It was Mary's fault for the Hamilton affair
For four years in New York and since December 2017 also in the West End “the hottest tickets”, showered with countless prizes, critics indulge in superlatives - can you ask for more as a “musical maker”?
Lin-Manuel Miranda, who brought a successful hip-hop musical to Broadway with “In the Heights” in 2007, achieved the big coup with “Hamilton”: the life story of Alexander Hamilton (1757-1804), a lesser-known and yet through the financial system he founded, historically the elementary founding father of the United States of America, is fascinating. The orphan succeeds in working his way up to the front row of politics against all odds. At the side of George Washington he receives recognition, but also quickly senses that the air is thin up there and that there are many envious people.
Unfortunately, he doesn't have a particularly good sense of interpersonal skills, gets involved with the wrong people, marries the sister of the woman he actually loves, forgets his family out of sheer doggedness and ambition, lets himself be blackmailed by the husband of his affair in full knowledge of the consequences and in the end is murdered in a duel by a companion who has been with him for decades and who never could and never wanted to accept Hamilton's success.
Hamilton wrote himself about his head and neck in the course of his life, which in retrospect sometimes makes him appear to be a very annoying contemporary. In addition, he was so convinced of himself and his knowledge that he brooked no criticism: In times when America had just broken away from Great Britain, he campaigned for a strong national government. He fought against the British and at the same time rejected public unrest, since in his eyes only orderly resistance was effective. His stubbornness earned him the title of America's first Treasury Secretary. He founded the Federalist Party and was a co-founder of the New York Manumission Society, which advocated the abolition of slavery and the rights of people of African descent (Wikipedia), and some of the issues he put into the United States' constitution are still valid today their justification and validity.
Sounds like a lot of drama and mind games? There are plenty of both, but Miranda, who is responsible for the book, music and lyrics, manages to make the show entertaining despite the multi-layered characters and numerous storylines.
On Broadway, Miranda played the title role herself and thus set the standard by which all actors who slip into the role of the founding father have to be measured. But Miranda spent six years studying the man who still adorns the US $ 10 bills today. Based on the 800-page biography of Ron Chernow, which would probably never have come about without the tireless efforts of Hamilton's widow Elizabeth Hamilton, Miranda created a nearly three-hour stage show that featured the main actors of the early days (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Aaron Burr , King George) in a fun, fact-based history lesson.
It was immediately clear to Miranda that he would musically locate “Hamilton” in hip-hop: “[Hamilton's] life story is as unlikely as the history of America itself. That is exactly what hip-hop is: You write about your struggle and describe it so well that you know it overcomes own struggle. "
In London, Jamael Westman, a largely unknown person in the musical scene, was cast in the title role. Miranda just knows exactly what he's looking for. Westman is not your typical popular figure, you immediately believe Hamilton's angular qualities. But he manages to draw a link with the soulful husband, the political newcomer eaten up by self-doubt and the guilty father (after the duel death of his son Philips). He brings the fast spoken chant flawlessly over the ramp. Miranda put a lot of lyrics into the 34 (!) Songs. This is certainly a challenge for many musical performers. But Westman doesn’t show any nakedness here. Sometimes he seems downright aloof, which, however, underlines once more the unsympathetic qualities of Alexander Hamilton. And yet you sympathize with him. You question your decisions, sometimes you want to shake him up or just hug him. This title role is really not an easy part.
Aaron Lee Lambert plays his eternal adversary Aaron Burr that evening. Burr is single-minded, opportunistic, and goes over dead bodies to achieve his goals. Lambert embodies these characteristics credibly over long stretches. Vocally he shows what he's made of, especially with “Wait for it”. Otherwise he often seems a bit shy, which is noticeable very quickly in this vocal and acting very intense show.
Outstanding for a variety of reasons are Dom Hartley-Harris as George Washington, Jason Pennycooke as Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson, and Jon Robyns as King George. Hartley-Harris already makes you sit up and take notice in the first song ("Alexander Hamilton"). His voluminous baritone stands out clearly. Even if he is not particularly imposing in terms of stature, vocally he puts all of them in his pocket and thus more than lives up to his role as the first US president. Robyns certainly has the most grateful role as King George, as he is allowed to comment on what is happening in New York in a very smug way from the edge of the stage. His exaggerated Oxford accent and his slightly whimsical attitude create laughs that he apparently enjoys a lot. Pennycooke is allowed to exaggerate in his double role: As the French envoy Lafayette, he struts across the stage in extravagant suits, while as 3rd US President Jefferson he uninhibitedly shows his power. In addition, he also sets scent marks with his vocals, because he also copes perfectly with the vocal rapid fire of this show.
Emile Ruddock sets clearly audible accents as Hercules Mulligan in the first act. In the second act, however, as the prospective fourth President of the United States, he unfortunately remains a little pale.
If the men in this ensemble are real "types" and each one has exciting facets and attention-grabbing solos, then of course the women don't want to be left behind. Rachelle Ann Go, Allyson Ava-Brown and Sharon Rose are a trio of sisters, Eliza, Angelica and Peggy Schuyler, pure female power: Cheeky, energetic and passionate, they clearly show men that they are to be reckoned with. Every single one of the three women is absolutely convincing in terms of acting, but vocally one would wish for more from Ava-Brown in particular. While Go, which operates at the West End, among others. in "Miss Saigon" shone, who masters hip-hop compositions considerably, Ava-Brown has to struggle more with her more classical singing background. You can hear that her hip hop doesn't really suit her and the fast lyrics don't really suit her soprano. Nonetheless, the three form more than just a pretty counterpoint to the men. At the end of the day, Go in particular was able to clearly show that the world would hardly know anything about the real Alexander Hamilton without Eliza.
In total, there are “only” 23 actors on stage who trace the life and work of Hamilton in a very modern staging. But everyone gets their moment. The dancers in particular can shine in this show. Andy Blankenbuehler received a Laurence Olivier Award for his intense, sometimes extreme "Hamilton" choreographies. You immediately understand why, because you can hardly escape the captivating effect of the dance scenes.
The fact that the artists can shine on the stage is partly due to the fact that Paul Tazewell works a lot with beige tones in the costumes, the frock coats are kept in muted blue and the women's dresses in restrained pastel. Only King George, the Marquis de Lafayette and Hamilton's affair Maria Reynolds wear strong colors. Embedded in a sparse set with wooden beams (David Korins) consisting of a gallery and a mobile staircase, as well as chairs, tables and suitcases, nothing distracts from what is actually happening.
Alex Lacamoire arranged and orchestrated Lin-Manuel Miranda's songs in such a stirring way that they go straight to your feet. The 10-piece orchestra under the direction of Richard Beadle is in no way inferior to the performance of the leading actors and shakes the Victoria Palace Theater.
"Hamilton" is an unusual musical that captivates with its intense songs and the outstanding leading actors. It's not a material that you consume on the side, because Miranda's lyrics are tough too. Since you can hardly understand every word at the breakneck speed at which the action unfolds on stage, it is advisable to read the lyrics. Only then do you get a real sense of what a masterpiece the singers achieve every evening. Not to get tangled up here is a great art.
The material of this musical is Ur-American, with a slight British influence. You have to get involved with that if you want to understand this piece. Patriotism and colonialism are very important. For this reason alone, it is hard to imagine that “Hamilton” will be shown in a German version on a German stage. Stage Entertainment has also written off its plans in this regard for the first time. As great as “Hamilton” is in the original English version, a version adapted for the German audience does not do justice to Lin-Manuel Miranda's request to put a (musical) memorial to the man on the $ 10 bill - according to the motto "Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?"
Visited performance: 4th October 2019
Direction / Music: Thomas Kail / Lin-Manuel Miranda
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