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‘Hamilton’ a 10 Indeed

September 23, 2018

BOSTON -- Hamilton is here at last, and it’s a hip-hopping, gut-wrenching, eye-popping, musical-theater revelation that has made me a believer in the genius of its creator/composer, Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Based on Ron Chernow’s groundbreaking biography about Alexander Hamilton, the guy pictured on our $10 bill and one of America’s most charming, charismatic, yet conflicted Founding Fathers, the show, on stage at the Boston Opera House through mid-November, makes other historical musicals pale in comparison.

Hamilton’s life story is the stuff of great drama and lends itself to theatrical presentation. Born out of wedlock in the Caribbean in 1757, he was orphaned as a child, adopted by a businessman from the Colonies and emigrated to America before the Revolution.

Smart, hard-working and ambitious, he was a Revolutionary War hero and trusted aide to Gen. George Washington. He co-authored the Federalist Papers, was America’s first secretary of the Treasury and became embroiled in America’s first political sex scandal. And then he was killed, a young man in his 40s, in a notorious gun duel with his chief rival and long-time nemesis, Aaron Burr.

What makes the musical so exciting, fresh and new is Miranda’s inventive score -- a rich medley of hip-hop, R&B, pop, soul and traditional show tunes -- that gives life to the story of the American Revolution and the early days of the new nation.

Its color-blind casting also makes sense, giving immediacy and freshness to the history books. America is a country of immigrants and racially mixed folks, so having Hamilton, Burr, Washington, Jefferson and the rest portrayed by people of color is brilliant.

These men and women come to life on stage, making history real to the millions of young fans -- and older ones, too -- who embrace “Hamilton.”

On opening night, I kept thinking, “If Hamilton was around when I was in school, I wouldn’t have slept through U.S. history class.”

The show is set on a multitiered stage with rafters and ramps, plus a revolving turntable, akin to “Les Miserables.”

Totally sung-through, Act I introduces Hamilton, played well by Austin Scott, with the high-energy hip-hop “Alexander Hamilton” and his strong ambitions in his “My Shot.”

His love interests, the Schuyler Sisters (Hannah Cruz and Sabrina Sloan), come into play early on in their signature tune. And there’s the slightly mad King George (a colorful Peter Matthew Smith) providing necessary comic relief, as he reminds the revolutionaries “You’ll Be Back,” a clever, campy tune. Hamilton becomes George Washington’s aide in “Right Hand Man,” wonderfully sung and performed by Paul Oakley Stovall, and the ongoing rivalry between him and Burr continues to mount.

Act II seems richer as Hamilton forges his way in the government, still working closely with Washington, has his illicit affair with Maria Reynolds (a sultry Isa Briones), loses his son, Philip (Ruben Carjabal), nearly loses his wife (lovely Hannah Cruz) and then loses his life in the duel.

The performances are wonderful, with special kudos to Smith as King George, Cruz as long-suffering Eliza Hamilton, Nicholas Christopher as a menacing Aaron Burr, Bryson Bruce’s foppish Thomas Jefferson and Stovall’s fabulously sung George Washington.

Read up on the story and lyrics beforehand, if you can, then be prepared to be blown away by this show. One for the history books, “Hamilton” is a musical masterpiece not to be missed.

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