Every once in a while, a musical changes Broadway forever. One of these musicals is “Hamilton.” “Hamilton” has not only integrated itself into pop culture but has also changed how everyone looks at American history. Lin Manuel Miranda’s play is extremely popular; tons of people listen to the soundtrack on platforms like Spotify and Apple Music and watch it on the viewing platform Disney+.
To give a recap for those not familiar with the show, “Hamilton” tells the story of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton’s life, from the American Revolution to his fateful death in a duel with Aaron Burr. Additionally, the show is revolutionary for its cast that features people of color as historically white figures, which aims to represent the picture of a diverse nation that belongs to all Americans. “Hamilton” is not only famous in the world of Broadway; it is one of the most culturally significant plays of all time. And now, this transformative musical experience is once again present in Philadelphia.
On Oct. 20, “Hamilton” opened at the Kimmel Cultural Campus. After being staged in various cities, such as Los Angeles and Omaha, this play about the scrappy Founding Father everyone knows and loves has been brought right to Philadelphia. The best of Broadway is only a train ride away for Villanova students. The Kimmel Cultural Campus is merely a five-minute walk from the 30th Street Train Station.
The cast of this production, led by Pierre Jean Gonzalez as Alexander Hamilton and Stephanie Jae Park as Eliza, is well-seasoned in the world of Broadway. Many of the players have been in multiple Broadway musicals, such as “The Lion King”and “The Book of Mormon”prior to this tour of “Hamilton.” The cast member who played King George was even in the original cast of “Hamilton” on Broadway. Given the incredible talent of this cast, anyone viewing this production is surely in for a treat.
Fortunately, I was in the audience and able to be in “the room where it happened” on Oct. 23. Having only seen the Disney+ version, the stage rendition was more incredible than one could have ever imagined. There is an exceptional element of the theatre that is simply unlike any other listening experience, and this version of “Hamilton” continues to prove this to be true. From the first flash of the spotlight and first pluck of the violins in the first act to Eliza’s last utterances of “Will they tell your story,'' it was an encapsulating experience.
Every element presented in the show seemed to delight the audience. The lyrical genius of the songs, paired with the sounds of the music, was thrilling. The live music of the show sits with one much differently than it does in a recording. Whether it was Hamilton’s rapping, the ensemble’s harmonizing, Maria Reynolds’ rich voice or even King George’s wacky British accent, the performers sounded even more amazing in person. This theatrical experience is one that simply cannot be compared to the Spotify renditions.
Another spectacular part of the show was the choreography. The flow of movement presented by the cast was unbelievable. One particularly incredible scene in this regard is “Helpless,” which featured ballroom dancing as the ensemble utilized moves such as balletic fish dives and lifts to capture the energy of Eliza’s love for Hamilton. Additionally, the scene "Satisfied," has a unique style of choreography. In this specific scene, the dancers moved backward to rewind to when Angelica first met Alexander Hamilton. As the music started to backtrack, the actors reversed their movements and looked like they moved back in time.
But the show's greatness was not just due to the technical elements, such as the singing, choreography and lighting. Rather, the show’s remarkableness was due to the passion with which the actors performed. The actors' energy was exhilarating, and one could tell that there was true love for the stage in this performance. After the past year where people have not been able to attend shows, the revival of the theatre truly brought this production to a whole new level. The actors brought spirit to the stage which captured the liveliness of the pugnacious young immigrant who tells the audience, “Just you wait, just you wait.”
At the end of the show, as the cast took its final bows, its members received a well-deserved standing ovation. The crowd roared as the curtains closed, which marked the end of this incredible experience. So, if one ever ponders the answer to the question, “Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?” they should head right on over to the Kimmel Cultural Campus to see “Hamilton.”