NME REVIEW: Hamilton is an experience best done in person.
The moment has finally come. The moment New Mexicans have been waiting for. Since the announcement that Hamilton would be making a trek to Albuquerque and stopping at Popejoy Hall on its national tour, folks have been gobbling up tickets, securing their seat for one of the most talked about Broadway musicals ever created. Book, music, and lyrics by Tony award-winner Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton is the story of America then, told by America now. The score, blending hip-hop, jazz, R&B, and Broadway, took the story of American founding father Alexander Hamilton and created a revolutionary moment in theatre - a musical impacting culture, politics, and education.
But the excitement was extinguished not once, but twice, as Popejoy did its best to deal with the Covid epidemic plaguing the nation. But patience prevailed, and the show we've been waiting to see finally has its shot on the Popejoy stage this evening. With Disney+ providing the opportunity for many to watch the Broadway musical in their living rooms, there is nothing like seeing it live on stage. You can feel the energy in the theater as the opening number, "Alexander Hamilton," began. I remember listening to the soundtrack for the first time, blown away at the sheer power of the cast and their vocals. I got chills from this ensemble. It was a perfect start to an evening of sheer talent.
The cast of a national tour or current Broadway show has the feat of keeping the audience connected to the original music while making the role their own. This cast did an outstanding job of doing just that. Edred Utomi, as Alexander Hamilton, did an exquisite job of taking the character known to have a distinctive voice in a rap genre and giving it a touch of R&B in the process. His transitions were smooth, and superb his moments of comedy and drama. "In the Eye of a Hurricane" and "Unimaginable" are prime examples of his vocal talent, with "Helpless" being a moment to show his comedic side.
Josh Tower, as Aaron Burr, is an excellent combination of strength and softness in his delivery. How he approached the role of Burr provided a vulnerability that gave the character even more depth. His performance of "Wait For It" was uplifting. Tower knew the right moment to push on the power in his vocals and when to gently pull back.
Stephanie Umoh, as Angelica Schuyler, invoked something I haven't experienced in all my listenings of Hamilton. I understood the nuance of "Satisfied" - a woman sharing her tale of giving up a chance at love, allowing her sister to have the man of her dreams. I always saw it as a sad realization. But tonight, Umoh's performance left me in tears. I understood the pain, the loss of letting go of another. Her choices of where to pause or give a breath changed the delivery, leaving us to feel her vulnerability.
Cardenas Lissaint, as George Washington, has a bold vocal range with an unabashed ability to display moments of the burden of being a leader. He took charge on "Right Hand Man" and "Meet Me Inside," but it was "One Last Time" where Lissaint showed his vocal capabilities. The number left me breathless, like hearing it for the first time.
The Mighty Three - Lafayette, Hercules, Mulligan, and John Laurens - were brilliant. Tyler Belo (Mulligan/James Madison) is a performer living his best life on a stage. I could not take my eye off David Park (Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson) every time he made an entrance. His comedic time was on point and left an impression in both roles. Keenan D. Washington (Laurens/Philip Hamilton) left me in a puddle of emotions. A soulful performer, Washington left a lasting impression with his performances.
Alysha Deslorieux presented a tender version of Eliza, the devoted wife of Alexander. Her performance of "Burn" was expressive, thoughtful, and raw. Yana Perrault was memorable in her moment as Peggy, but her performance as Maria Reynolds was explosive! Her voice in "Say No To This" was smooth as molasses but could shake the room with those high notes. Oh, and George - King George, that is. Peter Michael Smith truly made this character his own. With every laugh, snarl, and dance, Smith delighted audiences with his rendition of "You'll Be Back" and all its refrains.
When I would find myself sitting in my car listening to my friend's copy of the Hamilton soundtrack, I would imagine what the dance sequences would look like. Seeing the stage in all its glory - I'm in awe! The staging, the costumes - those behind the scenes - David Korins (scenic design), Paul Tazewell (costume design), Howell Binkley (lighting design), Nevin Steinberg (sound design), and Charles G. LaPointe (hair and wig design) - combined their unique talents to create a specular visual show.
I've said it before, and I'll say it one more time. Live theater is a real experience. If you watched Hamilton on Disney+ and thought that's good enough for you will never match seeing it on a live stage. I encourage you to experience Hamilton live at Popejoy. You will not be disappointed!
Hamilton runs from May 9th-28th at Popejoy Hall in Albuquerque. For more information or to purchase tickets visit https://www.popejoypresents.com/
Teresa Robinson is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of New Mexico Entertainment Magazine.