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The Playhouse Square touring production of ‘Hamilton’ says, “You’ll Be Back”




I will be perfectly honest with you. When “Hamilton” first came to Cleveland back in 2018 I did not like it at all and gave it a negative review. My reasoning was two-fold. First of all there was a preceding year of unbearable hype. It seemed that all you heard about was “Hamilton”, “Hamilton” and “Hamilton” and frankly no show is worth that amount of build-up. Secondly, and most importantly was the sound system that was terribly out of whack for the opening performance and it was nearly impossible to follow the story line because you simply could not understand the lyrics. As a result of my review I got mail...lots of mail telling me that I should have acquainted myself with the show before going to see it. Oh well.


Anyhow, that was then and this is now. Last night was the opening for the return of Hamilton to the KeyBank State Theatre at Playhouse Square in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. There was far less hype and the sound system was perfectly balanced between the thirteen piece orchestra conducted by Emmanuel Schvartzman and the various singers.


Alexander Hamilton is a bastard son later orphaned and raised by a prosperous merchant. Upon coming of age he moves to New York City to pursue his education where he meets Aaron Burr, John Laurens, the Marquis de Lafayette, and Hercules Mulligan. At this time the seeds of revolution are taking root and young Hamilton serves as an artillery officer during the American Revolutionary War seeing action in New York and New Jersey. He is soon tapped to serve as aide to General George Washington and is present during the siege of Yorktown and the surrender of the British army.


Following the war, Alexander’s skills as a negotiator has him serving as a delegate from New York to the Congress of the Confederation. Leaving his law practice he founds the Bank of New York and leads the Annapolis Convention that replaces the Articles of Confederation with the Constitution of the United States of which he penned 51 of the 85 installments of The Federalist Papers.


Over the years, Hamilton is involved in various federal government plans of the new republic before going back to resume his legal and business activities. At one point he is accused of treason for siphoning money from the treasury when in fact he had taken money from his personal wages in order to pay off the husband whose wife he was having an affair with. His opposing Aaron Burr in favor of Thomas Jefferson in the presidential election due to a tie in the electoral college as well as previous slights between the two men leads to a duel between them that ends in fatal consequences.


Only Broadway could take something as dry as American History and turn it into an exciting two hours plus of rap, hip-hop, R&B, pop and soul tunes with fantastic choreography (Andy Blankenbuehler), lavish costumes (Paul Tazewell), stunning sets (David Korins) and dramatic lighting (Howell Binkely). The show is the brain child of Lin-Manuel Miranda who spent seven years perfecting the concept. The show casts non-white actors as the Founding Fathers as well as other historical figures giving a fresh new look to a history lesson.


The result was wild universal acclaim from its seven month Off-Broadway premier on February 17, 2015 (Miranda played the title role) with the show winning eight Drama Desk Awards including Outstanding Musical. Upon its shift to Broadway at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway on August 6, 2015 it garnered 16 Tony Awards nominations winning eleven including Best Musical. In 2016 it won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Disney produced a very successful film version.


As for this touring production it is top notch. Pierre Jean Gonzalez is a perfect match as Hamilton. Likewise Nikisha Williams as Eliza Hamilton, Jared Dixon as Aaron Burr, TaRea Campbell as Angelica Schuyler, Marcus Choi as George Washington, Warren Egypt Franklin as Lafayette and Jefferson, Desmond Sean Ellington as Hercules Mulligan and James Madison. The entire cast leaves it all on the stage. Of special note is Neil Haskell as the hilarious King George. His use of small movements and facial expressions were well received by the attentive audience.


Other members of the cast include Elijah Malcomb as John Laurens and Philip Hamilton, Jen Sese as Peggy Schuyler and Maria Reynolds, Nick Sanchez as Philip Schuyler, James Reynolds and the Doctor, Tony D’Alelio as Samuel Seabury, Gabriel Hyman as Charles Lee, Dharon Jones as George Eaker. Members of the ensemble include Tony D’Alelio, Josh A. Dawson, Nicole deRoux, Kristen Hoagland, Gabriel Hyman, Dharon Jones, Vanessa Magula, Taeko McCarroll, Nick Sanchez, Anthony Santos and Quintae Thomas. Overall it is a high energy show that flies by even though it has a stage time of over two hours with an 18 minute intermission.


If you missed the last time “Hamilton” hit town, perhaps you should give the show a chance. This is a high energy extravaganza that is Broadway at its best. For those who loved the first run you will delight in this production even more. Give it a shot!

“Hamilton” will be on stage in the KeyBank State Theatre on Playhouse Square in Cleveland, Ohio through December 15, 2023. For more information and tickets go to https://www.playhousesquare.org/ or call (216) 241-6000.


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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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