Hamilton: An American Review


Public domain image.

Brigid Ambuul, Reporter

Full disclosure: I am a biased source.

While I’m no Eminem, I pride myself on my ability to rap nearly every word to the groundbreaking hip-hop musical “Hamilton.” I’ve spent two years memorizing lines that move faster than my tongue naturally permits and, in the process, I’ve learned about the formation of our country. It’s a win-win!

Throughout my dozens of album listen-throughs, I formed my own ideas of the staging, choreography, costumes, lighting and the characterization of the modernized historical figures. Long story short, I had high expectations. Sky-high.

I was far from disappointed.

The show introduces us to Alexander Hamilton, detailing his early life and the part he played in the American Revolution. As the tension between the thirteen colonies and England escalates, Hamilton’s personal story of rebellion and determination to build himself from the ground up is interwoven against the backdrop of the thirteen colonies. This gives us insight into how the war was truly personal to the founding fathers.

The unique appeal of “Hamilton” stems primarily from its modernized twist on Americans’ long-held perceptions of the founding fathers. This theme of new perspectives reflects Alexander Hamilton’s unconventional nature and translates beautifully to the stage in numbers like “The Battle of Yorktown,” in which the turning point of the revolution is displayed through high-intensity choreography. I noticed specifically during this dance break that every member of the ensemble was performing to the same high caliber, and it was clearly noticeable to people like me who are untrained in dance.

Other modernized moments of the show help create engaging storylines out of historical events that would otherwise feel dry to a 2018 audience. Cabinet Battles One and Two, in which Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson have literal rap battles over foreign affairs (complete with hand-held microphones), exemplifies this idea of blending history and hip-hop to build scenes that are both funny and riveting.  

The first act, fast-paced and full of high-energy musical numbers, is incredible onstage. A surprising favorite live performance of mine was “My Shot,” in which Hamilton proclaims he won’t be stopped from achieving his lofty goals. Austin Scott’s youthful and vibrant portrayal of Hamilton worked perfectly in this charged, determined song and for the entirety of the first act, making up for the places where it might have fallen short in more serious moments during Act Two.

The thing about being a “Hamilton” fan — or a fan of any musical — is that your ear is attuned so acutely to the original cast, anything different won’t sound right. However, the beauty of the touring cast is that they’ve made the show their own. It’s clear that they’ve built their personalities in a unique and modernized way rather than simply treading in the footsteps of the original Broadway cast.

A standout among the cast was Ryan Alvarado, whose performance as Aaron Burr was one of the most convincing portraits of a villain that I’ve seen onstage. Perhaps it’s simply that Burr’s real-life story already holds so much depth and tragedy, but I tend to believe that it takes acting expertise to generate empathy for a murderer. While reflecting on the performance as a whole, I realized that Burr was one of the few characters that I truly got lost in. He led me on a journey through his story, stopping my breath short with his impressively controlled vocals in “Wait for It” and giving me a glimpse of his Broken soul when he remarks, “[Hamilton] may have been the first one to die. But I’m the one who paid for it. I survived, but I paid for it.”

As “Hamilton” has skyrocketed to fame in recent years, it’s taken its own place in the history it does so well to portray. While I’ve heard the same story of my country nearly every year since first grade, this show has done something else. It has presented me with a fresh view and appreciation of the incredible efforts that our founding fathers took to create this free world that we live in. Hamilton himself rose up from an orphan on a small Caribbean island to a man who has had his face imprinted on the $10 bill for nearly 90 years. And, in the words of Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of “Hamilton”, that “embodies hip-hop.”




Hamilton is running until Jan. 28, 2018 at the San Diego Civic Theater. If you haven’t bought tickets, I’m sorry to say that chances are one in a million that you’ll be able to buy them now. However, if you’re feeling lucky, you can enter the Hamilton Lottery at http://www.luckyseat.com/hamilton-sd/ for your chance to win up to two tickets per performance for the low low price of one Hamilton ($10) each. Trust me, just enter it. There are no drawbacks to this.