Winding lines spewed out of the Fox Theatre as the opening night rush to “Hamilton” began. After a hit arrival and run on Broadway back in 2016, the Hamil”boom” has continued, and audiences keep thirsting for more. The musical merges two unexpected things: history and rap, which puts a modern spin on the show, paving the way for it to emphasize the beauty of diversity, the necessity of immigration, and the strength of the nation united as one.
Thousands of eager Atlanta “Hamilfans” awaited as the national tour presented 18 performances here (“Hamilton’s” Atlanta run ended Sunday night but will return to the city for the 2019-2020 theater season).
Trust me, the wait was worth it. Having seen the NYC show with the original cast a few years back, I can say that the Atlanta Hamilton was just as awe-inspiring as the Richard Rodgers Theatre production. Even though the musical lacked the intimate and homely vibe of being performed in NYC, Atlantans were able to relate to the culture of the show due to the urban environment of the city.
Although it was difficult to switch gears from the voices of Lin-Manuel Miranda and Leslie Odom Jr., the national tour cast is truly impressive. Austin Scott (Hamilton) brings a refreshing new voice to the role. His performance during “Hurricane,” a pivotal moment in Hamilton’s life that marks the beginning of his downfall, filled me with goosebumps. His angelic and powerful voice commands the song’s high notes and expresses the pain and tribulations brought about while growing up in an impoverished area, unsure of what the future will bring.
Nicholas Christopher, in the role of Aaron Burr, plays the role of Hamilton’s foil a little differently than Odom. Christopher’s portrayal was more insecure and childlike, which seemed to justify his decision to shoot Hamilton in the end due to his immature and prideful nature. Even though Christopher’s performance as Burr was commendable, his voice did not match up. His high-pitched and nasally voice paired perfectly with his acting choice for the role. However, it did not carry well in the Fox Theatre and made Burr’s powerful songs such as “Wait for it” and “Room Where it Happens” lose their vigor and breathtaking effect. I was left feeling underwhelmed.
After “One Last Time,” a song that marks the end of George Washington’s presidency, Carvens Lissaint left my heart pounding and chills running down my spine. Even though George Washington is a relatively static character throughout the show, Lissaint brought passion, heart, and soul to his performance, which made Washington a stand-out character, essential to Hamilton’s path as a leader of the country.
Hamilton’s journey leaves one’s thoughts whirling, so it was fitting that the stage was designed around a rotating platform, representing traveling to the past, life’s ups and downs, Hamilton’s churning and inventive mind, and the constant “confusing, confounding” decisions Hamilton faces. The circular platform at center stage embodied unity — whether black, white, Hispanic, rich, poor, immigrant, patriot or loyalist, all should be welcome and all are one in America of 1776 and in America today.
Andy Blankenbuehler reflected this idea in the musical’s choreography as well. The ensemble faced in every direction of the stage for all numbers. Watching the hip-hop moves presented to all sides of the set really resonated with me. It further illustrates how our nation is filled with people who think independently and believe different things, yet they are all part of the same stage, same show and the same nation. It is these hidden messages in “Hamilton” which make it the musical of our generation.
When “Hamilton” returns for Atlanta’s 2019-2020 theater season, don’t throw away your shot to see “Hamilton.” It is a show for all ages, and it is one that everyone should experience in their lifetime. It is truly a rebellious piece, characteristic of the “young, scrappy, and hungry” youth of America, yearning for change, inclusivity and a unified nation.
Five VOX journalists got to see “Hamilton” on press night thanks to our partnership with Broadway in Atlanta and Most Valuable Kids-Atlanta, providing opportunities for local youth to experience arts and culture.