The Private Bank Theatre
I originally purchased these tickets back in November, when the block of dates were released. I was really excited because this musical had great reviews, it was really popular, and tickets were hard to come by. It has received accolades from regular people, celebrities, and the former President himself. It won 11 Tony Awards (that would be the Broadway theaters and plays equivalent of the Oscars). I wanted to experience this for myself to see if it was worth all the hype.
According to an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Lin-Manuel Miranda had read a biography on Alexander Hamilton on vacation once, which inspired him to write songs about Hamilton’s life. Correction: he was inspired to write rap and hip-hop songs based on Hamilton’s life.
A hip-hop musical instead of the traditional show tunes, you say? Definitely intrigued! Miranda states that he wrote the songs he “dream casted” with his favorite artists, such as Common, John Legend, Busta Rhymes, Rakim, Big Pun and Eminem.
Hint: I’m a big fan of all of them too! I was really hearing the influences in the songs.
The “Cabinet Debates,” come in the form of rap battles, and the debate between Hamilton and Jefferson, complete with mic drops.
So the date had arrived and we showed up at the Private Bank Theatre. I had been there before when it was the Bank of America Theatre when I saw Book of Mormon. When I had bought the tickets, there was a note stating that the view may be obscured. Usually that meant a support post, or position of the seats in relation to the stage may not allow complete viewing of the stage. I had tickets like this before (in other theaters) but never really had any issues. When we saw Book of Mormon there, we didn’t have any issues either, so I thought to give the seats a try.
When we got to our seats, part of our view of the stage (the upper part of the stage) was blocked by the level above us. I didn’t realize how significant it would be until during the show. When some of the actors went to the second level of the stage, you could only see their boots (unless you ducked your head, then maybe you could see the rest of them. Though I could see most of the action on stage, I wasn’t able to fully appreciate some of the choreography. I had a friend that had seen this show in the balcony, and she had said that she was able to see everything.
Pro-tip: for the Private Bank Theatre, try to get seats that are not directly under the upper level – try to sit in an open area or sit in the balcony if possible.
From what I had read in various articles and interviews, Lin-Manuel Miranda wanted to have a minority cast portray the founding fathers, as he felt that the audience would have a better connect with the characters this way. For me, it was like thinking-outside-the box. Like with Allegiance, Miranda had brought minority actors to the forefront to showcase their talents. I really liked that idea, and the choices were far from disappointing.
For example, the performer for George Washington is Jonathan Kirkland. He was tall (almost towered over the other cast members). His voice was deep and resonant (but not too deep), yet he still had an authoritative vibe to him (which is how I would envision a General or President of the United States).
There was also Ari Afsar, who plays Eliza Hamilton. In the Playbill, she was in the top 36 finalist on Season 8 of American Idol. It reminded me of when Jennifer Hudson didn’t win American Idol but was in Dream Girls and won an Oscar for it. Ms Afsar wasn’t in the top 10 and she ends up on Hamilton (and her voice is not too shabby either!) Talk about a pleasant surprise!
The stage also had moving parts – it looked like two concentric circles. At one point, there was a flashback scene, and as the actors moved backwards, so did the floors. From my vantage point, I wasn’t able to really see the full extent of the movement and choreography of the set (refer to above under Venue). The choreography was mostly hip hop and modern dance. If it weren’t for the costumes, one would forget that this was all taking place around the time of the Revolutionary War.
Speaking of time periods, for a Broadway musical, how accurate was the story? Well, the play was based off a biography of Andrew Hamilton by Ron Chernow. In 2015, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Ron Chernow with the History Maker’s Award by the New York Historical Society as “their exceptional body of work offers a truly fresh perspective on American history.” Also because their show, “humanizes a legendary New Yorker and shed light on the complex history of America’s founding era, making it accessible and compelling for today’s audiences.”
There are educators who have their students come up with similar rap battles for projects. The students were able to connect to the history through the music and made them more passionate about learning more about Alexander Hamilton and the Revolutionary War Era.
Overall, the play was entertaining and it kept me engaged the entire time. Despite some of the viewing issues, I would highly recommend seeing this play. I would even see it again (this time I will try to get seats without the viewing obstruction or sit in the balcony).