Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
Also see Fred's review of A Connecticut Christmas Carol
With equally adept direction by Thomas Kail and choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler, the play begins as Alexander Hamilton (a more than able Austin Scott) comes to New York City in 1776. He had been orphaned in the Caribbean. The musical kicks off with the resplendent opener "Alexander Hamilton," featuring a blend of rap with melody. Next, Hamilton breaks out with "My Shot." He is gathering with a variety of individuals and that includes Aaron Burr (Josh Tower). The men are swift-talking rebels.
Both Angelica Schuyler (Stephanie Umoh) and her sister Eliza (Hannah Cruz) have strong feelings for Hamilton, and it is Eliza who becomes his wife. Stories evolve as Alex Lacamoire's musical supervision and orchestrations yield many a rousing moment. One of those occurs during the energized "Satisfied." Hamilton works ever harder and, as the initial act concludes, Angelica, now married, has gone to London.
The second portion of the production begins with a nifty and swift-moving Thomas Jefferson (Bryson Bruce) performing "What'd I Miss." He has an animated conversation with Hamilton. Other highlight numbers include "The Room Where It Happens" and "One Last Time." Alexander Hamilton has an affair, which he realizes is ominous, and, no surprise, navigation of his life becomes increasingly more complicated. The plot touches further on the political as Hamilton and Jefferson grow contentious when conversing about France and Great Britain. George Washington (excellent performance by actor Paul Oakley Stovall) eventually decides he is no longer going to be President. Ultimately, Burr and Hamilton engage in their famous duel.
Having seen the Broadway production from quite near the stage, I now realize that it was impossible to appreciate the full depth of that show from that vantage point. From a reasonable distance within the Bushnell, the epic scope of Hamilton becomes paramount. True enough, individual facial expressions are more difficult to discern. On the other hand, Blankenbuehler's sublime dance and movement feels more panoramic. David Korins' set design (with a wooden backdrop and bricks unveiled) is perfect.
The actors in this touring production work extremely well with one another. They are uniformly well disciplined and talented. As the leading man, Austin Scott demonstrates vocal range and his pitch is splendid. He never wows the audience (as did Miranda), but Scott is strong and solid throughout. Josh Tower, as Burr, lends affect and his own interpretation to the role, all to the good. This actor's demeanor is his strength. Hannah Cruz's Eliza is compassionate and stirring; her performance is a major plus. She and actress Stephanie Umoh, who plays Angelica, combine for neat harmonies on more than one occasion.
Finally, for those searching for comic relief, that is provided by Peter Matthew Smith, whose King George is a welcome hoot and a half. He makes his mark early with "You'll Be Back," and returns again and again.
Hamilton, on tour, is an epic experience. It is sensitive while at times soulful, too. Miranda writes with emotion and vivacity. A performer, lyricist and composer, his versatility is inspirational. Hamilton remains very much Miranda's show and it is one of passion and perception.
Hamilton, through December 30, 2018, at The Bushnell, 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford CT. For tickets, call 860-987-5900 or visit bushnell.org. For more information on the tour, visit hamiltonmusical.com/us-tour/.