“Hamilton” Is Stunning In Every Aspect As It Visits St. Louis For The First Time At The Fox

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Part theatre, part history lesson, part rock concert and all spectacle, “Hamilton” has finally arrived in our town and the Fabulous Fox will be packed for the next three weeks in anticipation. This is really something special as this road company far surpasses anything you could hope for.

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Like another Tony winner, “1776,” “Hamilton” is based on true history lessons about the early days of our “scrappy, hungry” country. Centering on the Hamilton/Burr relationship, we get a visit from early patriots and even King George as we try to settle into a new country that is torn away from England in the first act and then infighting around the new country in the second act. Like the feud in “Amadeus,” Burr is Salieri to Hamilton’s Mozart- jealousy gets the better of Burr and he fights for recognition while Alexander Hamilton continues his meteoric rise.

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Austin Scott is a powerful Hamilton as he, as a nineteen year old immigrant, has plans to make his voice be heard. From his humble “Alexander Hamilton” opening number through the popular “My Shot” and into marriage, his dalliance and into his heartbreaking “Hurricane” and the impressive and haunting “Unimaginable,” we are obsessed about his obsessions and his drive.

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As Burr, Nicholas Christopher dazzles in this love/hate relationship with Hamilton and strives to best him at every “competition”- real or imagined. One thing that is quickly apparent in this production is that every cast member is blessed with a beautiful singing voice and diction and enunciation beyond compare. Listening to the CD practically non-stop for the past two weeks, some of the songs become a bit unintelligible but even the fast rap numbers on the Fox stage are clear and concise.

ham-curtainAlexander’s eventual bride, Eliza Schuyler, daughter of one of the wealthiest gents in the country, is played to perfection by Julia K. Harriman. Her sweet voice and powerful acting skills are on display all evening long. Sabrina Sloan is another Schuyler sister, Angelica, who becomes confidante to Hamilton and, along with the third sister, Peggy, played  by Isa Briones, become a dominant trio. Ms. Briones also doubles as Maria Reynolds, the young married woman who causes Hamilton to stray.

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Chris De’Sean Lee doubles as Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson- a pair that demands almost polar opposites. He manages a slightly mangled French accent and then opens the second act as the flamboyant Jefferson who has been doing some dallying himself in France during the American Revolution. Chaundre Broomfield-Hall also does double duty as Hercules Mulligan and the irrepressible James Madison while Ruben J. Carbajal provides laughs turned to sadness as both John Laurens and then Hamilton’s son, Philip.

ham-kingRounding out the major cast are two marvelous performances- Carvens Lissaint as George Washington and Peter Matthew Smith as King George. Lissaint’s Washington is strong and determined but knows when it’s time to move on. Smith’s King is satirical and right on just as we need a bit of comic relief. He makes a valid point but can’t help but feel these “rebels” are about to overthrow the most powerful country and military and naval force in the world.

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As I said at the beginning, this is a spectacle in the most awesome way. The David Korins set design is the perfect space with open space, balconies and ladders that move and don’t move. It can- and does- become every part of the time including Yorktown, New York and everywhere in between. The phenomenal orchestra, led by Alex Lacamoire, is right on the mark- moving from scene to scene and providing a few sound effects along the way. And that rock concert I talked about is due mainly to the constantly moving lighting design of Howell Binkley- a veritable light show that spins the head around. Andy Blankenbuehler’s choreography recreates the spectacular Broadway show that won “Hamilton” one of its many Tony’s. And finally, the magnificent staging by Thomas Kail which moves the three hour long show like a downhill racer.

This overwhelming piece is the masterpiece created by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Mixing rap, ballads, soaring melodies, touching moments and historical fact into one beautiful piece around the first Treasurer in our country’s beginnings and the creator of the banking system we still follow today. And he slips in subtle reminders of other musicals along the way as I distinctly heard a lyric “you’ve got be carefully taught,” “Sit down, John” and a few others sprinkled throughout. It’s mind boggling that such a perfect piece of theatre could come about with so many disparate parts. But it works like a well oiled machine and will live forever in my memory as one of the most spectacular evenings I’ve ever spent in a theatre.

ham-balcony“Hamilton” plays at the Fox Theatre through April 22nd. There are several “lotteries” out there to win tickets or get bargain tickets and there may be a few you can actually purchase despite the rumor that the run is sold out. Any way to get there is going to be a win-win for any theatre fan. Catch it if you can.

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