Review of the Hamiltour in LA

After watching the original cast at the Public and on Broadway several times, I got to experience the Hamilton tour in Los Angeles at the Pantages Theater during previews and again at the September 10, 2017 show.  I’m going one more time in December, but wanted to share my thoughts on the LA production.

The touring production went all out with the set design and costumes.  The set design was elaborate, perfectly complementing the choreography.  The ensemble was fantastic both times I saw the show, and they utilized the spacing of the stage in such a cool way.

You have to appreciate costume designer Paul Tazewell’s eye for detail, especially with how the costumes subtly change over time to show the trends of the decade involved.

I really enjoyed watching the touring cast put their own spin on the show.  Each actor added their own unique flourishes to the characters and songs.  Julia Harriman, who was substituting for Eliza on September 10th really captured the spirit of Eliza Hamilton and has an amazing voice.  Emmy Raver-Lampman, who was always an eye-catching dancer in the ensemble of the original Broadway cast, made a fantastic Angelica.  The entire cast was able to make the material their own rather than imitating others who have performed it before.

Whether you saw the show and want more Hamilton, or you didn’t get tickets, check out my post on how to get your Hamilton fix in Los Angeles.

Blast from the Past: Hamilton Broadway Lines and their Historical Sources

In his script for Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda merges the American Founding with the tenor of modern America, such that history is both relived and reimagined.  The characters in Hamilton recite excerpts from historical documents such as Washington’s Farewell Address and Hamilton’s History of the United States for the Year 1796, In Which the Charge of Speculation against Alexander Hamilton, Late Secretary of the Treasury, is Fully Refuted (aka The Reynolds Pamphlet).  Miranda also weaves in fragments of real quotes from Hamilton and his contemporaries, effortlessly fitting them into the fabric of the whole production.

Below are a few lines that jumped out at me along with excerpts of the historic primary source documents that contain either the exact phrase or are very similar.  (Note that this short list is by no means exhaustive and is entirely based on my memory from seeing the show in previews- if you think of others, add them into the comments section!)

Image from hamiltonbroadway.com

“I wish there was a war.” (Hamilton to Burr)

“…my ambition is vigilant, so I continue the groveling condition of a clerk, or the like to which my fortune condemns me, and would willingly risk my life, though not my character, to exalt my station. …  I shall conclude by saying I wish there was a war.” – Letter from Hamilton to his friend Edward “Ned” Stevens dated November 11, 1769 (reprinted in Reminisces of James A. Hamilton, available here through Google Books).

At the time of this letter, Hamilton was still in St. Croix working as a clerk.  Hamilton realized that in order to rise up and advance his station in life, something dramatic would need to happen and he expressed his willingness to take any risks that would not endanger his honor.

“I’m just saying, If you really loved me, you would share him!” (Angelica to Eliza)

“…by my Amiable you know that I mean your Husband, for I love him very much and if you were as generous as the old Romans, you would lend him to me for a little while, but do not be jealous, my dear Eliza, since I am more solicitous to promote his laudable ambition, than any person in the world…” – Letter from Angelica Church to Elizabeth Hamilton, July 30, 1794 (Reprinted in the Intimate Life of Alexander Hamilton by Allan Mclane Hamilton, available on Google Books)

“Best of wives and best of women.” (Hamilton to Eliza before the duel)

“Fly to the bosom of your God and be comforted.  With my last idea; I shall cherish the sweet hope of meeting you in a better world.

Adieu best of wives and best of Women.  Embrace all my darling Children for me.

Ever yours.    AH”  – Letter from Alexander Hamilton to Eliza Hamilton written July 4, 1804

Hamilton gave this letter to Nathaniel Pendleton, his second in the duel, as part of his efforts to put his affairs in order prior to his interview with Aaron Burr at Weehawken on July 11, 1804.   (Reprinted in the Papers of Alexander Hamilton, available here via Google Books).  Interestingly, Hamilton and Burr had dinner together with a group of fellow former Revolutionary War officers just days before the duel.

PBS’ “New York” on Alexander Hamilton

The PBS website description of the documentary series states:

“This seven-part, 14 1/2 hour television event explores New York City’s rich history as the premier laboratory of modern life.  A sweeping narrative covering nearly 400 years and 400 square miles, it reveals a complex and dynamic city that has played an unparalleled role in shaping the nation and reflecting its ideals.”

Of course, Alexander Hamilton was an integral figure in the history of New York, and two sections of the documentary specifically addressed Hamilton’s contributions.  These sections are now available on YouTube.

Bowery Boys Podcast on Hamilton Duel

The Bowery Boys have a popular podcast series on New York history and recently released their 168th podcast on the duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, entitled “Aaron Burr vs. Alexander Hamilton: The duel at Weehawken and the terrible consequences of an ugly insult.”

The description of the podcast states:

Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr met at a clearing in Weehawken, NJ, in the early morning on July 11, 1804, to mount the most famous duel in American history. But why?

This is the story of two New York lawyers — and two Founding Fathers — that so detested each other that their vitriolic words (well, mostly Hamilton’s) led to these two grown men shooting each other out of honor and dignity, while robbing America of their brilliance, leadership and talent.

You may know the story of this duel from history class, but this podcast focuses on its proximity to New York City, to their homes Richmond Hill and Hamilton Grange and to the places they conducted their legal practices and political machinations.

Which side are you on?

ALSO: Find out the fates of sites that are associated with the duel, including the place Hamilton died and the rather disrespectful journey of the dueling grounds in Weehawken.

 

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. 

Aaron Burr, Part 2

An interesting short film has been making its way across the film circuits.  Aaron Burr, Part 2, is a 9 minute comedic film that purports to retell the story of Hamilton and Burr’s duel from Burr’s perspective.  Much like Gore Vidal’s Burr, the film is filled with inaccuracies, but I think it raises some interesting dialogue points.  I’d be curious to know what It’s Hamiltime readers think.

The Atlantic’s description states:

Complete with iPhones, battle reenactments, and a very snarky first person narration, this short film is a hilarious take on the event that tarnished Burr’s legacy. Aaron Bur, Part 2 comes from director Dana O’Keefe. The film has been showcased in film festivals across the country, including SXSW and the Dallas Film Festival where it received the Jury Prize for best short film.

Film School Rejects states:

Why Watch?Dana O’Keefe and company take up the task of humanizing Aaron Burr, an incredible figure whose memory has been reduced to one label: the man who killed Alexander Hamilton. In this unconventional take on history, Burr is a man out of time, sliding between his pre-Revolutionary days fighting in Canada and a modern day New York City where hip hop hugeness paints his larger-than life with every slow motion step.

It’s tough to say why this works. Maybe it’s because Burr appears here as a ghost kept alive by the people that remember him, foolishly trying to set the record straight while lamenting what time has done to the world he knew. Maybe it’s the hipper-than-thou attitude it carries. Maybe it’s because it’s the kind of comedy that keeps a straight face. Or maybe it’s just because it’s really damned cool.

Short of the Week writes:

The effect is brilliant. Reimagined as a brooding anti-hero, Burr (Alex Kliment) enchants. It’s a crazy comparison, but with the culture obsessed as it is, Burr reminds me of a vampire, a historical Lestat. Beautiful, dangerous, he haunts the modern lanscape, filled with regret, damned by an unforgivable act committed ages ago.

Mirroring the theme, if History is a contested narrative, the narrative of the film is a contest between its various styles. Amazingly the film has been programmed as both a fiction and documentary film, playing reputable venues like SXSW, HotDocs, and being nominated for the Cinema Eye Honors, as one of the best documentary shorts of the year. With its archival images and historical re-enactments, it shares elements of films in the Ken Burns mode, however its playful style is much more in line with modern American fiction directors like Wes Anderson in its dramatic use of music, slo-mo, and on-screen text.

You can watch the film on Vimeo here.

True/False Film Fest also had an interview with director Dana O’Keefe about the film.

Pop Culture Watch: Hamilton Mixtapes Tonight!

The sold out performances of the Hamilton Mixtapes by Lin-Manuel Miranda will be performed at Vassar College’s Powerhouse Theater tonight, Saturday, July 27 at 1pm and 5pm.   Unfortunately, the free tickets ran out almost immediately after their release, so I won’t be going.  If anyone sees the performance today, please let us know how it was!   I’m holding out hope that the popularity of the show will lead to a longer run in the future!

For those of us who won’t be seeing the play tonight, here’s a preview of his performance at Lincoln Center for their American Songbook series!

Also note, Lin-Manuel Miranda will be performing with Freestyle Love Supreme at Joe’s Pub in NYC in August and September.  August tickets are already sold out, but tickets are still available for September 5-6.