Hamilton: Round Two
- New York Columnist
I thought my relationship with this particular show was set. Having spent the better part of last year devouring the cast recording, I instantly fell in love with Lin’s most fabulous creation and agreed, as we all universally have, that it is a work of genius. When the Broadway production went on sale, I snagged two seats at face value and saw it with the original cast last October. At that point, the Hamil-madness had begun to take hold, so once I’d seen it, II accepted that I’d not be returning to the Rodgers anytime soon and felt a certain amount of closure with A.Ham & co.
However, through some miracle (read: Christmas present from very generous cousins) I was able to return much sooner than I expected. Last weekend, headed back to 46th Street, eager to re-join the revolution. And yes, it’s still that good.
The pillars of the inherent power of Hamilton remain rooted in Lin Manuel-Miranda’s genius music and lyrics, Thomas Kail’s perfectly paced direction, Andy Blankenbeuhler’s hugely innovative choreography, Howell Binkley’s evocative lighting, and David Korins’ immense scenic design. It doesn’t hurt they they’ve re-stocked the cast with homerun performers, but truly, any show that rests on a foundation such as this, so cohesive in its vision and exacting in its execution, is sure to succeed.
After a year in Hamil-land, however, this information is nothing new. But the cast is. So, let’s talk casting.
With Javier Munoz out that day, the title role was left In the very capable hands of Michael Luwoye, whose interpretation of Alexander Hamilton replaces Lin-Manuel’s exciting verbal dexterity with the heady intensity of an actor who understands the intentions behind each and every word he is saying. Toning down the scrappy, confrontational moxie that made Miranda so thrilling to watch, Lowoye’s Hamilton possessed a quiet confidence, an inextinguishable inner strength shining through dark brown eyes that is wholly apparent even in the character’s more silent moments.
In terms of full-time replacements, Brandon Victor Dixon was expectedly terrific as Aaron Burr. Infusing Burr with the same slick showmanship he exhibited in the tragically short-lived “Shuffle Along”, Dixon wholly inhabited the patient opportunist, painting a vivid portrait of a man eternally stuck somewhere between disdain and admiration for his ambitious adversary. In playing up the characters more comic moments and the friendship that existed between the two men, I felt more sympathy for the villain in Ham’s history more than ever before.
The supporting cast remains fabulous, led by original veterans Okieriete Onaodowan and Christopher Jackson, still in fine form, as Washington, Hercules Mulligan, and James Madison. They were flanked that day by Alysha Deslorieux’s sweetly sung Eliza, Andrew Chapelle’s lovable John Laurens/ Philip Schuyler, and Morgan Marcell taking over Peggy Schuyler and Maria Reynolds.
The true and unquestionable standout here, however, is Mandy Gonzalez, who has taken the character of Angelica Schuyler to emotional and vocal heights that, in my opinion, far surpass the original. Where Renee Elise Goldsberry played mainly to Angelica’s intellectualism and intensity, we see a much more nuanced turn from Ms. Gonzalez, who uses her first act solo, “Satisfied” to bring clarity to Angelica’s emotional turmoil. Using the flashbacks contained within the song to alter the audience’s perception of her previous interactions with Alexander and Eliza as they meet and marry, we are afforded a glimpse into the heart of a woman conscious of the fact that she has played an integral role in her own suffering.
Admittedly, I entered the show the day harboring a small shred of doubt that Hamilton may have lost some of its sheen with the exit of original cast members. But once the mild disorientation of putting new faces on galvanized characters wore off, it became clear that Hamilton was not a show that ran solely on any sort of hype, but the raw, undeniable power of its material and execution. So long as they keep the cast stocked with the caliber of passion and talent exhibited so vividly at the performance I attended, there is no limit to the potential future of Hamilton.