Following worldwide acclaim, 11 Tony Awards, and the fact that scoring tickets for the Broadway production a nearly impossible feat, “Hamilton,” Lin-Manuel Miranda’s rhythmic hip-hop history lesson has finally come to Philadelphia, playing at the Forrest Theatre, 1114 Walnut St., through Nov. 17.
Told in two acts, “Hamilton” chronicles the life and time of Alexander Hamilton, who President George Washington appointed the first United States Secretary of the Treasury on Sept. 11, 1789.
With an imaginative script, music and lyrics by Miranda, and superb direction by Thomas Kail, this production has everything — love, hate, joy, sorrow, murder, mayhem, sex and adultery — all brought to life by a supremely talented ensemble.
Edred Utomi delivered a captivating portrayal of Alexander Hamilton, a man who would have been rather unlikable if he weren’t so damned ... noble. Delivering the signature song “My Shot,’ he is a pure, passionate singer, creating a character who is capable of evoking empathy, even when he doesn’t deserve it.
The angst of his nemesis, Aaron Burr, was completely captured by Josh Tower, who commanded the stage whenever he appeared. Philly’s Leslie Odom Jr. won a Tony for his portrayal of Burr in the Broadway production, and Tower did not disappoint.
Comic relief was provided by Bryson Bruce in the dual role of the Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson. While he was more subdued as the Marquis in the first act, in Act II he turned up the volume with his hilarious interpretation of Thomas Jefferson, and never let up. He was a definite fan favorite, as was Peter Matthew Smith, who slayed the audience with his zany turn as King George.
Hannah Cruz gave a poignant performance as Hamilton’s loving wife Eliza, who endures adultery and loss to be with him. She brought the audience to tears with the heartfelt “Burn.”
The high-energy production numbers, anchored by a stellar ensemble of dancer/singers, blended seamlessly into the drama, and in some cases were essential to propelling the action, including choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler’s dynamic “battlefield” sequence.
Miranda and Kail were masterful at juxtaposing the era in which Burr, Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were leaders and legislators of our country with contemporary culture — from incorporating hip-hop mannerisms and expressions, to having Hamilton and Jefferson engage in a fierce hip-hop battle at center stage.
A sensory feast of color, comedy, music and emotion, with flashes of “The Matrix” thrown in, “Hamilton” is one occasion when the show actually exceeded expectations, so don’t throw away “your shot!” Gather your friends and family (especially the younger members) and experience this entertaining hip-hop homage to America’s Founding Fathers.