Hamilton in Chicago

I was in Chicago this weekend for SMOFcon (currently between planes in Copenhagen), and @YesTHATColette managed to get tickets for the matinée performance of Hamilton yesterday. As you may remember, I’ve been addicted to this show since January, so I was really glad to be able to go even though the cast is of course different to the original Broadway line-up.

In general, I loved the stage show, of course. The soundtrack cannot capture any of the visuals, let alone the superb choreography – perhaps the best bit is the rewinding of time between “Helpless” and “Satisfied”, but there are many wonderful moments of using human bodies to fill the performance space. The audience is explicitly invited to participate twice, at the end of King George’s first song (“All together now!”) and at the beginning of the first Cabinet Battle, when George Washington invites us to cheer the contest. Some other visuals that are hinted at in the lyrics, but enhanced on stage – Peggy Schuyler irritated with her sisters dragging her out for subversive activities; the coughing and quieter Madison as Jefferson’s right-hand man in every scene they do together; Burr’s isolation in “The Room Where It Happens”.

Of the actual performers, Hamilton and Angelica were being played by understudies, and while Angelica was still very good (Emmy Raver-Lampman also understudied the part on Broadway) I felt Joseph Morales was a bit low-key in the lead role – and this maybe affected Ari Afsar as Eliza also, as if she was more used to playing opposite the usual leading man; the father-son chemistry between Morales’ Hamilton and Jonathan Kirkland’s Washington was much stronger than the romantic spark between the leading couple. Kirkland’s mike seemed to have been set too loud as well.

But those are my only complaints. The two outright scene-stealers were Alexander Gemignani as King George and Chris De’Sean Lee as Lafayette/Jefferson – both utterly captivating and hilarious. Gemignani (who did the pre-show “turn off your phones” announcement in character, and then asked for donations to BCEFA at the curtain call) at 37 already has a substantial career behind him; Lee is only 22 and clearly has a long career ahead of him.

The other lead role to note was Joshua Henry’s Aaron Burr. He has a striking physical resemblance to Carl Anderson’s Judas Iscariot in the 1973 film of “Jesus Christ Superstar”, and I felt I recognised some elements of his performance directly borrowed from a film made over a decade before he was born. (I see that his first professional acting role was as Judas in Godspell.) Henry seemed to me to start a little tense but really got into it in the second half. I’ve mentioned “The Room Where It Happens” already as the key moment of the second half, where Burr is physically excluded from the Jefferson/Madison/Hamilton dinner; in “The Election of 1800”, Jefferson is backed up by Madison in his corner, and Burr on his own in the other corner; Hamilton declares his choice from the balcony, to Burr’s consternation. And during the actual duel scene, both Burr and Hamilton become magnetic.

(Of the non-speaking parts, my eye was caught by Amber Arbolino, one of the dancers who seemed to be giving well over 100% to the show.)

Anyway, those are my brief impressions and I wish I had been taking systematic notes. Can’t wait until London tickets go on sale at the end of next month…