The most buzzed-about musical in recent years has landed in Toronto. HAMILTON, the story that brings a piece of lesser-known American history to today’s audience. If you haven’t heard anything about Alexander Hamilton it’s worth searching up his story and do so before seeing this musical as this is about his life and legacy. Who? While most Canadians probably have never even heard of Alexander Hamilton (other than there’s a musical about him), I’m also betting that many Americans probably haven’t either. Thank you Lin-Manuel Miranda (composer, writer and lyricist) for finding this important piece of history worthy of storytelling in a stunning modern musical masterpiece.
Inspired by the biography written by Ron Chernow the story centres around Hamilton’s life. The opening song that quickly gives you an idea of his start in life “How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean by Providence, impoverished, in squalor grow up to be a hero and a scholar?” That island turns out to be St. Kitts and Nevis where he was born in 1757 and later moved to New York where he eventually died in 1804.
His legacy not only shaped the US financial system but at the core, it is a story of determination as well as an immigrant story that is relatable still today. After his mother died, Hamilton was an orphan at the age of 12. Not one to pass up any opportunity and never completely satisfied, he made the way to the United Colonies (USA) in his teens where he studied and eventually became one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. So much happened in such a short time it’s quite a story to tell!
Yes, it’s a history lesson about how Alexander Hamilton changed the economic status of America and how he had accomplished so much at such a young age. It’s also about his personal life and the events that showed the sacrifices and choices he made — good or otherwise. But the story is far from your stereotypical history piece set to music.
This has got to be one of the most demanding musical productions – particularly for the cast. Joseph Morales (originally from the Chicago company) takes on the role of Alexander Hamilton in this National Tour. He leaves you absolutely breathless and in awe wondering how he can possibly remember all his lines, rhymes as well as choreography. His character is balanced off with his wife Eliza, played by Stephanie Jae Park, who’s sweet and loving demeanor character gives the audience time to catch our breaths. By the way, her story is also very interesting and grounding in relation to Hamilton’s storyline. Marcus Choi plays a powerful George Washington and Neil Haskell as King George offers the audience some comical moments.
Hard to put everything in a nutshell here but know that the musical is jammed packed – it would be interesting to learn about the word count in this musical versus any other musical as I’m sure it’s at least double, if not more. The story is told by America but in modern times with a score that blends hip-hop, R&B, jazz and Broadway-style music worthy of a full download in my music library. The average word per minute would be difficult to average out since the score moves at lightning speed and then slows to ballads at other times. There have been reports of a few songs that clock in around 200 words per minute. The score is unforgettable including “My Shot”, “Wait for It”, “Say No To This”, and “Helpless” are a few that have stuck with me. I had also read in articles that if this production was told at normal musical speed it could very well be a 12-hour long production. So, the 2 hours and 45 minutes (with intermission) has a lot to say – and quite honestly went by quicker than expected.
Not only that, there were many great quotes that are also sticking…
“If you stand for nothing, what will you fight for?”
“Why do you write like you’re running out of time?”
“What would you have done if you had more time?”
“Who will write your story?”
This musical is an exercise for your brain so pay attention….or not. It’s okay to enjoy the music, the amazing choreography, the tailored costumes, and the richly textured set that serves as a solid foundation for the scenes. I’ll be digesting ALL of this for a while – moments have been flashing back for me (Eliza’s story really hit me emotionally this morning). I would highly recommend reading the interview found in the programme for more details about the importance of Alexander Hamilton.
Hamilton is a Tony, Grammy, and Olivier Award-winning production. It’s also won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and received a special citation from the Kennedy Center Honors. This fast-paced stage production that opened on Broadway in 2015 continues to sell out for a very good reason. The current National Tour is here in Toronto at the Ed Mirvish Theatre until May 25, 2020. Tickets are available through mirvish.com — FYI there is a daily lottery for $10 tickets for day of performances. Visit the website for more details.