This national touring production doesn't throw away its shot
By Elizabeth Cobbe,
12:06PM, Thu. May 30, 2019
Seriously, y’all. It’s finally here. The Hamilton tour has come to Austin.
The hugely popular musical about America’s founding fathers that positions Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton as a brilliant but flawed legend has lost none of its luster in the four years since its debut. From the famous first notes and quick exposition that deliver a 19-year-old Hamilton to the streets of New York City in 1776, to the hero’s tragic end decades later, it’s still an amazing story, told through rap and song.
Any current production of Hamilton bears the burden of comparison with the original cast recording. Fortunately, the national touring production that’s now playing in Austin holds its own.
As Hamilton, Joseph Morales plays up Hamilton’s exuberance and naivete in the first act, and his character’s maturity shows all the more as he ages. Aaron Burr (Nik Walker), the hero’s counterpoint, comes across as barely under control, so exasperated is he with Hamilton’s recklessness that somehow keeps paying off. With every verse, Burr seems to demand of the audience, “Can you believe this guy?” It’s easy to believe that his irritation grows into murderous impulses, although operating so close to the edge of his control reduces the impact of Burr’s famous turn in “The Room Where It Happens.”
Standout performances include Marcus Choi as George Washington, who could quite possibly lead a herd of cats into water, so convincing is his turn as both general and senior statesman. Ta’Rea Campbell is a remarkable singer who carries Angelica Schuyler’s songs beautifully, and Erin Clemons offers a delightful Eliza Hamilton.
For those who have memorized the cast recording, the greatest joy of seeing the live production is discovering how the choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler and direction by Thomas Kail bring the show together. It’s not something you can pick up from the snippets that sneak onto YouTube, either. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s book, music, and lyrics are great as compositions, and experiencing the entire visual performance highlights the ways that elements are balanced and reintroduced throughout. The idea of not throwing away one’s shot, for example, is present from start to finish, and the staging makes the motif visual as well.
Hamilton’s popularity may be a turn-off to some, but that’s their loss. It’s an incredible show that has made American identity inclusive at a time when far too many players would seek to limit it.
Hamiltonruns through Sun., June 16, Tue.-Fri., 8pm; Sat., 2 & 8pm; Sun., 1 & 7pm, at Bass Concert Hall, 2350 Robert Dedman, UT campus. For more information, visit the Texas Performing Arts website.