‘Hamilton’ and the art of storytellin’

Broadway’s smash hit brings rhymes, emotion and song to Shea’s

hamilton

Cabinet battles, comedic quips and ‘70s-like pop numbers aside, it’s no question Alexander Hamilton told his — and others’ — stories last Wednesday in downtown Buffalo.

“Hamilton,” the hit Broadway musical based on the story of the founding father, is running at Shea’s Performing Arts Center through Dec. 9. Last Wednesday, the show featured top-of-the-line performances by Austin Scott (Alexander Hamilton), Hannah Cruz (Eliza Hamilton) and Alexander Ferguson (Aaron Burr). The cast performed a flurry of rap and soul numbers in front of an enthusiastic, sold-out crowd at Shea’s.

“Hamilton” focuses on the rise of U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant who climbed his way up on a newly formed nation’s political ladder. Through trials and tribulations, Hamilton slowly but surely carved his name into the history books with profound determination.

The second the character of Hamilton appeared on stage, the crowd looked on and enwrapped themselves in every one of his floating notes. Hamilton, along with Marquis de Lafayette (played by Bryson Bruce), Hercules Mulligan (played by Chaundre Hall-Broomfield) and John Laurens (played by Jon Viktor Corpuz), took over the beginning with their table-banging beats and independence-infused rhymes.

And if this cast’s musical abilities were ever a question, their artistic totality would have to be the answer.

From the cabinet battles of back-and-forth political runarounds to the play’s soulful sensibilities, the production did not disappoint audience members — especially based on the subtle yet in-sync supporting cast who complemented the whole experience.

Favorites from the Broadway show controlled the evening with certitude, too, as hip-hop and soul took their shape from the first act. 

Burr, a villainous character who later turned hero, looked less Thomas Paine and more like House of Pain during the show. Eliza, along with her Schuyler sisters Peggy (played by Isa Briones) and Angelica (played by Stephanie Umoh), commanded the crowd’s attention through their abilities to dig into their grab bag of in-sync R&B-like performances.

Despite everyone’s different contributions to the production, one character easily had the audience giggling in their seats. King George (played by Peter Matthew Smith) sprinkled his jest and good humor toward America in a performance that featured funny shimmies and intense characterization.

Whereas his majesty’s hilarious on-stage antics, which continued throughout the evening, our own first president — George Washington (played by Paul Oakley Stovall) — delivered a vocal performance of a lifetime. Smith’s character, who later entrusted Hamilton with a cabinet position, led a faultless path of vocals throughout in numbers like “One Last Time.”

The show also featured standout performances by Angelica Schulyer, who — when she sees her sister Eliza fall in love with Hamilton — packaged a ‘00s R&B-like, heartbreak anthem to the audience’s delight.

As the act, and the Revolutionary War, came to a close, a myriad of piano drops and DJ scratches signalled in an accomplished Hamilton at the height of his 18th century prowess. His contributions to the Federalist papers and his “running-out-of-time” form of writing helped culminate the ambitious act one, as — without a doubt in his mind — he joins the ranks of Washington’s leadership.

The play’s second act, more regalious in tone, featured a number of pleasantries such as Thomas Jefferson (also played by Bruce) coming back to America in a boatload of funk. Cabinet battles showcased Hamilton and Jefferson, who went head-to-head and pleased the audience through their flurries of spot-on disses and partisan clapbacks. 

One of the show’s catchier tracks was “The Room Where It Happens,” a number led by Burr under a sleuthy-inspired tune with a mysterious rhythm.

As the show progressed, however, Hamilton’s troubles as a writer and treasurer became more complex. The crowd intensely watched on after Hamilton cheated on his wife in the play. This, coupled with the loss of his son Philip, spiraled his life and relationships out of control.

As Hamilton continued to write like he was “running out of time,” his character willingly threw his support behind Jefferson to spite Burr. The decision upset Burr, as they agree to a duel that harvested all the noise in the theater. As Hamilton’s past and anxiety circled around him, literally, during the duel, he decides to shoot his bullet in the air as Burr shoots him down. 

The play’s peak marked a complicated end, but an end, which the cast flipped into a celebration of the tales of characters like Eliza. Songs and cast members came together in unison, closing with the emotional range of numbers in the play.

After the cast, in unison, asked who will tell their story, the audience responded and erupted in a standing ovation for the musical cast members.

“Hamilton’s” historical grace won’t quit in the Queen City, as the play continues its run through Dec. 9 at Shea’s Performing Arts Center. On Monday, SA offered undergraduate students the chance to grab 25 tickets for a performance on Dec. 5. Students reserved all 25 tickets on Monday, according to SA entertainment coordinator Marc Rosenblitt.

SA President Gunnar Haberl said SA could only purchase 25 tickets due to the show’s company policy and a high ticket demand. Haberl said SA will offer more tickets to shows, such as “Cats,” “Rent” and “The Book of Mormon” in the spring.

Benjamin Blanchet is the senior features editor and can be reached at benjamin.blanchet@ubspectrum.com and @BenjaminUBSpec on Twitter.