During the fourth song in Act Two of “Hamilton,” which made its Louisville debut on Tuesday, the character of the jealous and indecisive Aaron Burr sings about wanting to be in the room where it happens.
While he’s talking about the room where big — huge, in fact — decisions and compromises are being made between Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison regarding the genesis of American democracy, the same can be said for most of the Louisville theater-going community, who has been looking forward to this moment since the musical debuted on Broadway in 2015.
We all want to be in the room to see the Lin-Manuel Miranda-penned musical come to life in front of our eyes — without having to travel to New York or Chicago to do so. And so far, Kentucky audiences have given a standing ovation for each performance thus far in the tour’s three-week run as part of PNC Broadway in Louisville.
For a three-hour musical about American history to only seem like barely 60 minutes, “Hamilton” was entertaining, energizing and mesmerizing from the very first note to the final song.
The musical blends hip-hop, rap and R&B for all of its 34 songs and brings to life historical figures most of us view only two-dimensionally from the pages of dusty textbooks.
What we never learned in eighth grade was that Hamilton and his counterparts were wrapped up in and consumed with the same sort of everyday drama we all face. Instead of ranting on Facebook, Hamilton stood on soapboxes and started a newspaper.
As an immigrant climbing his way up the political ladder in a burgeoning country, he was fueled by the desire to prove others wrong and attain more success and respect than his parents ever did.
Hamilton worked too many hours, he had an affair and purposely outed himself in a letter (talk about oversharing), and he was oftentimes arrogant and cocky. These flaws — and the flaws of others — drive the story of “Hamilton” and make all the characters that much more relatable.
Yes, we know Hamilton was a founding father, the first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, constructed the nation’s financial system, served as George Washington’s right-hand man and so on, but here we truly get to see the human side of the legend — faults and all.
The actors in “Hamilton” were top-notch and kept the pace of the play brisk and upbeat. Edred Utomi succinctly captured both Hamilton’s charm and drive, while Hannah Cruz’s Eliza, Hamilton’s wife, helped show the downside of being with a man who is never quite satisfied. In fact, many times, she wonders, why does he write like he’s running out of time?
Josh Tower’s Burr toed the line between friend and foe carefully, and each moment he was on stage, we could feel the jealousy of Hamilton growing deeper within.
Other highlights included Stephanie Umoh as Eliza’s sister Angelica, Paul Oakley Stovall as Washington and the three actors who played dual roles — Bryson Bruce as Marquis de Lafayette and Jefferson; Chaundre Hall-Broomfield as Hercules Mulligan and Madison; and Jon Viktor Corpuz as John Laurens and Philip, Hamilton’s son.
Peter Matthew Smith also turned in a great comedic performance as King George, who adamantly believed America eventually would come running back to him like a jilted lover who needed rescuing.
As someone who was worried about not liking or not understanding “Hamilton,” I can say with 100% conviction that this play is worth every praise and ounce of publicity it has gotten. It not only gave me a new appreciation for the men and women who helped form our country, but it also gave me renewed hope and anticipation for the future of Broadway.
“Hamilton” continues at the Kentucky Center through June 23. A lottery for $10 tickets is available two days prior to each show. Go online to register and for more information.