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“Hamilton” at Proctors just as good the second time

Hamilton, National Tour
Joan Marcus

“Hamilton” has returned to Proctors in Schenectady. It’s a must-see show that is beautiful to watch, fascinating to hear and revelatory in content. It’s a remarkable musical that combines thrilling entertainment with subtle – and a few not-so-subtle -political and timely social observations.

Icing on the cake is that the national tour which is in town through Sunday, March 26 is excellently performed and staged. The performance takes two hours and 45 minutes, but it is so mesmerizing it flies by

When “Hamilton” first visited Schenectady in 2019, I was concerned that it wouldn’t live up to its hype. It exceeded my expectations. This time I feared it would lose something in a second viewing. It didn’t. In fact, I enjoyed it as much as I did the first time.

In some ways, even more, as I made several discoveries that I missed the first time. The production is so active - especially in the first act - it is impossible to absorb all the nuances in the show.

Personally, I think the mark of a truly great show is that it gets richer with each viewing. I was recently in Houston and saw a local production of “Sweeney Todd.” I did a rough estimate which says it was at least the 10th production I’ve seen of Stephen Sondheim’s masterpiece. Once again, I enjoyed the experience greatly and found new things to admire.

“Hamilton” is without question on that list of shows that every experience is as good or better than the first. That’s because the essence of the show is deeper than its entertainment components.

It is about the American Revolution and the role Alexander Hamilton played in shaping the course of a new country. But, actually it’s about the nature of man and his desire to live in freedom and accomplish something that will live beyond him.

In contrast to the Marvel films filled with uniquely empowered super heroes, “Hamilton” uses flawed men who believe in a cause to become true historic heroes.

This is one reason “Hamilton” is able to use black actors to represent historical figures such as Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, and an Asian-American actor as George Washington.

On stage the men represent ideals as well as their historical accomplishments, and ideals are not defined by color. The performers encompass nobility, intelligence, dedication to a cause and heroism. The casting choices in “Hamilton” make it clear that such qualities transcend color, gender and sexual preferences. A joy of “Hamilton” is we see the history of the country as acted by the representatives of the population that exists today.

The music in “Hamilton” works the same way. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s compelling score consists of spoken word, mild rap and pop idioms as it permits historical figures to speak to us in modern cadences of speech. It unites the past with the present. There is a slight negative in that - for many, it takes time to acclimate to the sound of even soft rap and spoken word songs.

Yes, “Hamilton” requires work from the audience. You must listen intently, pay attention to the frequent double casting like the one that has Thomas Jefferson and Marquis De Lafayette played by the same slightly over-the-top actor and keep focused on the story of Alexander Hamilton’s life.

It also takes discipline to pay attention to the central action and not miss the enhancing stage movement put in by director Thomas Kail and choreographer Andy Blankbuehler.

The production of “Hamilton” at Proctors is huge, exciting and enlightening. The only question that remains to be seen is if the material works when eventually, it will have to be scaled down. “

“Sweeney Todd” prospered when they cut out some visual extravagances. I suspect “Hamilton” is such a solid piece of theater it too, will have a long life when it is told in a simpler manner. However, I’m glad I saw it in its full glory.

It is a tough ticket to obtain. But because the March 14 performance was cancelled due to the snow storm and moved to March 26, there might be some availability for that Sunday evening performance. Don’t wait. Call 518-346-6204 or go to proctors.org

Bob Goepfert is theater reviewer for the Troy Record.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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