By now, most any theatergoer with the desire has had a chance to get to know “Hamilton,” either through its best-selling cast album or perhaps the filmed version on Disney Plus.
Those are all fantastic alternatives to seeing it live, but – forgive me here – there really isn’t anything to compare to being in the room where it happens.
Broadway is ideal, but the next best thing is a top-notch touring production, and there’s one of those at the BJCC Concert Hall right now as part of the Broadway in Birmingham season.
It features a stellar Equity cast, meaning the actors belong to Actors Equity Association, and some of them have multiple Broadway credits. It also has a striking set (complete with the turntable that helps create the magic of “Hamilton’s” staging), pretty much the equivalent of what you would see on Broadway.
And if you’ve seen it live already, well, one of the joys of “Hamilton” is that each viewing uncovers something new, thanks to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s intricate, funny, beautiful and oh-so-smart score.
But that music doesn’t mean a thing if the cast can’t perform it well. They must be expert enunciators because the often rapid-fire lyrics are integral to understanding what’s going on.
Save for a couple of relatively minor characters on stage who were hard to hear or understand, the cast performing Wednesday night was superb, led by Edred Utomi as Hamilton. Utomi plays the “young, scrappy and hungry” part of the Founding Father to the hilt, but he also shines in the more tender and dramatic moments, particularly those between Hamilton and his wife, Eliza.
Alysha Deslorieux, who was in the original Broadway cast of “Hamilton,” plays Eliza, and she and Stephanie Umoh, who plays her sister, Angelica, nearly steal the show from the largely male cast. Their one-two punch of “Helpless” (Deslorieux) and “Satisfied” (Umoh) in the first act are right on target, as are the other songs the sisters sing.
A couple of other standouts included David Park in the dual roles of Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson and, adding quite a bit of levity to the proceedings, Bryson Bruce as King George.
But the cast is only part of the equation. The set and staging are inventive, with the turntable helping to keep the action moving. The costumes and lighting are also first-rate, and the sound, so important for a musical like “Hamilton,” only faltered mildly a couple of times.
Like “Phantom of the Opera,” “Wicked” and “The Lion King” before it, “Hamilton” is a moment for Broadway in Birmingham, one of those touring shows that helps define a Broadway series. It’s here for two weeks, and it’s a fine production.
Go see it if you can. You won’t be disappointed.