At this point in the history of the Broadway juggernaut Hamilton, anyone who has had a desire to see it has been afforded many opportunities. If it wasn’t at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York, where it’s still running more than six years after its debut, or during one of its multiple national tours, it was on Disney+, where anyone can watch a (fantastic) recording of the original cast performing in 2016.
That easy streaming accessibility is a double-edged sword for anyone now performing the show. On one hand, it maintains the high interest in the production, as the continued sell-out crowds attest. But it also invites unfair comparisons to the original performers, whose takes on the roles have become ingrained in the minds of many fans.
Based on the performances on display from the Angelica cast, the national tour appearing at Bass Performance Hall through February 6, the current actors have found a way to make their roles their own while staying true to the story fans know and love.
Edred Utomi stars as Alexander Hamilton, bringing an ebullience and energy to the role, typified by two extremely high hops while performing the early show-stopper “My Shot.” His performance seems to bring out the best in the rest of the cast.
On this night, understudy Kameron Richardson replaced Josh Tower as Aaron Burr, but his confidence and mellifluous voice made it seem as if he was always the star. Likewise, John Devereaux moved from the ensemble to the critical part of George Washington (replacing Paul Oakley Stovall), appearing as if he had inhabited the role for years.
Naturally, much of this has to do with the genre-spanning songs from Lin-Manuel Miranda. He managed to find just the right way to combine the early history of the United States with the personal lives of those involved, bringing both to vivid life.
While songs like “Yorktown,” “Non-Stop,” and “The Room Where It Happens” make the military/government aspects of the story fantastically interesting, it’s female-fronted songs like “Satisfied,” “Burn,” and “Finale” that bring the big emotions to make the story fully connect. Stephanie Umoh as Angelica and Zoe Jensen as Eliza hit those moments as effectively as any previous actresses playing the characters.
While the songs get the most attention, what really makes them pop are the precise movements of everyone onstage by choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler and director Thomas Kail. The choreography is often so mesmerizing that it’s equally as entertaining watching the ensemble as it is watching the main players in any particular scene. That’s especially true when characters add in extra dance moves designed to draw laughter from the audience — small but effective touches that elevate an already-entertaining show.
As always, the cast is comprised of actors of multiple races and nationalities, including Utomi (Nigerian), Jon Viktor Corpuz (Filipino), and David Park (Korean), giving even greater meaning to the “Immigrants … we get the job done” line in “Yorktown.” A fact that’s neither here nor there, other than the visuals they provide, is the generally short stature of the cast. Corpuz, Richardson, and Jensen are notably smaller than their castmates, but the size difference is no impediment to their powerful performances.
Exactly seven years after Hamilton was first performed Off-Broadway (January 20, 2015), the musical remains as impactful and compelling as it ever was. Billed as “the story of America then, told by America now,” it’s a wholly original text that offers representation, thrills, heartbreak, and some of the best music a Broadway show has ever put forth.