PROVIDENCE — History lovers with an appreciations for rap, R&B and hip-hop have good reason to celebrate this month. There are still plenty of tickets available to see "Hamilton" — the blockbuster musical made famous by the gifted Lin-Manuel Miranda — now on stage at the Providence Performing Arts Center.
To make matters even more tantalizing, 40 tickets will be available for each performance — from now until Aug. 11 — for an astonishing $10 apiece via a digital lottery (at hamiltonmusical.com.) Remember this: "Hamilton" is near impossible to see on Broadway.
There is no excuse to at least try to get tickets for the musical which will have you thinking about the early days of our nation and its colorful founders long after the curtain closes. Based on "Alexander Hamilton," Ron Chernow's celebrated 2004 biography, Miranda's musical tells Hamilton's story through songs packed with brilliant lyrics guaranteed to keep you spellbound but alert, amazed, interested and curious. (If only all history lessons could be taught this way!) I had forgotten that Hamilton, a largely self-taught orphan from the Caribbean, became George Washington’s aide-de-camp in the Continental Army, co-authored The Federalist Papers, founded the Bank of New York, led the Federalist Party, was the first Treasury Secretary of the United States and founded the Coast Guard.
Edred Utomi plays the role of Hamilton in the PPAC production and while he is excellent as the "ten-dollar Founding Father without a father" who "got a lot farther by working a lot harder by being a lot smarter, by being a self-starter," there are so many other strong actors in strong roles that he's almost overshadowed. Josh Tower's Aaron Burr and Paul Oakley Stovall's George Washington are equally as powerful and commanding and good and while Peter Matthew Smith as King George (he is hilarious) and Bryson Bruce in the dual roles of Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson are memorable, it was Hannah Cruz who made the most long-lasting impression.
Cruz, who plays Hamilton's wife, Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, is outstanding. With her breathtakingly, gorgeous voice and authentic, honest emotion, Cruz's Eliza is magnificent. Sweet, charming and innocent when she sings "Helpless," ("Then you walked in and my heart went boom,") Cruz brought me to tears during "Burn," ("Let future historian wonder how Eliza reacted when you broke her heart, You have torn it all apart, I'm watching it burn,") and broke my heart in the process. Cruz is stunning and strong and definitely has the coolest hair style of anyone in the show. And who knew that Eliza Hamilton, who lost both her son and her husband in duels, went on to found the first private orphanage in New York City?
Olivia Puckett, in the dual roles of Eliza's sister Peggy and Maria Reynolds, is also outstanding as is Stephen Hernandez who plays Philip Schuyler, James Reynolds and the Doctor.
The rotating, balconies set is fabulous, as are the period costumes. Andy Blankenbuehler's choreography and Thomas Kail's direction are also worthy of note. The orchestra on opening night was good, but a tad too loud and made it sometimes difficult to hear the actors, but I'm certain that has been rectified.
I strongly suggest you listen to the soundtrack a few times before you head to the show, and take a quick refresher course in Early American History. Maybe even read Chernow's book or "Hamilton: The Revolution," the book Miranda wrote with Jeremy McCarter. See this show and by all means, "Don't throw away your shot."