I’m not here to annoy people with my opinions. But it is very enjoyable when that happens. And if my less enthusiastic opinions of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton: An American Musical will shred you to your very core, then I’m concerned that you’re way too easily shreddable.
Hamilton is a hip-hop musical that tells the story of American Founding Father, Alexander Hamilton, and his involvement in the American Revolution and design of the American Treasury. The hype for this show seems endless and getting tickets seems to be even more unique than getting a golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. But having been lucky enough to get a chance to see it, with its original cast no less, I’d honestly have chosen the ultimate Willy Wonka chocolate experience.
Hamilton as a musical is unique in the sense that it’s a hip hop musical, that tells the story of America’s independence, while also performed by a very diverse cast. This aspect of the show, I really enjoyed. It shows that we don’t need to be visually 100% accurate when telling a story that is meant to relate to all Americans. The music is at times intense and delivers quite the punch when a battle number is performed, and at other times, emotionally captivating. But the problem is, these moments are few and far between.
Hamilton’s issue is that the show is almost all exposition. There are very few scenes that take place in the moment, and it left me feeling consistently removed from the story. It felt more like watching a very talented history channel presentation, and not a Broadway show. In all honesty, I didn’t feel any powerful connection to any character, because almost all their experiences are told to the audience in past tense, and we barely get to witness it in the moment. There’s a scene where Angelica Schuyler sings her song “Satisfied,” a song intended to be an emotional powerhouse about heartbreak, but I felt nothing. At that time in the show, we had only been introduced to Angelica in one other song where we had learned very little about her, and for her to later sing a song with so much emotional passion and sadness, felt so out of place. There was nothing that gave me a reason to want to connect with her, and while the song is good, it made very little sense.
This occurred consistently throughout the show, and it made the overall experience feel boring and underwhelming. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting when I went to see it, but what I got was disappointing.
The performances of the supporting cast were fantastic. Especially Daveed Diggs, Jonathan Groff, Philippa Soo, and Christopher Jackson. But the big blow came in the two leads, Lin-Manuel Miranda himself as Hamilton, and Leslie Odom Jr as Aaron Burr. If you think these performances were mind-blowing, then be my guest, but I’m not gonna pretend that I understood anything Leslie Odom Jr said since he basically mumbled his way through the entire show. Meanwhile Lin-Manuel Miranda is a talented writer and musician, but wow, he’s not a good performer. I could barely stand his nasally voice that made Hamilton seem like he whined his way to the top. He also rarely joined in the intense choreography with the rest of the cast, choosing to instead just stand still. With these two performances carrying the whole show, it made it feel slightly mediocre. And the fact that I just wrote that statement, is not a happy feeling.
If exposition doesn’t bother you, then you’re probably going to love this show like everyone I’ve ever talked to about it. I feel like the dissent on this show is such a major minority, that it seems my opinions on it are less relevant than ever. But does this show deserve the intense hype that it has gotten? Not really. It has its moments, and that’s it.
Today, Elliot is ready for the haters.