Hamilton

Written on February 27th, 2020

Closed due to pandemic.

History Made Modern, Warts and All

The more things change, the more they stay the same.  Politicians were ruthless, aggressively ambitious, lacking in morals, and eager to avenge petty jealousies in 1776. Unfortunately, many remain the same today. 

Hamilton, now on stage at the Ed Mirvish Theatre in Toronto, is the popular musical about Alexander Hamilton, a founding father of the United States and the first Secretary of the Treasury.   Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical biography received a record-breaking 16 Tony nominations in 2016, and won 11. It has been a huge hit on Broadway ever since, filling the theatre for every performance.  So there was much excitement about it coming to Toronto.

What makes Hamilton special?  Miranda wrote it rap-style, every line rhyming and keeping a steady rhythm. The style demands modern language, not the unfamiliar vocabulary of 1776.  It takes time to get used to the rhyming rap, but once your ears become attuned to it, the word play is very entertaining.  Miranda manages to tell the complete story while keeping it lively and interesting. 

Hamilton, of Scottish descent is a “bastard orphan, son of a whore” who grew up on the Caribbean island of Nevis.  He arrived in New York City as the Colonies were seeking independence from Britain.   

Lin-Manuel Miranda, himself the son of Puerto Rican immigrants, found the story of Hamilton fascinating. He envisioned the tale told on stage, and wanted colour blind casting so that appearances didn’t alter Hamilton’s biography. 

Hamilton is driven to succeed, quickly working his way up to become George Washington’s right hand man.  Aaron Burr is his political rival, and although they should be working together for the same goals, a petty rivalry grows between them.  Hamilton marries Eliza Schuyler for money and status, but it seems like he cares more for her sister Angelica.  Then he has an affair, which later results in his being blackmailed.  He is overly ambitious, costing him his family relationships.  He even allows his son to be killed in a dual.  (Spoiler Alert) In the end, Hamilton is killed by Aaron Burr in a dual.  The two could have easily been friends and allies for the sake of their country, except their egos got in the way.

There are two groups of Americans who have been enjoying it on Broadway.  First there are the proud patriots who think the founding fathers could do no wrong and look at Hamilton as a hero.  They are blind to his faults and praise him.  Then there are those Americans who see the hypocrisy and realize past heroes sometimes have feet of clay.  They rue the similarities to today’s government. 

Canadians will enjoy this examination of the history of our southern neighbours.  In fact, lest you become a little smug about our Fathers of Confederation, comparing them to the Founding Fathers of the United States, think again.  Remember, our first Prime Minister, John A. MacDonald, was a drunkard and involved in the Pacific railway scandal.

Does Hamilton live up to the hype?  Being Canadian and not knowing the details of that part of American history, I was afraid I might find it dull.  But because of the presentation, it certainly kept my interest – in fact, I was on the edge of my seat, despite knowing the outcome.  Still, with all those Tony awards, I was expecting more.  However, I have nothing but respect for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s incredible creative talent.  It would have been amazing to see Miranda in the role of Hamilton, which he originated off and on Broadway.   Nevertheless, it’s worth seeing this touring production of Hamilton during its Toronto stay, just because it’s so different from other musicals.

Hamilton continues with eight shows a week until May 17 at Ed Mirvish Theatre, Toronto.  Call Ticket King 416-872-1212 or 1-800-461-3333 or visit www.mirvish.com for tickets.

Photo: Company of Hamilton, National Tour.  Photo by Joan Marcus.

Hamilton
Book, music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda
Inspired by the book by Ron Chernow
Directed by Thomas Kail
Choreographed by Andy Blankenbuehler
Musical Supervision by Alex Lacamoire
Performed by Joseph Morales, Jared Dixon, Marcus Choi, Neil Haskell, et al.
Ed Mirvish Theatre, 244 Victoria Street, Toronto
February 11 to May 17, 2020
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

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