Review: Has ‘Hamilton’ Aged Well at Seattle’s Paramount Theater?

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When Hamilton: An American Musical opened on Off-Broadway in 2015, it felt overwhelmingly progressive. A refreshing cast of black actors took center stage in the new musical from Lin-Manuel Miranda, one of the brilliant minds behind the Tony Award-winning hit “In the Heights”. Passes through “Hamilton” (the tour stop at the Paramount Theater in Seattle until September 11th) Miranda told the story of Alexander Hamilton’s life during the formative years of the United States through hip-hop and rap to create a musical containing nearly three hours of songs with very little spoken dialogue interspersed.

But even as the musical grew to an almost unprecedented success in pop culture, there was controversy over whether this musical deserved the veneration it has received. As set forth in exceptional detail by Aja Romano a 2020 Vox articleOver the years, people have pointed out that this so-called progressive musical, for example, has zero named characters of color, with the exception of Sally Hemings, who was so sidelined in the narrative that the creators decided to adjust the choreography for Hemings before reopening the show on Broadway in 2021 to show her more respect. Also, the featured characters in “Hamilton” were all real slave owners, and we watch and clap as they shape a country that didn’t think about people of color or women at the time (you know, the people who wear the Broadway hit on stage) earned full rights.

For years, amidst the din of popularity the show has reaped, debate has raged as to whether the show’s problematic aspects are a crucial part of the show’s commentary on that country’s history, or whether “Hamilton” instead serves as a revisionist look at a group of white people Men we call the Founding Fathers.

That’s a lot for a musical I heard dizzy in a Chicago airport in 2015, NPR’s day published a preview for the much-anticipated inclusion of the original Broadway cast. The country has come a long way and been through so much since that day, and as I sat in the premiere night audience for the return of “Hamilton” in Seattle, I had to worry: Now, after reading all the reviews, would I suddenly dislike a show I’ve enjoyed more than any new musical since the turn of the century?

I am relieved to report that my joy has not diminished. Hamilton remains an absolute masterpiece, despite the legitimate objections to the Pulitzer-winning work. Even sitting in a “Hamilton” audience that’s buzzing with anticipation even before the show begins is a rare theatrical experience.

But what I’ve come to love over the years is the way it gives so many actors of color a chance to be presented in a way other musicals rarely (if ever) do. Each actor brings their own unique interpretation to the stage, bringing new nuances to the work of Miranda, director Thomas Kail and choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler.

(Brief disclaimer: The reviewed performance took place on August 4th. The cast will see some changes during their Seattle run, including the introduction of DeAundre’ Woods as Hamilton and Morgan Anita Wood as Eliza Schuyler beginning August 9th.)

What first caught my eye was the enthusiasm and passion of Julius Thomas III, whose earnest portrayal of the titular character in Helpless brought tears to my eyes as I newly realized how meaningful it was to this orphan, Eliza to marry and finally find a family by joining the Schuylers. Then, at the end of “Satisfied,” after Angelica Schuyler (Marja Harmon) revealed the truth behind her feelings for Hamilton, the last thing we see on stage after everyone but Angelica has left are the hands of two dancers in the Background stage that approach each other but never touch. They drift in opposite directions and beautifully illustrate a love between Angelica and Hamilton that will never be.

But perhaps the most striking realization comes from Donald Webber Jr.’s extraordinary performance as Aaron Burr. Webber’s attitude transforms Burr into a man caught in punishment worthy of Greek tragedy. Much like Sisyphus forever pushing a boulder up a hill, Webber’s Burr at times seems almost resentful of his role as a narrator doomed to tell his rival’s story over and over onstage for the rest of the time as penance for the murder of Hamilton.

Now, that doesn’t mean that every decision made in this production is successful, and they’re not backed by questionable sound mixing – an area of ​​theater I don’t often have qualms about, especially at this level. But there are several times in this production where I struggled to understand the lyrics – a strange feeling since, like many in the audience, I have known most of the words of this musical for years.

Still, “Hamilton” is a technical masterclass from direction to design to choreography to storytelling. I wouldn’t say that “Hamilton” has aged badly; Rather, it has aged frustratingly.

“History has you in its eye” has probably never felt more poignant than at a time when human rights are literally up for grabs. Then watching Hamilton talk excitedly about drafting the constitution and building a new nation – while at the same time feeling betrayed by what they’ve built and knowing we’ll likely never have the same carte blanche opportunity becoming who they had and have instead who are perpetually stuck by their 235-year-old rules – is a difficult pill to swallow, even when it comes in such an entertaining package.

But whatever the argument, maybe that’s the point. Maybe we should think about those frustrations between bouts of “Hamilton”-induced tears. At least it was Thomas Jefferson who wrote, “It can be proved that no society can make an everlasting constitution, or even an everlasting law. The earth always belongs to the living generation.” I don’t know if I would know if it weren’t for the conversation that spurred “Hamilton.” Really, I understand the complaints about this show and agree with many of them. But “Hamilton” remains a masterpiece that, no matter how long and how closely you look at it, offers a surprise behind every brushstroke.

“Hamilton”

With book, music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Until September 11; Paramount Theater, 911 Pine St., Seattle; Masks strongly recommended; Tickets start at $59; 800-982-2787, stgpresents.org, ticketmaster.com. A lottery for 40 $10 tickets to each performance can be entered using Hamilton app; Details: st.news/hamiltonlottery.

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