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Review: Hamilton lives up to the hype

November 8, 2018

Joseph Morales and Nik Walker will lead the second national tour of Hamilton as Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, respectively. ((Photo by Joan Marcus)

For three years, Hamilton has been the hottest ticket on Broadway, but does the hit musical live up to the hype?

In a word - YES!

The show, which opened Tuesday at Durham Performing Arts Center and runs through Dec. 2, is a fast-moving, fun, modern take on the story of Alexander Hamilton.

The show kicks off with the rapid fire rap “Alexander Hamilton.” We meet the orphaned immigrant from the West Indies who would become one of our country’s founding fathers. And we meet the man who killed him - Aaron Burr.

That first act, specifically, feels like you just got onto a roller coaster. It takes off and you don’t come up for air until intermission. The ensemble is so strong that you are just mesmerized while they are on stage.

The show does such a good job of transporting you to different scenes without really ever changing the stage setup. It is very industrial set with wooden scaffolding everywhere. Props and lighting are used to illustrate the scene changes, but you barely notice that nothing else is changing. A circular panel in the center of the stage spins at times, giving some dimension to different scenes - especially the final duel.

It is important to note that Hamilton is a true musical.

There isn’t any dialogue at all that isn’t sung in some way. The score segues through rap, R&B, jazz and hip hop. That helps contribute to the intensity of the show. Each song builds upon the emotions of the last.

Hamilton might be named after the founding father, but the show is really driven by an ensemble of characters including his wife, Eliza Hamilton, and his once friend, Aaron Burr.

Nik Walker’s Burr is a revelation. He manages to make the former vice president somewhat sympathetic and often, humorous.

I expected to hate Burr but left the show wondering what the world would have been like had the two been able to put aside their differences.

The first act takes you through Hamilton’s marriage to Eliza, his involvement in the Revolutionary War and subsequent appointment by George Washington as the first secretary of treasury. Look out for the scene stealing appearances by King George (played very cheekily by Jon Patrick Walker).

The final act introduces Thomas Jefferson (Kyle Scatcliffe) and James Madison (Elon grad Fergie L. Philippe) to the fold and revs up the tension between Hamilton and Burr.

Nothing prepares you for the final duel, which stops to tell the story from both men’s perspective. It is an emotional scene that is only punctuated by Burr’s final words of regret.

Since the show opened on Broadway in 2015, it has remained a nearly impossible ticket to nab not only in New York but also its U.S. tour - unless you are lucky enough to win a ticket lottery or get selected for the Ticketmaster Verified Fan program.

From the minute Hamilton announced it was headed to Durham, theater goers started plotting how to get into the “room where it happens.”

Some tickets are released every night for the DPAC shows, but expect to pay up to $400 per ticket. If that is a bit too steep, a few tickets ($10 each) are being released each night for purchase via a special ticket lottery.

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