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HAMILTON - An American Musical

HAMILTON - An American Musical

(U.S. National Tour)
Book, Music, and Lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda
Inspired by the book "Alexander Hamilton" by Ron Chernow

Dallas Summer Musicals

Directed by Thomas Kail
Choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler
Music Director/Conductor: Patrick Fanning
Scenic Design by David Korins
Costume Design by Paul Tazewell
Lighting Design by Howell Binkley
Sound Design by Nevin Steinberg
Hair and Wig Design by Charles G. LaPointe
Orchestrations by Alex Lacamoire
Arrangements by Alex Lacamoire and Lin-Manuel Miranda
Company Manager: Ryan Garson
Production Stage Manager: Ralph Stan Lee

Alexander Hamilton- Edred Utomi
Eliza Hamilton- Zoe Jensen
Aaron Burr – Josh Tower
Angelica Schuyler- Stephanie Umoh
George Washington – Paul Oakley Stovall
Marquis de Lafayette / Thomas Jefferson- David Park
Hercules Mulligan / James Madison- Tyler Belo
John Laurens / Philip Hamilton- Jon Viktor Corpuz
Peggy Schuyler / Maria Reynolds- Olivia Puckett
King George III- Peter Marshall Smith
Philip Schuyler/James Reynolds/Doctor- Will T. Travis
Samuel Seabury- Patrick Garr
Charles Lee- Robbie Nicholson
George Eacker- Taylor N. Daniels
Ensemble: Natalie kaye Clater, Taylor N. Daniels, John Deveraux, Patrick Garr, Francesca Granell, Lencia Kebede, Paige Krumbach, Krystal Mackie,
Robbie Nicholson, Wesley Ryan, and Will T. Travis

Reviewed Performance: 11/17/2021

Reviewed by John Garcia, Senior Chief Theater Critic/Editor/Founder, THE COLUMN. Member, AMERICAN THEATRE CRITICS ASSOCIATION for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

In April 2019 when I sat in the Music Hall at Dallas Summer Musicals to review the first national tour of Hamilton, how surreal it is to know now that a mere eight months later the world would hear of this virus coined as COVID had exploded in China. It would finally stretch its deadly fingers into Dallas in March 2020. That same month was the brutal shooting of Breonna Taylor. Then in May came the murder of George Floyd. The nation, along with the world, lit a fire of a revolution that enough is enough. Changes were demanded on a variety of racial issues. This included theater.

Flash forward to Wednesday night’s Press night of the new national tour of Hamilton (The Angelica Tour). As the full company soared passionately into the opening number, I noticed and felt a completely different sense of emotion and subtext from the company. This “new” unity continued to explode within such numbers as “My Shot” and “Non-Stop.” You felt from your seat the profound emotions that these cast members were pouring out from within their talents of what mere mortals such as Hamilton and those are around him would do to make this country great. Even at great sacrifice. I began to realize the symbolism and vivid subtext of the last two years had now seared a burning line within the score and book to bind the company with unity and passion. It was both riveting and sincerely touching.

I STRONGLY urge every Artistic Director, Director, and casting associate within the DFW area to attend this very production so that you can get a better understanding and grasp of what non-traditional casting means. I was so immensely impressed and incredibly moved to see a beautiful array of colors and nationalities within the company, and all of them portraying the principal roles-not regulated to the ensemble, which tends to happen so much in the ill-conceived answer that is how to cast non-traditionally. But here is why it works so magically and superbly here in this musical: These individuals HAVE the magnetic talent to show why they are in these roles. It’s as easy as that. At Wednesday night’s performance, when each principal was announced within the context of the lyrics, the audience ROARED in approval. We immediately accepted and believed that this actor is Hamilton, Jefferson, Washington, Burr, etc. That’s the beauty and magic of the theater and the responsibility of the actor. To make us believe and “see” he or she IS that character. TRUST your audience. Today’s audiences are much more open than you give them credit.

The principals of Hamilton are supported by a superstar, extraordinary group of men and women that make up the sizzling ensemble. Throughout the evening my eyes kept diverting to them behind, on the sides, on the upper level , or straight downstage to see what they were doing. I savored each number as they executed Andy Blankenbuehler’s Tony Award winning magnificent choreography. 98% of the time this ensemble was on stage, always in prodigious choreography or movement. Sometimes in soft balletic or opulent ballroom dance, then segue into dazzling vogue, hip-hop, or jazz. I observed their facial expressions, and they constantly stayed in character emotionally, showing their personal opinion of what they thought of these politicians barking their opinions, laws, etc. For some “keep a look out for” moments, see how splendid this ensemble is with their dance technique and acting craft with “Helpless” and “Satisfied.” For excitement there is “Non-Stop.” Finally, to see why they are triple threats, see what they do with “It’s Quiet Uptown” and “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story.”

This ensemble that just blew me away with their unrivaled energy, commitment, and talents is comprised of Natalie kaye Clater, Taylor N. Daniels, John Deveraux, Patrick Garr, Francesca Granell, Lencia Kebede, Paige Krumbach, Krystal Mackie, Robbie Nicholson, Wesley Ryan, and Will T. Travis.

Within this multi-talented company there is a prolific array of outstanding performances.

In featured roles, Jon Viktor Corpuz is smashing in Act I as John Laurens while in Act II becomes magically a teen with overflowing energy as Hamilton’s son Philip. I actually enjoyed his interpretation of the role than the first time I saw the musical. Corpuz gave him a sweet innocence who so dearly loves his mother and adores his father. This gave his later scene work much more emotional impact that was missing in the former production.

Another featured performer was Patrick Garr as Samuel Seabury, the town crier in Act I. This musical has few laugh breaks, and Garr’s haughty toe to toe with Hamilton was a jovial welcome comedic break.

Even though he is already wearing a crown, the winner of the title “Scene Stealer” of the evening belongs to Peter Matthew Smith as King George. Swathed in red satins trimmed in gold embroidery, with a massive, long fur trimmed cape trimmed in jewels, with the finishing touch of a massive, bejeweled crown. You almost expect RuPaul to appear from stage right telling King George to werk the runway! Smith devours his character of the bombastic King, relishing every single morsal. His facial expressions were hilarious, while his vocal attack and patters to the lyrics of his song, “You’ll Be Back” were comedic artistry . That is how you do a comedy number! Dissect each word, find the hidden goodies within them, then fling them out into the audience like Boston cream pies! From his great shuffle walk to his clear vocal tones, Smith was a huge smash Wednesday night.

Within the supporting talented cast there was outstanding work by Paul Oakley Stovall as George Washington, who did a marvelous job with the gospel flavored song, “One Last Time;” Tyler Belo as Hercules Mulligan/James Madison; and Olivia Puckett as one of the Schuyler sisters, Peggy, and then in Act II portrays Maria Reynolds, a woman Hamilton has an affair with.

In a brilliant stroke in today’s ongoing determination to change the view and misconceptions when it comes to non-traditional casting, the role of Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson, is being portrayed by Asian actor David Park, who is spectacular! He gave this character a whole new conception and subtext that I did not see in the previous production. Which is great! Two different approaches still had the same result- top notch performances. Park gave Lafayette a softer French accent, with more of a wild abandonment attitude to his characterization, which I found quite entertaining. For Jefferson, he gives him a sexier, laid-back bro but with a spine of cement who refused to take any of Hamilton’s crap. Park managed the dozen words a second rap phrases with perfect diction, solid street cred swagger, and always stayed in the pocket, even when the syncopation would get a tad complicated, his rap glided on it like it was smooth glass. Park delivered a stunning performance.

Stephanie Umoh portrays Angelica Schuyler, who at a ball hosted by her father, introduces her younger sister Eliza (Zoe Jensen) to Hamilton, where a spark ignites between them in the marvelous ballad “Helpless.” But in a sublime creation of staging and choreography, the entire scene is rewound to show the same scene from Angelica’s point of view with her heartbreaking song, “Satisfied.” We discover she too has deep feelings for Hamilton but must now stuff them deep in her heart as he belongs to her sister now. Umoh is powerful and raw in this number to her characterization and her crystal-clear arch that we the audience can empathize throughout her journey within the score all evening long. Ms. Umoh does a stellar vocal and emotional performance with my personal favorite ballad within the first-rate score, “It’s Quiet Uptown.” It speaks volumes that it would be the older sister who sings this ballad (who also has an affair with Hamilton). She displays such respect and love for these two at their worst moment in their lives. Umoh’s creation of the eldest Schuyler sister results in a meritorious performance.

Aaron Burr is defined as the villain withing the opening number “Alexander Hamilton” where he utters the lyrics, “And me, I'm the damn fool that shot him.” Needless to say, any actor who wears Burr’s costume and character has to carry the burden that the audience will dislike him all evening long. Filling Burr’s shoes in this version of Hamilton is Josh Tower who constructs with his acting craft and tools an intense, pretentious, and imposing man that with his work on stage is mesmerizing and powerful. But what made his characterization even more fascinating was his ability to make sure to give Burr levels and not let him be a bellowing peacock all evening long. He gave him levels of softness, internal moments of self-reflection, insecurity, fear, and doubt. His facial expressions were organic and honest that fit perfectly within the moment. Two excellent musical numbers that display Tower’s flawless work in fleshing out Burr’s arch to make him out more than just a murderer. In "Dear Theodosia" he sings of what he will do to make this new world much better for his child, while in Act II the song “Your Obedient Servant” he pleads for Hamilton’s support in his run for President, and we know how that goes. Tower oozes out dark seething anger from this stab in the back action from his colleague. Tower’s work is electrifying.

The second the audience sees Zoe Jensen who portrays Eliza Hamilton appear on stage and announces her name, we clearly can see why his heart fell in love with her so fast. Ms. Jensen is a stunning looking woman that requires no stage lighting to illuminate her, she has mega wattage stage presence that does that on its own. Jensen holds her own on a stage full of men with steel iron acting craft and an exquisite soprano voice that wafts through the music hall beautifully. Her scenes with Edred Utomi (Alexander Hamilton) are some of the best duet/duo singing and acting moments of the entire evening. They had compelling, unbreakable stage presence matched with lush, romantic chemistry that ebbs from beginning to end. But when their marriage turns tragic and dark in Act II Jensen is compelling and dynamic, she reaches deep within Eliza’s heart of pain, betrayal, loss, and anger- and allows those furious “tigers” of emotion to be released from deep within her soul and heart. Jensen’s gorgeous Soprano voice does an extraordinary job with the ballad, “That Would Be Enough.” If you listen carefully to the melody, composer Lin Manuel Miranda slightly adjusted the tempos within the composition of this song, but you can make it out as the same melody of the ballad “It’s Quiet Uptown.” Thus, Eliza is hauntingly giving us the audience foreshadowing of her family’s future. Then in Act II Jensen has the gut-wrenching song, “Burn,” which she turns into a breathtaking, majestic, major highlight of the evening. In this ballad Elia is made aware of the affair that Hamilton had, she feels so betrayed, she burns all the love letters her husband wrote to her. Jenson tears deep wounds in your heart as she sings this superbly composed song. She is resplendent as Eliza in a performance that you should not miss.

The Broadway, Chicago, and First National tour companies all had the role of Alexander Hamilton played by a Hispanic actor. For this current National tour, Hamilton is portrayed by an African American actor, Edred Utomi. Mr. Utomi has a distinguished, exciting stage presence that gleams and shimmers, forcing the audience to never take their eyes off of him. His approach to conceive and devise Hamilton to life is remarkable. He gives Alexander this unique subtext of a never-ending ticking clock under his rib cage constantly reminding him he has only a limited time on earth to accomplish so much. Utomi’s Alexander had brief moments of humanity, which would be open up for his wife, child, and maybe his mistress, his sister-in-law Angelica. The entire company focuses on Hamilton and his life journey, so Utomi makes sure to connect with each cast member, regardless if they have dialogue or not. There was outstanding chemistry throughout the musical between Utomi and the company in scene after scene. Utomi’s rap technique was the best of the evening. His diction was crisp, immaculate, and pellucid clear. His razor-sharp attention to the beats and rhythm of the music and then for him to throw his rap into the mix and not once fall out of the pocket was immensely impressive. These vocal talents provided some of the finest musical gems from the sparkling score thanks to his craft, from “My Shot” to the fierce, urban flavored “Cabinet Battle” duets. Utomi also unveils to the audience Hamilton’s softer side, his love for Eliza and his son Philip. The lush, romantic chemistry that he has with Zoe Jensen (Eliza) ebbs past the proscenium and into the audience. Their second act work in book, lyric, and music is raw dramatic perfection. Utomi’s work in such a complex role that requires so much from an actor shows what a superlative and brilliant actor he is to manage and carry this herculean task with resounding success.

In separate interviews with The New York Times and The Hollywood Reporter, Lin Manuel Miranda explained his reasoning and purpose in color-blind casting (i.e., non-traditional casting). He stated that the portrayal of Hamilton, Jefferson, Washington, and other white historical figures by black, Latino and Asian actors should not require any substantial suspension of disbelief by audience members. "Our cast looks like America looks now, and that's certainly intentional". "It's a way of pulling you into the story and allowing you to leave whatever cultural baggage you have about the founding fathers at the door." In a separate interview he said, "We're telling the story of old, dead white men but we're using actors of color, and that makes the story more immediate and more accessible to a contemporary audience."

Theater is an art that comes with no rules or guidelines, no walls. It is an art telling their audiences to bring their imagination, and an open heart. This company of Hamilton did and look at what they accomplished!