Don’t expect Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of one of the most successful Broadway productions ever, to make another Hamilton or anything like it.
“I don’t think I’m writing another history musical ever f–king again. You think I can top this?” he asked during a Thursday interview at the Broadway in Chicago offices.
Thanks to Hamilton’s enduring appeal and longevity, the momentum for the eight-year-old musical isn’t slowing down anytime soon, especially in Chicago. After the 11-time Tony Award-winning production enjoyed a three-and-a-half-year run at the CIBC Theatre, earning over $400 million in gross ticket sales, it returned to the city this week.
This time, Hamilton plays at the James M. Nederlander Theatre until Dec. 30. While the cast of this epic saga may be different, the storyline, diversity of voices and universal themes of love, loss, betrayal and ambition remain intact, along with the Hip-hop, soul and pop numbers that adorn it.
When asked what makes Hamilton as pertinent now as it was when it was first released in 2015, Miranda was unequivocal.
“Well, I haven’t changed the word of it,” he said. “I think about how the fights and contradictions from the flawed men and women that built this country still echo with us today,” he said. “I think about the fact that our main character dies as a result of gun violence, which is an original sin and stain that still haunts us every day.”
He also highlights the celebrated “Cabinet Battles” in the musical as more proof of its enduring relevance. If you haven’t heard by now, the two “Cabinet Battles” are freestyle battles a la the Eminem movie “8 Mile,” where Hamilton debates Thomas Jefferson over two philosophical questions our government wrestles with to this day: states’ rights versus the intervention of the federal government and U.S. foreign policy and whether our country should be providing aid to outside governments engaged in foreign conflicts.
“Those cabinet battles were so fun to write because they are both about specifically what they’re about — whether we pass a debt plan or not, whether we help the French Revolution or not,” Miranda said. “The specifics have changed and vary, but our fights are fights. And so things will just hit differently depending on where we are in the moment.”
Indeed, the internet quote often attributed to Mark Twain applies here: “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
Warren Egypt Franklin, Desmond Sean Ellington, Elijah Malcomb, Pierre Jean Gonzalez – HAMILTON – (c) Joan Marcus 2021
Before a sold-out Nederlander Theatre audience on Thursday night, each musical number was met with pointed applause and cheers.
I’m no theater critic by any stretch of the imagination. However, Pierre Jean Gonzalez and Deon’te Goodman, who played Hamilton and Aaron Burr in the Chicago production, were terrific. As King George III, Neil Haskell expertly provided comic relief as a counterpoint to the production’s heavier scenes. However, after the musical, my mind kept flashing back to Nikisha Williams’s stellar turn as Hamilton’s wife, Eliza. Her crystalline voice imbued her wistful and melancholy numbers with urgency and power. Her rendition of “That Would Be Enough” and “Burn,” in particular, left me in a state of wonder.
The choreography also endows this production with just as much vitality and rhythm. Again, I am no theater critic. I lack the eye and technical expertise to discern flaws.
The best compliment I can pay to this two-hour and forty-five-minute production is that it didn’t feel like a two-hour and forty-five-minute production.
Here’s another one: As someone who doesn’t particularly like musicals, I enjoyed this one immensely. I also understand why Hamilton, eight years later, remains as relevant, entertaining and incisive as ever. I get the appeal and see why it would be hard for anyone to top.
For More Information
What: Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda, direction by Thomas Kail, choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler, and musical supervision and orchestrations by Alex Lacamoire.
Where: James M. Nederlander Theatre (24 W Randolph St.)
When: September 13 – December 30, 2023
Ticket Info: Tickets are available by visiting www.BroadwayInChicago.com or any Broadway In Chicago venue box office. Patrons are advised to check the official HAMILTON channels and www.BroadwayInChicago.com for late-release seats, which may become available on short notice.
What Else: 2 hour and 45 minute run time including an intermission
See the video below from our short interview with Miranda: