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Hamilton in Chicago

I was in Chicago this weekend for SMOFcon (currently between planes in Copenhagen), and @YesTHATColette managed to get tickets for the matinée performance of Hamilton yesterday. As you may remember, I've been addicted to this show since January, so I was really glad to be able to go even though the cast is of course different to the original Broadway line-up.

In general, I loved the stage show, of course. The soundtrack cannot capture any of the visuals, let alone the superb choreography - perhaps the best bit is the rewinding of time between "Helpless" and "Satisfied", but there are many wonderful moments of using human bodies to fill the performance space. The audience is explicitly invited to participate twice, at the end of King George's first song ("All together now!") and at the beginning of the first Cabinet Battle, when George Washington invites us to cheer the contest. Some other visuals that are hinted at in the lyrics, but enhanced on stage - Peggy Schuyler irritated with her sisters dragging her out for subversive activities; the coughing and quieter Madison as Jefferson's right-hand man in every scene they do together; Burr's isolation in "The Room Where It Happens".

Of the actual performers, Hamilton and Angelica were being played by understudies, and while Angelica was still very good (Emmy Raver-Lampman also understudied the part on Broadway) I felt Joseph Morales was a bit low-key in the lead role - and this maybe affected Ari Afsar as Eliza also, as if she was more used to playing opposite the usual leading man; the father-son chemistry between Morales' Hamilton and Jonathan Kirkland's Washington was much stronger than the romantic spark between the leading couple. Kirkland's mike seemed to have been set too loud as well.

But those are my only complaints. The two outright scene-stealers were Alexander Gemignani as King George and Chris De'Sean Lee as Lafayette/Jefferson - both utterly captivating and hilarious. Gemignani (who did the pre-show "turn off your phones" announcement in character, and then asked for donations to BCEFA at the curtain call) at 37 already has a substantial career behind him; Lee is only 22 and clearly has a long career ahead of him.

The other lead role to note was Joshua Henry's Aaron Burr. He has a striking physical resemblance to Carl Anderson's Judas Iscariot in the 1973 film of "Jesus Christ Superstar", and I felt I recognised some elements of his performance directly borrowed from a film made over a decade before he was born. (I see that his first professional acting role was as Judas in Godspell.) Henry seemed to me to start a little tense but really got into it in the second half. I've mentioned "The Room Where It Happens" already as the key moment of the second half, where Burr is physically excluded from the Jefferson/Madison/Hamilton dinner; in "The Election of 1800", Jefferson is backed up by Madison in his corner, and Burr on his own in the other corner; Hamilton declares his choice from the balcony, to Burr's consternation. And during the actual duel scene, both Burr and Hamilton become magnetic.

(Of the non-speaking parts, my eye was caught by Amber Arbolino, one of the dancers who seemed to be giving well over 100% to the show.)

Anyway, those are my brief impressions and I wish I had been taking systematic notes. Can't wait until London tickets go on sale at the end of next month...



( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 5th, 2016 03:23 pm (UTC)
I was able to see Carl Anderson as Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar twice in 1994/1995--same production, but two different cities (Seattle and New York), and after the Seattle show, was able to meet him briefly and speak with him and get his autograph. He was a class act individual, and the definitive Judas in my view--I've never seen anyone do it better in person, nor heard anyone better on any of the recordings. I was very sad when he died a number of years ago...

I still haven't seen or heard Hamilton, but I might have to remedy that soon...
Dec. 5th, 2016 07:23 pm (UTC)
I am so excited about it coming here! The only reason I've managed not to see it yet is by making a deal with myself that if I resisted the temptation to fly to the States just to see it I was allowed to spend all the flight money on tickets in London.

I'm getting a bit of an original cast fix in a couple of weeks in the form of Daveed Diggs' band clipping, but that's verrrrry different musically.

Edited at 2016-12-05 07:25 pm (UTC)
Dec. 6th, 2016 10:15 am (UTC)
Ooh! clipping! Tell me when/where...
Dec. 6th, 2016 10:55 am (UTC)
It's at Corsica Studios. I'm going on the 20th, which is sold out, but there's a second show on the 21st, which still has tickets - https://babayaga.ticketabc.com/events/clipping-3/
Dec. 6th, 2016 11:05 am (UTC)
Thanks! I might have to see if I can fit that into my life :-)
Dec. 5th, 2016 09:53 pm (UTC)
oh, THANK you for the discussion of the staging. Even without seeing it your descriptions bring a tremendous amount to the music and the performances. Thank you so much! And I'm so envious!! :)
Dec. 6th, 2016 02:53 am (UTC)
Worlds colliding
Jin Ha is a very dear friend of mine from high school!!!!!
Dec. 6th, 2016 05:58 am (UTC)
Re: Worlds colliding
He is understudying most of the lead roles, so this will give him some very big exposure!
Dec. 6th, 2016 05:14 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for writing this up. I too can't wait for the London tickets to go on sale.
Dec. 6th, 2016 09:39 pm (UTC)
Hi! I was scrolling through the who_daily watchlist for today's newsletter, and saw your post. I was also in Chicago this weekend and attended the matinee on Sunday. It sounds like you managed closer seats than we did, though. :-) Small world, and I'm glad to see someone else enjoyed the show.
Dec. 7th, 2016 03:34 am (UTC)
Small world, indeed! Nice to meet you! We were in the mezzanine, about five rows back.
Dec. 9th, 2016 09:37 pm (UTC)
oooh, Hamilton envy. Also, Chicago envy (I'm from there). Yay for good trips.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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