Over a year later, Los Angeles is flocking back to the theater, and what better way to do it than with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s operatic Hamilton? Though strict COVID safety protocols were observed, they did nothing to dampen the excitement and experience; if anything, they reinforced the show’s themes of a shared struggle, human resiliency and hopes of better times ahead.
Hamilton is the Tony, Grammy, and Olivier Award-winning musical based on Ron Chernow’s acclaimed biography on the titular founding father. A Caribbean-born American immigrant, Hamilton arrives in New York to join forces with George Washington (Carvens Lissaint) and Lafayette (Simon Longnight) to fight King George (a scene-stealing Rory O’Malley) and the English crown. But a more insidious war brews between him and Aaron Burr (Nicholas Christopher), an ambitious politician who lacks any firm principles. There’s something reminiscent here of all great rivalries that begin with at least some warmth and respect — Amadeus and Salieri, even Judas and Jesus — but which are doomed to fatal consequences.
Jamael Westman, who played Hamilton in London and received an Olivier nomination, is good enough — ah, blasphemy! — to even forget Miranda in the role, especially if you’re a show virgin. The swagger and confidence he brings to his Hamilton from the moment he declares himself in “My Shot” is downright sexy, even a pat Timberlake, making the envy of frenemies like Burr, and the ardors of his wife, Eliza (Joanna A. Jones) and her sister, Angelica Shuyler (Sabrina Sloan) credible. Nicholas Christopher as Burr delivers a searing performance, rarely leaving the stage as the narrator, and drew thunderous applause with “The Room Where It Happens”, a pean to all who have felt overlooked and insecure. And, of course, no one could get enough of Rory O’Malley’s maniacally funny King George.
Thomas Kail’s direction and Andy Blankenbuehler’s choreography is intricate, dynamic, precise, and is buoyed by scenic designer, David Korins’s movable set. The songbook, while a tad challenging if you’re not already familiar with it, or attuned to the rhythms of rap and hip hop, are still infectious and melodious. You may not catch every word, but you’ll never be lost and remain enthralled.
— G. Dhalla
HAMILTON at Hollywood Pantages runs through January 2nd. Tickets HERE.