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The National Touring Company production of “Hamilton” at Playhouse Square actually makes a history l

Founding Father, American Statesman, author of the “Federalist Papers” that helped define the Constitution of the United States, First Secretary of the Treasury who designed the nation’s first financial system, started The New York Post Newspaper and the United States Coast Guard this is the man known as Alexander Hamilton.

Yet Hamilton is one of those lesser known yet vital players in the formation of the United States of America. Alexander was born out of wedlock in either 1755 or 1757 to Scotsman James A. Hamilton and half British half French Rachel Faucette who was still married at the time. James abandoned his family (to avoid charges of bigomy) and Rachel died soon after when Alexander was 13.

Thus it was quite a surprise to the theater world when Lin-Manuel Miranda (In The Heights) came up with the book, music and lyrics for Hamilton that was inspired by Ron Chernow’s biography “Alexander Hamilton”. After a short sold out off-Broadway run of six months it made its way to Broadway where combined with enthusiastic reviews and audience acclaim it was nominated for 16 Tony Awards of which it won 11 including Best Musical. Added to this were a Grammy and seven Drama Desk Awards and again Best Musical (out of 14 nominations) and later seven Olivier Awards with once again Best Musical.

The opening number tells how the orphaned Hamilton was given a home by a well to do Caribbean merchant and trader Thomas Stevens who encouraged the young boy to read and write. At the age of 17 he was put in charge of the entire trading business while Stevens was on an extended voyage. When a letter he wrote to his father concerning a hurricane that had devastated Christiansted in August of 1772 was published community leaders collected a fund to send him to New York in the Americas for further education.

Arriving in New York in 1776 he meets Aaron Burr, John Laurens, the Marquis de Lafayette and Hercules Mulligan and with his passion and knack for writing and oratory soon finds himself in the midst of the American Revolution. He meets and marries Eliza Schuyler who gives him a son. He becomes General Washington’s trusted Aide de Camp serving as his right hand man until finally given a commission prior to the battle of Yorktown.

After the war Washington chooses Hamilton as Secretary of the Treasury where he is able to organize the national banking system that insures the funding of the new federal government as well as having a say in the running of the new government.

What makes the show unique is the mixing of various genres of music throughout the show that includes hip hop, R & B, Pop, Soul and traditional show tunes. It also casts non-white actors in the roles of the white Founding Fathers and other white historical figures. More so is that this is a compelling show about real people. It is about people who fought, bled and died to form our country and who had the same foibles, strengths and weaknesses that we all have. It is in essence a very human show that transcends dry history.

After over a year of hype and over promotion, how does the National Touring Company of Hamilton fare in Cleveland, Ohio at Playhouse Square’s State Theatre? The show is great. The actors are superb, the orchestra fills the theater, the story is compelling and the costuming and stage sets are stupendous…but.

There is a nagging problem with the sound system that simply cannot keep up with the rapid fire vocalizations especially during the hip-hop numbers. Many of the audience members were overheard complaining during the intermission that they simply could not follow the story line and felt lost. It might behoove Playhouse Square to invest in the hiring of an “Audio Wizard” who could tame the sound and make it more coherent. The second act is much easier to follow as it shifts to a more Broadwayish song format.

As for the individual actors, there are a number of standouts to this production. Surprisingly, the first to come to mind is Jon Patrick Walker as crazy King George III who performed a number of short English Dance Hall type numbers that were absolutely hilarious, “…I am sending a battalion to show you my love” sings the royally bedecked monarch.

Joseph Morales as Alexander Hamilton has all the verve and swagger necessary to sell the part. Nik Walker as Aaron Burr is the man you love to hate who is Hamilton’s lifelong nemesis who spends the rest of his life in regret over killing the great statesman in a duel. Shoba Narayan as Eliza Hamilton stays by her man through a dead son (by duel), illicit affairs and even his own death by dueling. Kyle Scatliffe takes on the two high energy roles of Lafayette and Jefferson and does each one superbly. Lastly, there is Marcus Choi as George Washington who nails the part. The lesser roles and ensemble parts are absolutely amazing with well choreographed movements and dance. The 12 piece orchestra under Roberto Sinha’s direction has the task of performing thirty four individual numbers. David Koren’s set design is so amazing that it gets an entire page in the program. The costuming by Paul Tazewell is period appropriate to a point with some modern variations thrown in. Lighting Design by Howell Binkley helps set the mood on some very complex scenes.

There are some hints of adult themes and a long sit time of three hours so young children may not be a good match for this epic Broadway extravaganza.

After all the hype does the National Touring Company Production of Hamilton live up to its promises? Well, yes and no. The show is your typical over the top Broadway extravaganza with bigger than life figures, exquisite dance numbers, a great hulking set and colorful period wigs and costumes. The weak link is the sound system that denies audience members a clear exposure to the rapid fire lyrics and subtle nuances of the various songs. It is a great show that could be better.

The National Touring Production of Hamilton will be on stage in the State Theatre at Playhouse Square through August, 26, 2018. Tickets are supposedly sold out for all performances but you may check the usual sources by going to, by calling (216) 241-6000 or by stopping by the Playhouse Square Box Office located in the outer lobby of the State Theatre. Another option is the “Hamilton Lottery” where 37 tickets are made available at $10 each for every performance. For more information go to

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Who is Mark Horning?

Over the course of my life I have worked a variety of jobs including newspapers, retail camera sales and photography. Eight years ago I embarked on yet another career as writer. This included articles concerning sports and cultural events in Cleveland, Ohio as well reviews of the many theatrical productions around town. These days are spent photographing professional dance groups, theater companies and various galas and festivals as well as attending various stage performances and posting reviews about them.  

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