We are reminded by Alexander Hamilton throughout this musical that he’s going to take his one shot.
The duel was supposed to be a scene where the course of history was changed – but the effects of that shot has changed the course of how a musical can be.
It’s cutting edge, blending almost a “Matrix” stop-action motion with rap music and a history lesson that not often is focused upon. There is a political rift between several men and the fate of a president’s future at hand.
“Hamilton” could be ripped from the headlines today, but this Revolutionary tale is hip and current with a message for everyone – it is a story of love and dedication to a cause.
The musical that everyone has been waiting for arrived in Madison last Tuesday for one of the longest runs the Overture Center has ever had for a musical. The production goes through Dec. 8.
There were ticket lines, people camping out in front of the building all in hopes of getting a good seat. And all with only one question: is it worth it?
The answer can be found directly from King George himself.
As he mocks Americans who know they can’t stay away from him, the King, played by Neil Haskell, also comes with the best voice I have ever heard in my years of going to musicals at the Overture Center. I wanted him to stay on stage and continue to steal scenes like tax dollars.
For those like me who are new to “Hamilton,” even though the musical came out in 2015, there are things you feel you should know before you go.
Having a little knowledge of American history of the time and the Founding Fathers is helpful. Then there is the operatic soundtrack that blends rap with the history of America.
For those not familiar with the soundtrack there is the fear of not following the story. But the songs are presented so smoothly it’s really not an issue.
We watch Hamilton’s rise through the political spectrum and see names like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson – all during a heated political time where the United States is trying to find a new president.
There is scandal – a mistress, played beautifully by Nyla Sostre who also had one of the best vocal performances of the night.
There also is a nagging British King who wants America back, and a very funny Jefferson, played by Warren Egypt Franklin, who steals many of the scenes with his fancy coat and dance steps giving us a view of Jefferson unlike anything the stage has seen before.
Throughout the story Hamilton plays a guy trying to take his “one shot” at making a better life for his family. We see his tough upbringing, and how he meets a man named Aaron Burr who completes college so quickly.
Burr offers the advice to talk less and smile more.
After Washington steps aside, we see John Adams become present, to which the King says, “I know him.”
The play continues through the election of Jefferson as president and Hamilton choosing him instead of Burr – and that leads to the famous duel.
Hamilton, played by Joseph Morales, is an energetic force to be reckoned with here. But he also plays the part with a nod to the other dominating forces on stage, letting each main character have their moment.
Burr, played softly at times by Nik Walker, shows he is far more than a vice-president known for a duel. He shows a sensitive side that makes you feel he is the one who has something to say.
“Hamilton” has plenty of big moments on a stage that turns in each direction, letting the actors move, without moving their feet. This creates an impressive feeling like we are in “The Room Where It Happens” by spying on them.
There were moments when a few of the female leads were a little soft on their voices but blending a story that goes from rap to pitch-perfect song is impressive.
When Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote and played the lead role he created something on the stage that will be hard to copy again. Something refreshing and new for a story that often may be forgotten.
Hamilton took his place in history with his shot. But in reality, Miranda has made Hamilton’s whole story a household one.
The duel at the end is not only breathtaking and brought the audience to silence, but it was the perfect scene for a musical that now seems bigger than itself.
The King was right on one thing in this musical: “You’ll Be Back.”