photo by Joan Marcus
The first time I saw Hamilton, I was newly pregnant. It was March in New York City and there was some sort of ice/rain/snow mix going on. I spent a lot of money to see the show that night and tried my best to enjoy every minute of it, knowing I probably wouldn’t have the opportunity again. The show was great, the cast was great. But overall, I was just cold and tired…and I felt like I threw away my shot (hey- I had to sneak that in this review somewhere).
The second time I saw Hamilton was just a few months ago in Baltimore. By then I had listened to the cast recording multiple times, more friends were starting to see the show and love it and have conversations about it. By the time I sat down at the theatre, I was incredibly grateful to have a second chance. This time, I paid attention to the songs, to the well-written (and often fast!) lyrics, to the meanings of the words and the historic details each number covered. So much to take in. The story and the performances stuck with me. I was blown away.
But last Wednesday night, on opening night in Philly, I really fell in love with Hamilton. I was close to being head over heels for the show before, but now I’m all in. The best part- I could come home and gush over the show here on RowHome‘s blog. More importantly, I was excited to bring a friend who wanted to see it for a long time and never had the chance (fun fact- she was supposed to see it in Baltimore instead of me, but ended up giving birth that week). I was thrilled to see a packed audience cheering, laughing, crying and being a part of something that they patiently waited for to finally arrive in Philly.
Do I need to tell you what the show is about? Probably not. So I’ll keep it simple. Founding Father Alexander Hamilton is an immigrant from the West Indies. He came to what is now the United States, became George Washington’s right-hand man during the Revolutionary War and was the nation’s first Treasury Secretary. That’s not all. Hamilton developed a lot for the young nation. Everything unfolds in Hamilton.
Writer, composer, lyricist, etc. Lin-Manuel Miranda picked up Hamilton’s biography, decided the story of his life would be a great musical (using hip-hop, rap, R&B styles blended with traditional show tune sounds), and the rest is…actual history. Hamilton received a record-setting 16 Tony nominations, with 11 wins including Best Musical. It’s the hottest ticket in any town that has a tour stop. Including here. Hamilton is in Philadelphia until November 17th at the Forrest Theatre.
Edred Utomi, who plays Alexander Hamilton, is amazing. I’m no musical connoisseur, but I’ve seen enough shows to know that the role of Hamilton must be one of the hardest to perform in the musical theatre world. Seeing the show earlier this summer, my friend looked at me at the end of the first act and said “I’m exhausted just watching them perform all of the songs! How do they do it each night?!” Between my visit to Hamilton in New York and obsessing over YouTube clips of the show, I am confident in saying that Utomi nails the role originated by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Philadelphia should be honored to have him as our Hamilton.
I couldn’t stop thinking about Hannah Cruz’s performance as Eliza after I saw the show in Baltimore. And anyone I spoke to since then who was planning on seeing the Angelica Cast of Hamilton knew how fantastic she was…because I told them so. Eliza-driven numbers like “Helpless” and “Burn” have not left my head since I saw the show in June. Cruz is incredible as Eliza. Just incredible. I could watch her perform these songs a million more times.
The rest of the cast is also phenomenal. Josh Tower as Aaron Burr and Paul Oakley Stovall as George Washington truly stand out, but I can’t think of any cast member who didn’t give this show their all. My seat on Wednesday night was perfect, far enough back to see everything unfold, but close enough to really see the passion these cast members have for their characters. The emotions are real, every night- I could see the tears in Hannah Cruz’s eyes. I saw this same cast two months ago and they are just as strong and fresh and believable as they were a few days ago. Being in this show is not for the weak.
If you can see Hamilton while it’s here in Philadelphia, please do. Be in the room where it happens (come on, I had to). Don’t take your eyes off the stage, off the performers. After seeing the show three times, you would think it would be easy to put my thoughts on paper. It’s not. There’s a lot to process in this show. But simply enough, it’s an incredible piece of work. Very well done. Very unique. There won’t ever be anything to compare to Hamilton in musical theatre’s future. How lucky are we that Hamilton is in Philadelphia? Or to even have this show exist. Who knew that a story about Alexander Hamilton and the American Revolution would work so brilliantly as a musical; a musical that features rap and hip-hop? Thank you, Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Tickets are still available on the Kimmel Center’s website (through Telecharge). Check for performances taking place after September 24th for the best availability. You can also try the Hamilton ticket lottery. Just download the Hamilton app, enter for the next upcoming show, and cross your fingers. If you don’t win, try again the next day. The lottery tickets are $10 each and you can request two. Details can be found here, and you can find the app on your phone’s app store. Do everything you can- within reason (no duels across the river in New Jersey, please)- to get yourself to Hamilton. I’ll be crossing my fingers for you, too…if you promise to bring me as your plus one.