Hamilton is a Broadway smash hit that everyone should see

To fully appreciate Hamilton, you need to go back to 2009. Before the Tony Awards, before the hoopla, before we knew who a Daveed Diggs was, back in 2009 at the White House specifically.

The Obama Administration was hosting a ‘Poetry Jam’ night. This was the first-ever White House Poetry Jam, a night of poetry, music, and spoken word. Lin-Manuel Miranda, who had already achieved success on Broadway with his musical In the Heights, was invited to participate. He took the stage with an audience that included the President, First Lady, and many government elites and spoke about a concept hip hop album that he was working on. It was about a man who, in Manuel-Miranda’s opinion, ‘embodies hip-hop’ Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton. He spoke about the rise of Hamilton, who ‘caught beef with every other founding father’ and rose to fame with the help of his writing.

Manuel Miranda then performed the song Alexander Hamilton, which was met with some laughter. I suspect people were still thinking, ‘embodies hip hop . . . really?’

Manuel Miranda left the White House and went on to complete his show. In February 2015, it made its off-Broadway debut. In August of the same year, it moved to the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway and became the ‘must-have ticket. To call it successful is like calling Michael Jordan an ‘ok’ basketball player or Prince, a ‘decent musician. This is a once-in-a-generation type of show.

There are so many things that make it unique. The musical is sung-and-rapped-through, and the songs are beyond catchy. Manuel Miranda wanted the cast to ‘look like America looks now’; to that end, the company is made up of Black, Latino and Asian actors. Throughout the show, Hamilton’s strong pro-immigration theme resonates.

The musical also makes history fun. Could I have told you anything about Alexander Hamilton before seeing the show? Not a lot. And now? Go ahead and quiz me.

If you were to look at my Apple Music or Spotify list of ‘Most Listened to Songs’ for 2020, they had something in common, songs from the musical Hamilton were very predominant in the top ten. To me, that comes as no surprise. I was introduced to Hamilton that year, and on my daily walks, I would listen to it constantly. I got to the point where I was determined to memorize the songs in the show. I would sing them to anyone who would listen, yes . . . anyone.

Lin-Manuel Miranda crafted one of the most successful Broadway musicals of all time. It’s listed as the fourth highest grossing of all time, which is interesting when you consider it hasn’t had nearly as many shows as Wicked or Phantom of the Opera.

The show dominated the Tony Awards. It had a record-breaking 16 nominations, won 11, and catapulted Manuel Miranda to superstardom.

Residents in Ottawa have been waiting and waiting for the touring show to come to Nation’s Capital, and the wait is finally over.

I had the opportunity to see Hamilton at the National Arts Centre (NAC). Many people have commented that they don’t want to watch the version streaming on Disney Plus that includes the original cast from a live performance in New York. I caught this version before seeing the show at the NAC. If you can, see both versions.

You won’t be seeing Lin-Manuel Miranda, Phillipa Soo, Leslie Odom Jr, and the original cast, but you can take solace in the fact these are very talented performers who breathe new life into the respected show. Pierre Jean Gonzalez, who plays the lead role of Alexander Hamilton, has graciously taken the baton from Manuel Miranda and is very good in the role. Jared Dixon, as Aaron Burr, is also great, and that’s not an easy role to take on.

Being familiar with the show, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and the crowd’s response showed that they agreed with me. I’ve never wanted to dance at a musical, but I’ve never seen a musical like Hamilton. There was nothing, allow me to repeat, nothing, about this version of the show that put me off. I still laughed in the same spots, still toe-tapped, and wanted to dance in some others. And after singing it to myself on all those walks, it was great to take a break and let the professionals sing it to me. (But if they needed me, I was ready)

Getting this show here is such a win for the NAC. I haven’t seen this level of buzz around a show in Ottawa in some time, and I’m talking pre-pandemic.

The tickets for this show aren’t cheap, but it’s a far cry from the amount it would have cost to see it on Broadway with the original cast.

The National Arts Centre has a wonderful Broadway program, and many popular are hosted at this venue. Every now and then, a show like Hamilton comes along and demands your attention.

The show doesn’t feel long as it keeps the audience engaged. The performances are strong and complement the original cast’s work.

After seeing this show, you will appreciate why Disney is constantly knocking on Manuel Miranda’s door.

I loved the fact that when I attended the show, I saw people of multiple backgrounds and various ages. The term ‘a show for everybody’ not only applies, but the show's content also reinforces it.

Lin-Manuel Miranda has given us a highly respected and adored show, and I sincerely feel you need to take the opportunity to see it.

Hamilton runs at the NAC from July 13 through the 31st.

Grade: A