Hamilton at PPAC is a Must-See: Catch it if you can

By Kimberly Rau

Almost seven years after its 2015 Broadway opening, Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony award-winning hip hop-based musical, remains ridiculously popular. Even with a video recording of the musical available on streaming services, tickets to the tours and performances in New York and Los Angeles remain a hot commodity.

After a fantastic reception in Providence in 2019, the North American tour is back at the Providence Performing Arts Center, and, if it’s possible, this one is even better than the last.

The show is about Secretary of Treasury founding father Alexander Hamilton, and if that doesn’t sound like the most interesting fodder for a musical, you’re in for a surprise. Hamilton, a genius with the written word and a penchant for running off at the mouth and impulsivity, had a life that was anything but normal. Hamilton’s life was cut tragically short in a duel, but his wife, Eliza, was resolute in telling his story and giving him the legacy he so desperately wished for, and it’s largely thanks to her that we have the information on Hamilton that we do. Miranda opted to tell this story using hip hop and rap, using an ethnically diverse cast that represents the fabric of today’s America. It’s a genius move that resonates with audiences of every demographic. It turns out the concept of realizing your own American Dream and leaving something behind for future generations is one that transcends time and history.

As in 2019, Thomas Kail directs Miranda’s work. Andy Blankenbuehler remains the show’s choreographer. Combine that with Alex Lacamoire’s orchestration and music supervision, and it’s no wonder the show has become such a hit. But what makes this tour truly special is the cast.

If you’ve seen the show before, especially if you’re familiar with the original cast, don’t expect a cookie-cutter copy of how others may have portrayed their characters. This is a company that took the roles they received and made them their own. Pierre Jean Gonzalez is a more soft-spoken, but still vocally powerful, Hamilton. Stephanie Jae Park plays his wife, Eliza, and her character’s sweetness is underscored by a tough-as-nails resiliency. Park’s voice is delightful, and really packs a punch in her second-act number “Burn.” Jared Dixon offers a more vulnerable Aaron Burr, making it possible for audiences to really sympathize with this self-declared “villain in your history.” Marcus Choi knocks it out of the park in all aspects as commander-in-chief George Washington, and Neil Haskell takes the part of King George and owns it entirely, infusing more personality in just a few short numbers than His Majesty probably had in his entire life (and earning a great response from the audience). Ta’Rea Campbell takes on the mighty role of Angelica Schuyler, Eliza’s sister and Hamilton’s confidante, with an impressive talent and acting range. When she confronts Alexander after he publishes the Reynolds Pamphlet in Act 2, Campbell manages to make the entire house feel like they should start apologizing.

And that’s just a sampling of the talent in this tour—for a show that runs close to three hours, there’s not a weak moment in it, and that’s in large measure thanks to a supporting cast that doesn’t stop giving their all the entire time. “The Room Where It Happens” is a master class in choreography. “Wait for It” is powerful enough on its own to give you goosebumps. There are two cabinet meetings that are far funnier than any government convention ought to be. “Guns and Ships” is incredible for its lyrics, and “Hurricane” is still one of the best things you can see on stage today. Like the cast, there’s not a bad apple to be found in the score.

As of this writing, tickets for at least some of the remaining performances are available. If you’ve been holding off on seeing the live show, do yourself a favor and catch this hit before it leaves town. The recorded version is fantastic, but nothing beats live theater.

Hamilton runs through Dec. 12 at the Providence Performing Arts Center, 220 Weybosset St., Providence. Tickets may be won through the lottery or purchased (again, seating is “very limited”) at the box office, online at ppacri.org, or by calling 401.421.2787. Patrons must wear masks and provide proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test.