The Broadway juggernaut “Hamilton” returns to South Florida for a run at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. With music, lyrics and book by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the show has become synonymous with Miranda’s career. From its off-Broadway debut at The Public Theater in 2015, the show moved to the Richard Rogers Theater where the production has currently played since 2015. With rumblings from its off-Broadway run praising the score and the production value giving the show an unprecedented amount of hype for its debut on the Great White Way, it is undeniable how “Hamilton” changed the landscape of musical theatre. By merging contemporary music styles and tapping into the cultural ethos of the early 2010s, “Hamilton” continues to be a tour de force across the world. Tickets are available here, with the #Ham4Ham Lottery available for every performance.
In the nearly three hour show, the story of Alexander Hamilton is told through song, from his involvement in the American Revolutionary War up until his death through a duel with Aaron Burr. Based on the biography of the founding father by Ron Chernow, “Hamilton” tells the tale of the founding of a new nation through a score blending hip hop, R&B and more traditional musical theater. “Hamilton” is a powerful story about the development of the United States told through the people and music of modern America. With a pro-shot of the Original Broadway Cast available on Disney+, the show fits well into the Disney canon, positing itself as a meta-commentary on how history will view the Ten Dollar Founding Father and his role in creating something new.
With three current national tours running simultaneously, the first national tour of the “Angelica” company is performing at the Broward Center. As the titular founding father, Edred Utomi brings a level of poise and soulfulness in his approach to Alexander Hamilton with a more subtle approach that feels reminiscent of the Ted Neely portrayal of Jesus Christ. His foil in the show, Aaron Burr as portrayed by Josh Tower by comparison plays up the character, performing to the back of the house with a larger than life rendition of the complicated man in central conflict to Hamilton. The real standout moment for Tower was the absolute showstopper of “The Room Where It Happens” that evolves into a full-blown villain song that has helped Miranda become a staple of Disney films.
The women around the story of Hamilton are depicted as the Schulyer Sisters, the daughters of Former Senator Philip Schulyer. Alysha Deslorieux as Eliza Hamilton brings a level of studied vulnerability from her time as a standby in the Original Broadway Cast of Hamilton, having eventually taken the role of Peggy after original performer Jasmine Cephas-Jones. As Angelica Schulyer, understudy Cherry Torres played the role of the eldest sister at the performance I saw in a very vocally demanding role. An absolute standout of the trio of sisters is Yana Perrault as Peggy Schulyer and Maria Reynolds. As the youngest sister dies between the acts, Perrault plays Hamilton’s mistress in act 2. Bringing a sultry, sensual approach to the role, Perrault’s smoky vocals evoke an image of Sade.
As the show explores the relationships around Hamilton’s rise to political power, he is surrounded by The Sons of Liberty in the Revolutionary War act of the show, before transforming into the founding fathers and Hamilton’s son, Phillip. Playing Hercules Mulligan/James Madison, Tyler Belo brings an immense amount of energy inspired by the boisterous swagger of 90s hip hop artists like DMX and Eazy-E. David Park performs as Marquis De Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson with a flow and articulation reminiscent of Eminem and Common. One of the more central roles to Hamilton’s life is the role of the soldier John Laurens and in the second act, Alexander’s son Phillip Hamilton played by Jared Howelton, who amplifies the moments of his character to 11. As George Washington, Carvens Lissaint’s commanding figure as America’s first president is one part rap emcee with another part John Legend-esque R&B singer.
With the heavy influence of rap and hip hop on the show, there were moments where the vocals were drowned out by the instrumentation, however the crowd being fans of the show and its legendary soundtrack knew the show by heart. Moments like “The Schulyer Sisters” where Angelica Schulyer sings of compelling Thomas Jefferson to include women in the Declaration of Independence, still got rapturous applause from the audience. Miranda’s adept pen for infectious melody and clever wordplay makes the show instantly memorable from the first piano and drum cadence, all the way to the finale of “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story.”
Set designer David Korins’ deceptively simple set is breathtaking to witness up close, with little details hidden in the wood and brick layout, revealing its versatile nature as a framework of the show. In the first act as the ensemble re-arranges the set, passing around planks of wood, the literal building of the new nation of America occurs as the end of the Revolutionary War signals the foundation of the United States. When combined with Andy Blankenbuehler’s kinetic choreography, the movement of the dancers and set occur with laser cut precision. Even unscripted moments like King George’s crown falling off are played with such intentionality in character that it flows with the rest of the show.
While “In the Heights” gave Lin-Manuel Miranda his first flash of credence as a creative titan in musical theatre, “Hamilton” solidified his own journey as an immigrant trying to make it in the historically white space of Broadway. With his commitment to casting only people of color in primary roles changing how many shows have gone forward in focusing on greater diversity, the multi-hyphenate continues to pay it forward to the new generation of musical theatre. “Hamilton” is a tour de force of rap, dance and musical spectacle, giving its rendition of the founding of America. The show runs until December 11th at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts with tickets available here.