FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - "Hamilton" mania has arrived in South Florida. It's here. The musical that some reviewers, since it premiered on Broadway on July 13, 2013, have gone so far out on a limb to call it "the greatest musical ever written," "theater history changing," and, "an inspiration," is on a national tour and is spending a month here at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.
Truth be told, for all of the well-known figures that have been chronicled in the annals of history, who really ever gave a fig about Alexander Hamilton?
After seeing Lin-Manuel Miranda's rap, hip hop and R&B-laced Tony Award winning musical about the United States' first treasury secretary, you'll care almost as much about Ham as you were made to in school about George Washington.
But, really, with the way Miranda's crafted his boundary breaking, sung through (mostly rapped through, actually) piece, he could have told the story about just about anyone and you'd care.
Plus, he's imbued each character with attributes that make you somehow find yourself siding with them because you see yourself in them.
Maybe you relate to Hamilton, the 18th century workaholic, never give up lead character. A belief that there's power in the pen, in the word. Even after an indiscretion he's been entrapped into, he writes his own missive, admitting to it in order for the truth to trump any "fake news" that might leak out.
The role originated by Miranda, who wrote the book, music and lyrics of "Hamilton" based on Ron Chernow's 2004 historical biography, is played in the tour at the Broward Center by Joseph Morales, who gives his Alexander H. a dogged determination, yes, but offers up a boyish kind of likability. And, the guy can rap.
Or, you could be more like his nemesis, Aaron Burr, Hamilton's rival, and ultimate assassin (yes, that's a spoiler, but it's more than a 200-year-old story, so it's safe to assume you know how it turns out), who feels like no matter what situation he finds himself in with Hamilton he's always going to lose. He freakin' really starts to hate the guy. In his introductory song, he gives Hamilton advice: "Talk less, smile more. Don't let them know what you're against or what you're for."
In stark contrast to Hamilton's outspokenness, Burr believes you should win at whatever you do based on your strategic abilities. Optics, basically. Actor Nik Walker captures the essence.
Jefferson's a flashy guy, calling to mind more of the pop star Prince than a public historical figure.
Maybe it's the purple suit he wears upon making his entrance. Kyle Scatliffe plays double duty as Jefferson and Lafayette.
Then there's the spoiled King George, the sniveling man child who is mad anyone has broken away from him. Jon Patrick Walker can't help but steal every scene he's in.
There's so much happening in this show, it's difficult to know where to put your point of view, so, just go with it. Characters dressed in 18th century garb while telling a historical story in poetry laced rap and hip hop, creates a fiery energy.
There's more contrast to take in as the faces on stage playing the founding fathers are a rainbow of ethnicities. In the Fort Lauderdale national tour cast, for instance, George Washington is Korean-American actor Marcus Choi, who just finished a Broadway revival of "Miss Saigon."
The staging gives the show a constant beating pulse. Constant movement that employs, at times, a revolving stage, and choreography of Andy Blankenbuehler with moves that echo the rap-intense score.
So how to sum it all up? The whole essence of this musical wunderkind is wrapped up best in the second act song "The Room Where It Happens," with Walker as Burr at its center. There's a sort of magic trick where Burr is jumping up and down on a table and all of a sudden the tablecloth is pulled out from under him, like one of those old timey magic tricks. It's one of those now you see it, now you don't moments that makes all of "Hamilton" seem like sleight of hand. Magic in the making.
Maybe it's not the greatest musical ever written, but "Hamilton" is revolutionary.
If you miss it in its Fort Lauderdale run or you've become a "Hamilton" junkie that needs to see it more than once, it'll be at the Arsht next year.
"Hamilton" is at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, at 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale. 8 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday; and 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday through Jan. 20. There will be no performances Dec. 25 and there will be an additional 2 p.m. matinee on Dec. 26.
A lottery offers 40 tickets at $10 each to every performance. To try to score those tickets, get the "Hamilton" app at hamiltonmusical.com/app or visit hamiltonmusical.com/lottery to register. For more information call 954-462-0222 or visit www.browardcenter.org.
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