Ever since it was announced that the touring production of “Hamilton” would be making a stop in Durham it has been the most sought after ticket at DPAC. The show opened this month on November 6th – election night no less, for what is expected to be a string of sellout performances in the Bull City with shows running through December 2nd.
What can I say about this show that has not been said before? This musical exceeded all of my expectations. It was is one of those rare and beautiful instances where something with a lot of buzz really does live up to all the hype.
Like many before me I wondered how a hip-hop based musical about one of our nation’s more obscure founding fathers would work. But work it does and on so many levels. Hip-hop is not just a music style it is also the voice for the underprivileged – a perfect match for the title character who is an orphaned outsider from the west indies, who for all his influence on the founding of our government, will never be eligible to be president.
In retrospect delivering the story of Alexander Hamilton in the hip-hop style makes perfect sense and is actually a pure stroke of genius. First of all there with so many historical characters in the show and the extensive history covered in both acts, there is simply a massive amount of information the audience needs to take in.
It just so happens that hip-hop fits four times as many words into each measure of music compared to other styles of music – making hip hop a perfect delivery mechanism. But the real genius of it all is that through the fusion of hip hop and the musical form, the creators of this show transform American history into a contemporary format reflecting the fact the America’s history and the road ahead belongs to all men and women regardless of their color.
The show starts off fast and does not let up until the intermission. In the first number “Alexander Hamilton” we are introduced to the title character , played by Joseph Morales, his compatriots, including the man who will ultimately take his life – Aaron Burr, played by the incredible Nik Walker.
Every single member of this cast delivers a performance that makes you think they were born for the role they are playing. Morales and Walker are wonderful as Hamilton and Burr. Both command the room whenever they are on stage and when they share it you can sense the growing tension of these one-time friends drifting apart through life as their beliefs and politics evolve resulting in their tragic duel in the final act.
The entire ensemble is so strong, but a few really stand out. Like Shoba Narayan as Eliza Hamilton, Marcus Choi as George Washington and Kyle Scatliffe as Thomas Jefferson. It was a pleasure seeing each of these actors pouring their souls into these historical figures and their portrayal of their unique personalities.
And I just can’t say enough about the actors who played Burr and King George. I felt that every time Nik Walker or Jon Patrick Walker (King George III) were on stage they stole the scene if not the show.
The set itself is kind of secondary to what you are seeing on stage and doesn’t really change much throughout the performance. I’m not sure if the muted scenery was done on purpose, but in the end that works perfectly and lets the focus be on the actors and their words.
Transitions from scene to scene are seamless and the use of simple props works well. There is also the crafty use of a rotating stage that works wonders for scenes where multiple actors are walking and interacting, providing multiple perspectives of the action as well as smart “rewind” and slow motion sequences.
In the end “Hamilton” is a cultural wonder with choreography and vocals that are among the best I have ever seen. With its talented cast, this touring production delivers an amazing theater experience on all levels . I am grateful that this production made a stop in Durham and that I had the opportunity to see such a wonderful show that is making a cultural impact that is sure to continue for years to come.
Tickets for “Hamilton” are hard to come by, but don’t lose all hope of seeing the show if you don’t yet have a ticket in hand. You still have a chance to nab one of the 40 tickets released in advance of each performance for purchase by a special ticket lottery.
“Hamilton” performs at the Durham Performing Arts Center through December 2nd. To learn more about how to enter the ticket lottery visit: https://www.dpacnc.com/news/detail/announcing-ham4ham-lottery