC theatre laughing. A great choice of an actor for the musical, there was not a dull moment with him on stage.

We also meet George Washington, who Hamilton becomes the “Right Hand Man.” Later, the cast, minus King George, celebrate at the Winter’s Ball, where Hamilton later meets Eliza, and as they sing “Helpless” together, we also get to hear the Angelica (Montego Glover) sing her heart out in “Satisfied.”

Then my mind started to change. I went from feeling unsure about the Chicago cast to absolutely loving them. When Aaron Burr performed “Wait for it,” he had a much well-deserved standing ovation.

So the musical goes on to have its up and downs, especially when George Washington and Hamilton are arguing and Miguel shouts in a deep voice, “Call me son, ONE MORE TIME!” The intense suspense between the actors felt like it was in a movie.

Other impressive parts of the musical were the rappers. Lafayette/ Thomas Jefferson, who is played by Colby Lewis, impresses everyone in the audience by being able to rap the tongue-twister songs “Guns and Ships” and “Washington by your Side.” And I liked the way Lin made the debates seem less boring by turning them into rap battles. It was interesting to watch them argue in rap as they spoke about America’s financial situation.

Another highlight was seeing Alexander go through a scandal in the office. He meets Maria Reynolds and they end up sleeping together for a few months while Eliza was away from home. This scandal means a lot, considering it was the first sex scandal to happen in the office. I thought it was clever to have humor in the song “Say No To This,” when Reynolds wrote to Alexander, but instead of the old English letters, he modernized it and added a little bit of profanity. It relates to even today where people are caught cheating in office.

There are also extremely sad moments, as well. Alexander and Eliza lose their first son Phillip. So be prepared to cry during ACT II, because it will leave you in tears. Bring tissues. Seriously. This musical knows how to tug at heartstrings.

It is safe to say this is a “must see” musical, which is why tickets are still impossible to come by, unless you win the lottery, like I did. Two years after it first debuted, ‘Hamilton’ is still No. 1 on the billboards chart. I recommend you try witnessing what happens during this scandalous, heartbreaking story. It brings you to your feet at the end of the show.

Well done, Lin Manuel-Miranda. Well done.

Inside of the CIBC Theatre in Chicago.

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