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Hamilton Still Thrills

Hamilton, which has returned to Broadway Grand Rapids after two years, continues to astound.

/Broadway Grand Rapids

In May of 2009, Lin-Manuel Miranda, the 29-year-old creator of In The Heights, took the stage at the White House as part of an evening devoted to celebrators of the American experience. He mentioned that he was working on a hip-hop concept album about Alexander Hamilton, describing him as “someone who I think embodies hip-hop.” At the time, people laughed.

Thirteen years later, no one is laughing. Hamilton remains something of a miracle: a big-hearted epic, fueled by a love of historical drama, contemporary music, and Miranda’s incandescent talent. On Tuesday, February 8th, it returned to town via Broadway Grand Rapids (it plays through February 20th). I saw it on the 9th. If the evening wasn’t sold out, it was hard to tell; attendees of all ages packed DeVos Performance Hall.

How good was the cast?

At intermission, I asked the woman to my right how she’d been enjoying the show. She told me she had attended the show three times, once in New York City, and that this was the best cast she’d ever seen. Pierre Jean Gonzalez played the titular character. It’s quite a role, requiring that the actor rap well and sing movingly, all while transitioning from idealistic youth to battered, but still morally-driven, middle age. Gonzalez succeeded admirably. And, while it might be heretical to say so, he sings better than Miranda.

Meecah played Eliza Hamilton (“his poor wife”). She brought real human depth to the role, from the first blushes of love to the pains of betrayal to, finally, forgiveness. But to the extent that the show is a pas de deux, Hamilton’s real partner is Aaron Burr. Jared Dixon brought him to life in all his complexity, and, in “Wait For It” (the show’s best song), sang just beautifully.

The rest of the cast succeeded in their portrayals, too, conjuring Thomas Jefferson by way of Prince; Hercules Mulligan by way of Busta Rhymes, and Lafayette by way of God knows. It could easily become farcical (and, in some moments, did; the humor can be broad as a barn). What holds it together is a shining sincerity unafraid to tug at the audience’s heartstrings.

For once, my eyes managed to stay dry as what happened to Philip happened; but when Hamilton sang, “I’m not afraid, I know who I married,” the dam burst. As much as Hamilton has permeated the culture, it remains a remarkably powerful, life-filled show, undeniably the defining theatrical work of its generation. See it.

Learn more at Broadway Grand Rapids

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