This show has always been all about narrative.
Even those who dont follow the musical theater scene have been taken by Lin-Manuel Mirandas hip-hop retelling of the founding of our nation. The most captivating thing was Mirandas words. Like Hamilton, a man who wrote like he was running out of timeand wrote his way into prominence, Miranda wrote memorable, passionate lyrics that made the show a sensation, leading to record-breaking Tony award nominations and two Broadway touring casts.
Now, however, as Hamilton arrives in Louisville, its clear theres more to the narratives of Hamilton than simply the words.
One of the first things that stands out is Andy Blankenbuehlers choreography and the way it tells the story as well as do any lyrics. Take, for example, the dancers during Burrs (Josh Tower) solo Wait For It. Throughout the song, the dancers spend most of the time simply seated in chairs to the side of the stage, watching Burr and, well, waiting. As the song swells to its climax, they stand and start to move, but its still restrained and limited.
Compare this to The Room Where It Happens, essentially Burrs I want song, when he decides to stop waiting and start doing whatever he can to achieve his goals. The choreography here is much busier and more frantic, much like the nearly manic choreography that often surrounds Hamilton (Edred Utomi) throughout much of the show.
One of the most visually stunning choreographic moments was during Satisfied, in which the company and main cast with the help of the turntable stage literally turn back time. The turntable stage is itself a thing of beauty. It breathes life into David Korins scenic design, which is less minimalist and more intricately versatile, full of ropes and layers but lacking specificity so it can suit any setting.
Theres also a member of the company assigned the role of the bullet who eventually becomes Hamiltons demise. Her dance is teased earlier in the show as the revolution rages and is fulfilled in striking fashion during the penultimate The World Was Wide Enough.
Lighting, as designed by Howell Binkley, is also smartly done, often focused tightly on the character sharing their story, which shifts from Burr to Hamilton to Angelica (Stephanie Umoh) and Eliza (Hannah Cruz) and also Hamiltons political rivals. Its even funny at times, as in one moment during one of King Georges (Peter Matthew Smith) solos. As he sings, Im so blue under a warm light, he waits, stamps his foot impatiently, and the light switches to blue.
Of course, a good story needs the right storytellers to be compelling, and this Broadway touring cast of Hamilton certainly delivers with its cast. Towers Burr is politically oily and frustratingly stagnant, but he portrays his longing and his regret in such a way that its difficult not to empathize.
While some performances felt more or less in the vein of the original cast, Utomi makes his Hamilton his own, distinct from Mirandas famous performance. Utomi starts the show by zeroing in on Hamiltons nature of having a lot of brains but no polish.
Young Hamilton is awkward, jumpy, and overly eager. The audience has the pleasure and sometimes the pain of watching how he evolves as he gets older.
Cruzs Eliza has a bubbly sweetness to her, but shes also unafraid to be ferociously angry, as in her heartrending solo, Burn and even before, as she tries to hold her husbands quenchless, flighty ambition in check during Non-Stop.
Bryson Bruce fills his Lafayette with an addictive energy, but its his performance as Thomas Jefferson where he truly stands out, delighting the audience with his hammed up Whatd I Miss?
Smiths King George is also a crowd-pleaser, petty and fitful as a spoiled child.
Of course, there are many ways to tell a story, but Mirandas music and lyrics deserve all the hype they receive, and its fitting that words are given such a spotlight for a show about a founding father who was such a prolific writer. The lyrics of the show are the kind that inspire you to do more, to be bolder and unabashedly ambitious, while they also paint a picture of how that spirit without moderation can lead to a downfall.
At times, they capture the joy and youthfulness of characters eager to make a difference, a mirror of America itself at the start. But much like the country, these characters also have ugly flaws that often lead to their downfall. Running motifs are about imagining death so much it feels more like a memory, about whether to die in glory or be content with staying alive and, most important, about the narratives that make history and who shares them. They run through the show seamlessly and are fulfilled breathtakingly.
Whether it is performed on Broadway, in Chicago or elsewhere in the country with the national touring casts, there is little wonder that Hamilton is such a coveted theater experience. Fortunately, even if you missed your chance to get tickets earlier in the year, their touring casts continue the Broadway tradition of the Ham4Ham Lottery, offering $10 tickets to winners who apply two days in advance through their app.
There are no guarantees, of course, but when it comes to seeing Hamilton, no one wants to throw away their shot.
Through June 23
Broadway Across America
The Kentucky Center
501 W. Main St.
Prices and times vary