Reviewed by Jess Linde
Through December 30
The West Coast debut of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s cultural phenomenon about the founding father Alexander Hamilton, directed by Broadway steward Thomas Kail, could not have disappointed if it tried.
When the lights went down and Joshua Henry took the stage as Aaron Burr, the whole of the Pantages’ massive hall went silent. Outpourings of applause greeted every major character from Burr and Hamilton (Daniel Luwoye) and King George (Rory O’Malley, also reprising his role from Broadway) to the flamboyant and villainous Thomas Jefferson (Jordan Donica). Cheers and riotous clapping punctuated every song, and the new famous line “immigrants, we get the job done,” almost blew the roof off the place. The major numbers landed perfectly, and the innovative, staging engaged for the full two and a half hours, despite the small company rarely filling the entire stage. At one point, I checked my watch and was surprised at the amount of time which had passed, only to be drawn right back in by Henry’s wonderful rendition of my favorite number, “Wait for It”. I did not look down again until the show was over.
People who have already been obsessing over the original Broadway soundtrack may be disappointed to find the Los Angeles’ version’s relative lack of bombast, due in part to the sheer size of the Pantages. There is a definite loss of intimacy between those on stage and the audience, especially all the way up in the back of the mezzanine. Choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler also sometimes lacked the dynamism of the music of larger songs like “The Battle of Yorktown”. Additionally, the production was not helped by the orchestra’s volume, which occasionally drowned out the singers, including Emmy Raver-Lampman’s powerful performance of “Satisfied” as Angelica Schuyler.
Nevertheless, the cast carries the show well. Luwoye and Henry play the leads as restrained geniuses, their respective ambitions slowly boiling to the surface, which adds believable earnestness to the characters. Beginning the show as Marquis de Lafayette, Donica switches seamlessly to Jefferson in the second act, as do Mathenee Treco and Rubén J. Carbajal between Hercules Mulligan/James Madison and John Laurens/Philip Hamilton, respectively. Solea Pfeiffer’s Elizabeth Schuyler is impressive in her timidity, making her belting of “Burn” that much more effective, and Amber Iman as (Peggy Schuyler/Maria Reynolds) and Isaiah Johnson as (George Washington) simply kill it with show-anchoring performances in the second act. So while those in the audience were already ready to love it, the Los Angeles production of Hamilton does not take this for granted, and is sure to affirm those who, as I do, just love the show.
The Pantages, 6233 Hollywood Boulevard; Tuesdays through Fridays at 8pm, Weekends at 2pm and 8pm; Through December 30; https://www.hollywoodpantages.com/events/detail/hamilton or 800-982-2787; Running time: two and a half hours with one fifteen-minute intermission.