"Hamilton," show #833
The tour of Hamilton is young, scrappy, and talented! I had the pleasure of seeing this outstanding cast deliver a fantastic performance of this most-popular musical. This being my fourth viewing of the Pulitzer winner--and third different cast—I do declare it to be my favorite. The vocally-talented company puts acting first, which is not typical for a near all-sung musical. A performance of Hamilton can supersede nuance and delivery in favor of the mid-song applause and audience sing-a-long moments; such is not the case for this touring company.
From top down, this company is a collective of triple-threat artists who clearly understand the Hamilton assignment, with an enthusiastic Fresno audience (just don’t get them started on the Saroyan Theater sound design) ready to be entertained. Julius Thomas III is a remarkable Hamilton, embodying the earnest, intelligent founding father with great voice and chemistry. His “My Shot” is a welcomed I Want song, establishing the motive for the character and the talent of the actor. Thomas III’s journey opposite Victoria Ann Scovens’s devoted Eliza, Donald Webber, Jr.’s calculating Burr, and Darnell Abraham’s commanding George Washington are in pace with Lin Manuel-Miranda’s stellar composition and are above par in controlling the ending we all know will happen. Scovens delivers every bit of an emotionally-driven Eliza an audience could hope for, from a romantic “Helpless,” to wifely understanding in “Take a Break,” and finishes with a breathtaking “Burn.” Webber, Jr. gives an emotions-on-his-sleeve performance, a welcomed contrast to the as otherwise written stoic Burr. This choice makes for a Burr audiences can root for, historical villainy be damned! Webber, Jr.’s opening turn is a lesson in how to narrate a show while serving as a leading character; “Dear Theodosia” serves as a pensive turn in getting to know Burr beyond his talking less and smiling more; his show-stopping leading of “The Room Where it Happens” is a masterclass in using triple-threat talents to further one’s character depth. Abraham is a gift to musical theatre, and his turn at George Washington is evidence enough. From “Right Hand Man” to the torch song, “One Last Time,” Abraham exudes the gravitas one may have actually felt when in the presence of America’s first president. He is beyond reproach as the major general, and it is my sincere hope and plea that, at some point, his performance is preserved by way of sound recording or film. I’m serious; do not let his performance be lost to the hearsay of us passionate Fresnans.
Ellis C. Dawson III did not disappoint in his understudy run as Marquis De Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson, adding many doses of sass and swagger to the multiple demands of the Tony-winning dual role. His leadership of the act two romp, “What’d I Miss,” showcases his stellar supporting charisma. Marja Harmon, as Angelica Schuyler, is top-notch in voice and acting. Her turn at “Satisfied” is only an appetizer to her stellar work in “It’s Quiet Uptown.” It’s not easy to justify an almost-affair, but Harmon figures it out, and her command of Angelica’s historical relevance and crush-based attraction to Hamilton is in sure hands. Ashley De La Rosa delivers all the funny and all the drama as Peggy Schuyler /Maria Reynolds, with specific highlights coming in her dynamically alluring duet with Tomas III, “Say No to This.” Brandon Louis Armstrong is every bit of the jovial and assured Hercules Mulligan/James Madison one could want, with a knack for hip hop and a presence made for the stage, especially in his solo bits in the several “The Story of Tonight” turns, “Yorktown,” and the Cabinet Battles.
Rick Negron and Andy Tofa do well as King George III and John Laurens/Philip Hamilton, respectively, supporting their counterparts well in acting and tune. Ean S. Cochran delivers a standout ensemble track performance, having gone on for Samuel Seaberry, an animated devotee of the King, showing that: Understudies, they get the job done!
Hamilton will always deliver what you want it to, and this touring cast is no exception. Check your city theater listing to see if it’s coming near you and then book your ticket. Do not throw away your shot to be lucky enough to see this exceptional cast perform an exceptional musical.