IT'S NOT EASY TO GET “IN THE ROOM” BUT IF YOU CAN THIS AMERICAN MUSICAL STILL IS A HUGE BLOCKBUSTER THAT HAS AN OPENED RUN NOW IN SAN FRANCISCO TIL
THE END OF THE YEAR AND WE HOPE LONGER.
The historic immigrant, an illegitimate orphan from the Caribbean, Alexander Hamilton has been called “the most brilliant, charismatic and dangerous founding father of them all.” HAMILTON has returned to SHN’s Orpheum Theatre for an open ended run, with a power house production fresh from Puerto Rico. I saw the blockbuster when it first landed in the Bay Area in 2017, but I didn’t write about it. I felt that just about every critic praised this show to the point of being redundant. HAMILTON reviews tend to be gushing and over the top, and I can’t disagree with the positive reviews. This show always brings me to tears and I truly admire this musical and the genius behind it; Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Miranda wants all of us to see this event and not just fans who can afford the $200.00 seats. He makes sure 44 seats are open for the Lottery at $10.00 each, A Hamilton for a HAMILTON. I know many of my readers are joining the lottery every day, I actually click on Luckyseat.com as well. HAMILTON is a wonderful almost three hours of American history you can see many times and still discover new moments. Based on Ron Chernow’s biography about the immigrant founding father. HAMILTON was a Tony hit on Broadway when it opened in 2015, selling out at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York City where it continues its sold out run. Sold out productions are also now onstage in London, Chicago and Tampa.
Bringing Miranda’s work another amazing production is the “and Peggy” cast. Directed by Thomas Kail, choreographed by Andy Blankenbuehler and orchestrations by Alex Lacamoire. This creative team makes sure the shot is heard loud and clear. The SHN Orpheum again is the “room” to be in this new second visit to Nor Cal with a much tighter cast with sizzling talent. Once the gifted Donald Webber Jr steps onto the stage as Burr and starts rapping “My Shot” and later “Aaron Burr, Sir” this musical soares. Vmedia Arts interviewed four of the main leads including Webber who says “Lin spent seven years working on this musical” and Brandon Louis Armstrong who plays James Madison still can’t believe he is in this cast. This is a clip from the interviews by Nico Jaochico, Aubri No'eau Kahalekulu and SFArt Academy's Zaya Kolia.
This company opened Thursday February 21 and it exceeds all expectations including the deserved hype and cultural brilliance that is HAMILTON. The cast makes the legacy of this musical stronger and proves even more soul into the radiant narrative crafted by Miranda, director Kail, and musical supervisor Lacamoire. Music director conductor is Lily Ling. Michael Keller and Michael Aarons are music coordinators. The pitch perfect Julius Thomas III took over the role of Alexander Hamilton as this cast arrived from Puerto Rico for two weeks of previews. Thomas is both a marvelous singer/ actor and on point rapper. He says; “It's amazing we are finally open and the now the good work begins.” His on stage performance is played with earnest, an aggressive passion and his chemistry with the cast is authentic and flawless.
Webber Jr shines with charisma as Burr alongside Thomas’ Hamilton, the non stop genius forefather. True to history, the two perform unforgettable frenemies as Burr unravels with overconfidence, and desperation as he sees Hamilton rise in the ranks. As the “villain,” of sorts Webber has numerous show stopping moments with numbers like “The Room Where It Happens,” but it’s his performance of the fate-defining “Wait For It” is superb. Meanwhile, Thomas is skilled with his delivery and has an astounding ability to spit rhymes effortlessly. From leading the company number “My Shot” to the Burr duet “Dear Theodosia” to the heartbreaking “It’s Quiet Uptown” with his wife Eliza, Thomas is a non-stop force.
The ladies of HAMILTON are phenomenally played by Julia K Harriman as Eliza, who injects some realness into her performance. Harriman’s stirring performance of “Burn” is testimony to her bravo performance. She returns to the show after appearing in the first national tour. Sabrina Sloan with her perfect, soulful vocals plays Eliza’s sister Angelica with a strength and independence. Each member of the core company has a chance to shine, some in dual roles. The sharp enthusiastic Simon Longnight, who plays both the suave Marquis de Lafayette and the cocky Thomas Jefferson, raps at a mile-a-minute with frenetic electricity. Show stopping Bandon Louis Armstrong is full throttle and vibrant in his performance of Hercules Mulligan and downplays it with dry humor and swagger as James Madison.
The dapper Rick Negron enjoyably saunters in and out of scenes as the very British King George who sings the pop song “You’ll be Back”. Darilyn Castillo as the pushed aside Schuyler sister Peggy, is sweet, but as Hamilton’s mistress Maria Reynolds, she has a seductively rich alto voice that fills the Orpheum Theatre. The music, precise breath taking choreography, outstanding staging and overall performances of Hamilton are one thing, but how the story is told is another. The narrative itself is about an immigrant who comes to America for a better life after going through an enormous amount of struggle. After working hard, he betters his life and creates the national banking system, the Coast Guard, the New York Post and changes the political landscape. As John Laurens and Philip Hamilton, Ruben J. Carbajal manages to maintain his boyish charm. Carbajal returns to San Francisco to reprise these roles and says the process of creating his characters was really an eye opening experience.
“Immigrants, we get the job done!” a reminder that Hamilton was not white. And that brings us to the casting of people of color in roles of people who were historically white. Isaiah Johnson reprises his role George Washington’ and has a glorious dynamite moment when he belted out “One Last Time”. Johnson says “Lin is an immigrant from Puerto Rico as is Alexander so it is amazing to see him embrace the show in PR after the triumph of Hamilton in America and bring that back home - we did the production in Puerto Rico but that isn’t the point, the goal in PR was to raise the moral and to create funds that will go directly to needy communities. If you can bring a body of work and have it serve and uplift the community that is an immigrant's story that we never hear told. I connect to George Washington through the lense of the immigrants.”
Using actors of color in Hamilton was risky for Miranda but he created a staple for other projects to challenge the Broadway status quo. HAMILTON’S river of politics is important especially with the racial tensions as of late. It is a way to include people of color in a history of American theatre that is still professionally overwhelmingly white. Miranda has begun to change the game with a authenticity that makes HAMILTON the groundbreaking spectacle that it is. Local SF actor Brendon Chan who grew up a few blocks from the Orpheum Stage said he is excited to be home after ten years. He was part of the Puerto Rico cast and used his training in hip hop and breakdancing skills to win over Lin-Miranda and join the cast in January.
Now the question how can you get “Into The Room Where it Happens”? The prices have lowered a bit since its first run at SHN. But the single seat price is still over budget for my readers. Sure it could be regional in two years, and Miranda has released a High School version that we can see at our local School theatre departments as soon as 2020. I remember most theatre fans of RENT and LEMIZ saw their first production at local high schools. The 44 ten dollar tickets for each show seem impossible to score, but it does happen, the show will run here most likely into 2020. Fans from all over the West Coast are arriving to buy tickets since this could be its home for a while. Our friends in Los Angles are already booking seats to spend the weekends here with Alexander and Aaron. Don’t give up on the Lottery - it is easy to enter at Luckyseat.com/hamilton-sanfrancisco/ on your cell phone and online.
This groundbreaking unforgettable American musical lives up to the hype, and subverts the landscape of storytelling as it encourages diversity and inclusion on and off stage. Miranda continues to make this an unforgettable musical that brings the landscape of theatrical storytelling to a new height celebrating a time when politics was about passion, and everyone was an immigrant “History Has Its Eyes On You”.
SHN SAN FRANCISCO Presents
Book and Music by
Directed by Thomas Kail
Open ended Run
SHN Orpheum Theatre
1192 Market St., San Francisco
Running time 2 hours 45 minutes, one intermission
Tickets: 888-746-1799 www.shnsf.com
44 $10 tickets are sold via a lottery system two days before each performance; http://hamiltonmusical.com/lottery
Photo credit: Joan Marcus
JULIUS THOMAS III and DONALD WEBBER JR. Leads the Third National Tour
SUPPORTING CAST; BRANDON ARMSTRONG as Hercules Mulligan/James Madison; RUBÉN J. CARBAJAL as John Laurens/Phillip Schuyler; DARILYN CASTILLO as Peggy Schuyler/Maria Reynolds; JULIA HARRIMAN as Eliza Hamilton; ISAIAH JOHNSON as George Washington; SIMON LONGNIGHT as Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson; RICK NEGRON as King George; and SABRINA SLOAN as Angelica Schuyler. The third national tour includes DARNELL ABRAHAM, CHRISTOPHER CAMPBELL, BRENDON CHAN, REBECCA COVINGTON, TREY CURTIS, HOPE ENDRENYI, CAMDEN GONZALES, JORDANA GROLNICK, MARJA HARMON, JENNIE HARNEY-FLEMING, VINCENT J. HOOPER, KELSEY KRAMER, ALEX LARSON, JENNIFER LOCKE, TIFFANY MELLARD, DASHI MITCHELL, SHERIDAN MOUAWAD, ANTUAN MAGIC RAIMONE, ELIJAH REYES, WILLIE SMITH III, ALEX SWIFT, EMILY TATE, BRION WATSON, KYLE WEILER, ANDREW WOJTAL, MORGAN ANITA WOOD, DEAUNDRE' WOODS,
and CHRISTOPHER HENRY YOUNG.
OPENING NIGHT WITH THE FANS AND CAST
PRESS DAY WITH THE 'AND PEGGY CAST' and Vmedia Arts