Here ye, here ye! My name is Rachel Lesch and I present free thoughts on Hamilton: An American Musical.
Mom, Aunt Pat, and I took the 11:30am bus into New York City. The trip took about an hour because the traffic was insane, man. We had a quick lunch at Schnippers across the street for Port Authority before heading to Richard Rogers Theater. Because it is June, our Playbills were Pride Month themed.
“Alexander Hamilton,” the opening number, received a massive ovation, especially during the entrance of lead actor, Michael Luwoye. Daniel Breaker, who played Aaron Burr, has a hoity-toity snooty sounding voice which was different from Leslie Odom Jr. (the original Aaron Burr) who sang the part with a smooth menace. He did well but I thought he sounded a bit weak during “Dear Theodosia.”
When Peggy (Joanna A. Jones) is complaining during “Schuyler Sisters,” Eliza (Lexi Lawson) puts her hands on Peggy’s shoulders and is like “shut up Peg.”
When Peggy (Joanna A. Jones who is double cast as Maria Reynolds) is complaining during “Schuyler Sisters,” Eliza (Lexi Lawson) puts her hands on Peggy’s shoulders and is like “shut up Peg.” One of the students in the common dances around Eliza flirtatiously at one point during the song. George Washington (Bryan Terrell Clark) sang the lines “Can I be real a second?” and “Elegance and eloquence” a sarcastically during “Right Hand Man.” I thought that Clark’s voice did not quite fit the role of George Washington. It does not have the deep and commanding quality that I imagine the character having.
There was an “eyes-meeting-across-the-ballroom” moment between Hamilton and Eliza during “Helpless.” Their kiss at the end of “Helpless” was long and steamy, so when John Laurens (Anthony Lee Medina: who is double cast as Philip Hamilton) says “Alright, Alright, that’s what I’m talking about” at the beginning of “Satisfied,” he interrupts their kiss with suggestive pelvic thrusts. The line “I romanticize what might have been” made me think maybe Angelica is looking back on her first meeting with Hamilton with rose-colored glasses. She is making more of her connection with him than there perhaps really was. One of Hamilton’s biggest historical inaccuracies is that Angelica is presented as still eligible whereas in real life she was already married by the time she met Hamilton. According to the show’s logic, if Hamilton preferred Angelica over her sister Eliza, he would have married her instead. Eliza is seen dancing with Burr when she first notices Hamilton at the ball.
During Hamilton’s narration at the beginning of “Stay Alive,” Eliza is seen reading a letter, so his words are meant to be a letter home. Read coat soldiers march in front of where Eliza is standing during “Stay Alive,” so it kind of looks like she is a British prisoner. I imagine that Eliza must have had to be careful since as the daughter of a general in Continental Army and the wife of George Washington’s right-hand man, she would have made a valuable hostage. Eliza and Angelica are frequently seen in the background during the war scenes, showing that Hamilton is thinking of the women he loves.
When King George III (Euan Morton) sings the line “I’m so blue” he stamps his foot petulantly and the spotlight changes from red to blue. When King George III (Euan Morton) sings the line “I’m so blue” he stamps his foot petulantly and the spotlight changes from red to blue. The use of color in the production design is the stuff of lengthy analytical essays. Hamilton’s arrival home from the war and reunion with the pregnant Eliza is lit in blue, Eliza’s signature color, which is calm and soothing. Eliza and Angelica, who wears a pale shade of rose pink, are warm and comforting forces in Hamilton’s life and their pastel shades reflect this. There is an interesting parallel between “Non-Stop” and “Take a Break.” Both songs end with Angelica and Eliza each holding one of Hamilton’s hands and him breaking away from them, first to go and be Secretary of the Treasury, then to stay home from a family vacation.
The dress that Eliza wears during “Non-Stop” and “Take a Break” is a pale turquoise: her blue mixed with Hamilton’s green. As his wife and the mother of their children, her identity is an extension of his. After his betrayal with Maria Reynolds, the sultry siren in the red dress, she goes back to wearing the pale blue she wore before their marriage. Red is a color associated with danger and is used as visual shorthand to say that Maria Reynolds is bad news. It also clashes with green, Hamilton’s signature color, showing that his relationship with Maria is wrong. Eliza, the saintly wife, is dressed in Virgin Mary blue while Maria, the mistress, is a literal scarlet woman. During “The Reynolds Pamphlet” Maria is seen reading the titular pamphlet, in which she is named and shamed, and walks off stage with her head hung in disgrace. Eliza, the homemaker, is pitied by the public while Maria, the homewrecker, is reviled as a whore. Maria Reynolds is a character I loathe and despise but at this point, I almost felt sorry for her.
Hamilton and Eliza are fully reconciled by the bittersweet “Best of Wives and Best of Women” during which Eliza wears a dark teal dressing gown: her blue and his green mixed with the black of the mourning clothes they wore after the death of their son Philip. The Hamiltons are a united front again though sadder what wiser after all they’ve been through. When she widowed, Eliza wears pale blue again, signaling that she is her own woman.
James Monroe Iglehart, who plays the Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson, made his entrance as Jefferson to thunderous applause. I saw him as the Genie in Aladdin and the Tony Award-winning actor is always a joy to watch but I think he did better as Jefferson than as Lafayette. His voice is better suited to Jefferson’s jazz than Lafayette’s rapid-fire hip-hop. The songs that got the biggest reaction were George Washington’s parting song “One Last Time” and Eliza’s break up song “Burn.”
Lexi Lawson sounded broken and tearful during “Burn” which was a different take on the song. Phillipa Soo (the original Eliza) sang it with a steely intensity, using her words as pins to burst Hamilton’s bubble. I have always seen “Burn” as Eliza’s “Letterbomb” from American Idiot, where the love interest is pretty much telling the protagonist “fuck you, I’m done with your shit.” You can imagine that Lawson is going to eat a ton of ice cream and cry which is understandable in her situation.
The feels hit me like Aaron Burr’s bullet during the second act. I do not think that I have ever had as big of an emotional reaction. The song “It’s Quiet Uptown” is known as a big tear jerker but it never had as big of an effect on me. Hamilton and Eliza’s reconciliation is seen as a beautiful moment of forgiveness but I’ve always seen it as one of the countless instances of a wife being expected to “be the better person” and forgive her husband for his transgressions when he probably would have just kicked her to the curb if she had done the same thing. Upon actually seeing the show, I confess that the scene moved me. You see how completely heartbroken Hamilton is following Philip’s death and how he blames himself (not unjustly) for the chain of events that lead to this tragic events. Eliza is aloof and ignores her husband even as he pleads for forgiveness. When she finally allows him to hold her hand, he breaks down crying and it’s a powerful moment.
The last ten minutes of Hamilton are a masterpiece of suspense as events hurtle at breakneck speed towards the climactic Hamilton/Burr duel. It’s ending is superb with Eliza explaining how she spent her half-century of widowhood carrying on her beloved husband’s legacy. Hamilton ushers Eliza in the spotlight where she takes her last breath and is finally able to join him in the afterlife. I was close to tears as I walked out of the theater.
After the show, we had dinner at the Heartland Brewery in Port Authority before getting on our bus back to New Jersey. We then had ice cream at a place called Magnifico’s on our way home. The perfect end to a perfect day.
I have the honor to be you, obdient servant,