Second Impressions: Hamilton at the Public

After seeing Hamilton for a second time on Friday, January 23, 2015, a few additional aspects of the show stood out to me:

  • The choreography: Watching the show for a second time allowed me to take in more of the exuberant, dynamic choreography.  The amount of movement on stage and the use of all aspects of the set made the Newman Theater seem large enough to set the stage for the American Revolution and the battles over the American founding.  Quite an accomplishment for choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler, who also did the choreography for In the Heights and Bring It On.  Blankenbuehler gave a brief interview published by Dance Magazine this month that provides some additional insight into his process for developing the show’s choreography
  • The ensemble was extremely talented and their performances contributed significantly to the dynamism of the performance.  Everyone moved seamlessly, enabling the show to transition rapidly through three decades of American history.  The performers in the ensemble included: Carleigh Bettiol, Ariana Debose, Sydney James Harcourt, Sasha Hutchings, Thayne Jasperson, Jon Rua, Seth Stewart, Betsy Struxness, and Ephraim Sykes.
  • Burr as the narrator- Odom’s Burr was a complex, morally ambiguous, and undeniably charismatic narrator.  The show furthered his role as narrator by inserting him into various events in Hamilton’s life, Forrest Gump style (i.e. the Laurens-Lee duel, Hamilton’s wedding, the Reynolds Affair).  Odom did an incredible job of humanizing Burr and expressing his inner conflicts.
  • Angelica Hamilton- Renee Elise Goldsberry (who also played the recurring role of ASA Geneva Pine on the CBS show Good Wife) brought her great voice and stage presence to several songs.  The deep friendship and affection between Hamilton and his sister-in-law has long been a subject of historical speculation, and although the show took some liberties with history to bolster artistic effect (Angelica Schuyler eloped with John Church in 1777, three years before Alexander Hamilton met both sisters), I thought Angelica’s character worked very well and I enjoyed Goldsberry’s moving performance Friday night.
  • I thoroughly enjoyed the score and all of the songs and am already excited for the album.  Some of my absolute favorites (without giving anything away) were:
    • “Alexander Hamilton”- way to start off with a bang.  Loved this opening.
    • “You’ll Be Back”- Brian d’Arcy James had insane chemistry with the crowd as the hilarious yet manically sinister King George
    • “In the Room Where it Happens”- Leslie Odom Jr.’s rendition of the song during the second act was incredibly catchy and also made for some great character development.  This is one I’ll be humming all the way back to Los Angeles.
    • “The Reynolds Pamphlet”- Daveed Diggs’ cocky exuberance made this song.
    • “It’s Quiet Uptown”- incredibly moving. #allofthefeels
    • “Finale”- Phillipa Soo owned this. #welloftears

First Impressions: Hamilton at the Public

On Wednesday, January 21, I had the opportunity to watch the second showing of Hamilton at the Public Theater.   Alternately hilarious and tragic, the show took a rapt audience on an emotional roller coaster ride through Hamilton’s life.  While the show took some artistic liberties with Hamilton’s story, I was impressed by how much history was squeezed into the production.  The show clocked in at just under three hours, and I was on the edge of my seat the whole time.

The multi-talented cast had great chemistry.  Every cast member truly embraced his or her role.  As Hamilton’s crew of friends before and during the Revolution, Daveed Diggs (Marquis de Lafayette), Anthony Ramos (John Laurens), and Okierete Onadowan (Hercules Mulligan) captured the upstart ambitions of young revolutionaries on the precipice and in the throes of war.  Brian D’Arcy James (who originated the role of Shrek on Broadway) made a hysterical King George and the audience was in stitches every time he came on stage.  Phillipa Soo was incredibly moving as Eliza Hamilton, and brought me to tears with some of her numbers towards the end of the play.  Leslie Odom Jr. played Aaron Burr with a captivating combination of moral ambiguity, insecurity, ruthlessness, and charisma.  Lin-Manuel Miranda, who was incredibly battling a sinus infection during the performance, truly inhabited the role of Hamilton and brought his sense of ambition.  Renee Elise Goldsberry brought an elegant pathos to the role of  Angelica Schuyler, and her voice was amazing.  In a brief, but memorable role as Maria Reynolds, Jasmine Cephas Jones (who also played Peggy Schuyler), brought to life Hamilton’s femme fatale.  Christopher Jackson played George Washington as a reluctant but committed leader, and the dynamic between Jackson and Miranda was fascinating.  Daveed Diggs brought a hilariously cocky energy to his role as Thomas Jefferson, and the rap battles between Miranda and Diggs (MC’d by Jackson’s George Washington) over key issues of the day were both enlightening and uproarious.

The orchestra was off-stage, but the music was breathtaking and set the pace of the alternating emotions of the show (cannot wait to buy the soundtrack).  The set was elaborate, and the venue at the Public Theater was intimate.  The crowd rose to its feet after the three hour production, and the emotion exuding from both the cast and audience was palpable.

Props to the entire cast and crew for creating theater magic!  I am torn between wanting everyone in America to see this play immediately and wanting to preserve the magic of this cast, in this venue, in Hamilton’s city.  I’m already excited to see the January 23rd Friday performance before heading back to Los Angeles.

If you get a chance to see Hamilton during its run at the Public Theater, post your impressions in the comment section below!

Another Extension for Hamilton at the Public!

Congratulations to Hamilton at the Public Theater for extending its run to April 5.  The musical starts next Tuesday, January 20!  I will be attending the performances on January 21 and 23!  Lin-Manuel Miranda did a brief preview of one of the songs in the musical at the Museum of American Finance Gala on January 13, 2015, and it was excellent!  Can’t wait to see the show next week.

Hamilton

Save the Date: Happy Birthday Hamilton 2015 Events!

The Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society is putting on its annual program of Hamilton events in New York City on January 9-11, 2015.  The flyer with a description of all the events is available here.  The schedule of events is citywide and open to the public.  All of the programs are extremely interesting and offer some new perspectives into Hamilton’s life.

I will be presenting two talks on January 9 and 10 (descriptions below).  The first talk will be at the Museum of American Finance about Hamilton’s experience as a young lawyer fighting discriminatory laws directed at the Tories of New York.  The second talk will be at Morris-Jumel Mansion in Harlem and discuss the high-profile criminal trial for which Hamilton and Burr teamed up to defend accused murderer Levi Weeks.

A ‘Bar Fight’ That Changed America: Alexander Hamilton, the Trespass Act, and the Case of Rutgers v. Waddington

When: Friday, Jan. 9th 2015 at 2-3:30pm
Where: Museum of American Finance, 48 Wall St, New York, NY

Pooja Nair, Esq. speaks on Hamilton’s role in opposing the Trespass Acts and upholding the rule of law in New York City and the United States. As a newly-minted lawyer after the Revolutionary War, Hamilton stepped into a firestorm of controversy by defending a Tory merchant in his firsthigh profile case. This case, Rutgers v. Waddington, took on the Trespass Act, whichhad been enacted at the end of the Revolution to strip Tories of their property. The results of the trial shapedthe development of New York City and was foundational tothe development of key principles of the American legal system.The talk is one hour, followed by a Q&A session. 

The Manhattan Well Murder

When: Saturday, Jan. 10th 2015 at 3-4:30pm
Where:Morris-Jumel Mansion, 65Jumel Terrace, New York, NY

Pooja Nair, Esq. will speak about the Manhattan Well murder trial, the first fully recorded murder trial in the United States. Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton teamed up for this dramatic case in 1800 for the defense of Levi Weeks. Weeks was accused of the murder of a young woman whose body was found in the bottom of a well built by Aaron Burr’s Manhattan Company. Come learn about this mysterious murder and the intense trial Burr and Hamilton worked together on four years before they met on the dueling grounds.

The talk is one hour, followed by a Q&A session.

Aaron Burr's strategim at the Weeks [i.e. Levi Weeks] trial

Final Cast of Hamilton at the Public Theater!

Broadway World reported last week that the full cast of Hamilton has now been announced.  Hamilton will be playing at the Public Theater from January 20-March 22.  Below is a brief look at the cast.  The actors come from a variety of different backgrounds, including Broadway, television, and film.

Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton

Leslie Odom Jr. as Aaron Burr

Phillipa Soo as Eliza Hamilton

Daveed Diggs as Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette

Christopher Jackson as George Washington

Brian d’Arcy James as King George

Renee Elise Goldsberry as Angelica Schuyler

Anthony Ramos as John Laurens and Philip Hamilton

Jasmine Cephas Jones as Maria Reynolds and Peggy Schuyler

Okierete Onadowan as Hercules Mulligan and James Madison

The Public Theater’s description of the show states:

From the creative team behind the Tony Award-winning In The Heights comes a wildly inventive new musical about the scrappy young immigrant who forever changed America: Alexander Hamilton. Tony and Grammy Award winner Lin-Manuel Miranda wields his pen and takes the stage as the unlikely founding father determined to make his mark on a new nation as hungry and ambitious as he is.

From bastard orphan to Washington’s right hand man, rebel to war hero, loving husband caught in the country’s first sex scandal to Treasury head who made an untrusting world believe in the American economy, HAMILTON is an exploration of a political mastermind. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Eliza Hamilton, and lifelong Hamilton friend and foe, Aaron Burr, all attend this revolutionary tale of America’s fiery past told through the sounds of the ever-changing nation we’ve become.

Tony Award nominee Thomas Kail directs this new musical about taking your shot, speaking your mind, and turning the world upside down. HAMILTON is produced with the support of Jeffrey Seller, Sander Jacobs, and Jill Furman.

The New York Times noted that “the musical has been developed with support from commercial producers; if all goes well at the nonprofit Public, it is likely to transfer to Broadway during the 2015-16 theater season.”

New Hamilton Play: At Liberty Hall

This fall, Premiere Stages at Kean University will be producing a new play about Alexander Hamilton.

The flyer for the production describes the show as follows:

At Liberty Hall follows two high school students who’ve just moved to New Jersey: Cristian Rosaria, a funny but unfocused teenager from Queens, by way of the Dominican Republic; and Alexander Hamilton, 16, the subject of Cristian’s 10th grade history project.  This time-bending story finds common threads of humor, honor, and awkwardness as told through the experiences of a someday-Founding Father and a kid looking for a way out of the projects.

The show will run from October 16-19 and is part of the exciting Four Centuries in a Weekend events in Union County, New Jersey.  Tickets are available here for $15.

Liberty Hall Museum, which is partnering with Kean University to produce this play as part of the Liberty Live project, recently hosted an excellent CelebrateHAMILTON 2014 event, which I attended.  Liberty Hall was the home of William Livingston, the first governor of New Jersey.  Hamilton was well-acquainted with the Livingston family.  Livingston’s son, Henry Brockholst Livingston, was Hamilton’s classmate at King’s College, and would later be one of his close contemporaries at the New York bar.  Livingston’s eldest daughter, Susan, was married to John Jay in 1774.

Hamilton Graveside Remembrance at Trinity Church (July 14, 2014)

On July 14, 2014, the AHA Society and Trinity Church, hosted a graveside remembrance in honor of the 210th anniversary of Hamilton’s death.  The event flyer states:

July 14th, 210 years ago, was the day of Alexander Hamilton’s funeral, in which a funeral procession led from his brother-in-law John B. Church’s home to Trinity Church, where he was buried. His funeral was one of the most attended funerals in New York City history.

Come join together in remembering Alexander Hamilton on the anniversary of his funeral in the Trinity Churchyard. This special program will include participation by the US Coast Guard, Sector New York, which was founded by Alexander Hamilton, and remarks by Peter Dodge, the President of the New York State Society of the Cincinnati. Mr. Dodge will speak on the history of the Society of the Cincinnati (of which Alexander Hamilton was a member and second President-General), plus the role the Society played in coordinating and leading the 1804 funeral procession for Alexander Hamilton.

The below video, created by Arthur Piccolo, a long-time Hamilton supporter and Chairman of the Bowling Green Association, is a great documentation of the events.

The Trinity Church webcast, containing the full talk by Dr. Joanne Freeman on Alexander Hamilton: Man of Honor is available here.  Dr. Freeman’s talk focused on the importance that Hamilton placed on honor throughout his life, from his childhood in the West Indies, to his conduct during the Revolution, and to the decisions that led to the duel with Aaron Burr.  Freeman has a very interesting perspective on Hamilton and is an engaging speaker, so I encourage you to listen to the whole lecture if you have an hour to spare.

Celebrate Hamilton Weekend 2014: Hamilton Grange Speech

This weekend, the Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society, in partnership with various organizations in New Jersey and New York City, is putting on a series of events honoring the 210th anniversary of Hamilton’s death.

The events are taking place in various parts of New Jersey and Manhattan and cover a wide variety of Hamilton topics.  For more information on the events, go to the virtual flyer.

I will be speaking on Hamilton’s role in Rutgers v. Waddington, a case that laid the foundations for judicial review, changed the course of anti-Tory legislation in New York after the Revolution, and preserved the fragile Treaty of Paris of 1783.  My talk is entitled “A Bar Fight” that Changed America: Alexander Hamilton, the Trespass Act, and the Case of Rutgers v. Waddington.  It will take place this Saturday, July 12, at 10:30 a.m. at Hamilton Grange National Memorial (414 W. 141st Street).  Come check it out if you are in the city!  All the events should be informative and entertaining.

Buzz Building for Miranda’s “Hamilton!”

Following its workshop debut last month, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton is receiving major budge in advance of its debut in New York’s Public Theater this winter.

Deadline reports:

With producers hollering huzzahs after the last week’s final workshop presentations of Lin-Manual Miranda‘s Hamilton, the race for next year’s Tony best musical is underway three weeks before this year’s CBS Tonycast. “This was the best workshop of any musical I’ve ever attended,” one mega producer  – who’s not producing the show — told me after seeing Friday’s final outing of the monthlong development and buzz-inciting gig. The Broadway-bound musical formerly known as The Hamilton Mixtape, by the prodigiously talented  Miranda (best known for the four-Tony winning 2008 In The Heights) — will kick off next January at the nonprofit Public Theater. But with enhancement funds from three top Broadway producers — Jeffrey Seller (Rent), Roy Furman (current Tony nominees After Midnight and Mothers and Sons, among many others) and Sander Jacobs (In The Heights) — you can count on a fast Broadway transfer.

Very exciting stuff!  Can’t wait for Hamilton’s debut at the Public Theater (January 20-February 22, 2015)!

The Public Theater’s description states:

From the groundbreaking team behind the Tony Award-winning musical In The Heights comes a wildly inventive new show about the life, death and rhymes of a scrappy young immigrant who forever changed America: Alexander Hamilton. Tony and Grammy Award winner Lin-Manuel Miranda takes the stage as the unlikely founding father determined to make his mark on the new nation as hungry and ambitious as he is. From bastard orphan to Washington’s right hand man, rebel to war hero, a loving husband caught in the country’s first sex scandal, the Treasury head who made an untrusting world believe in the American economy, HAMILTON is an astonishing musical exploration of a political mastermind who was both sinner and saint. George Washington, Eliza Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson and Hamilton’s lifelong friend/foil Aaron Burr all make their mark in this uproarious, heart-filled new musical. Tony Award nominee Thomas Kail directs Lin-Manuel Miranda‘s breathtaking array of music in this bold new show about taking your shot, speaking your mind and turning the world upside down. HAMILTON is produced with the support of Jeffrey Seller, Sander Jacobs, and Jill Furman. 

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s HAMILTON World Premiere Winter 2015

Exciting news: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton will have it’s world premiere next winter at the Public Theater!  The New York Times reports that the production will be directed by Thomas Kail, who collaborated with Miranda on In The Heights and was nominated for a Tony.  Additionally, commercial producers Jeffrey Seller, Sander Jacobs, and Jill Furman, will be financially supporting the production.  Hamilton will begin performances on Tuesday, January 20, 2015 and run through Sunday, February 22, 2015.

The Public Theater’s press release states:

“HAMILTON, written by the Tony and Grammy Award-winning composer and lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda, will have its world premiere next January as part of The Public’s 2014-15 season at Astor Place. Directed by his In The Heights collaborator Thomas Kail, this new musical features Miranda playing Alexander Hamilton, one of our country’s Founding Fathers and the first Secretary of the Treasury. ”
“Lin-Manuel Miranda is a marvel, but nothing could have prepared us for the astonishing achievement of  Hamilton,” said Artistic Director Oskar Eustis. “Alexander Hamilton was born in the West Indies, the only Founding Father who was an immigrant, and Lin’s genius is to tell the story of the birth of the United States as an immigrant’s story. The energy, the passion, joy, tragedy, and raw intelligence of this show are stunning.”
HAMILTON, featuring a cast of historical figures that includes George Washington, Aaron Burr, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson,  Miranda performed a song from HAMILTON for President Obama and the First Family at the White House in 2009 during its first-ever White House Evening of Poetry & Spoken Word. Watch it here http://1.usa.gov/1bGCQbh. Inspired by the book Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, HAMILTON is produced with the support of Jeffrey Seller, Sander Jacobs, and Jill Furman

The Public Theater website states:

The Public Theater is the only theater in New York that produces Shakespeare, the classics, musicals, contemporary and experimental pieces in equal measure. The Public continues the work of its visionary founder, Joe Papp, by acting as an advocate for the theater as an essential cultural force, and leading and framing dialogue on some of the most important issues of our day.  Creating theater for one of the largest and most diverse audience bases in New York City for nearly 60 years, today the company engages audiences in a variety of venues—including its landmark downtown home at Astor Place, which houses five theaters and Joe’s Pub; the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, home to its beloved, free Shakespeare in the Park; and the Mobile Unit, which tours Shakespearean productions for underserved audiences throughout New York City’s five boroughs. The Public’s wide range of programming includes Free Shakespeare in the Park, the bedrock of the company’s dedication to making theater accessible to all, new and experimental stagings at The Public at Astor Place, and a range of artist and audience development initiatives including its Public Forum series, which brings together theater artists and professionals from a variety of disciplines for discussions that shed light on social issues explored in Public productions.