There was a lot of hype around Hamilton and it won a lot of awards and generally has nothing but positive reviews, even from the toughest critics. And, it’s all true.
Even if you don’t like musicals, you will like this production. I’m already hoping the run will be extended at the Mirvish theatre so I can see it again. At its most basic core, it’s inspirational and motivating, with a modern feel to it and a cast that oozes talent.
The cast is incredible, especially for a touring production. We’ve had some not so stellar shows come through Toronto on touring productions, but this group just hits every number and powers through the performances. It’s impossible to sing a long to rap but looking around the audience there were tons of us bopping around and feeling the vibes. It was a cool collective experience. I equate this to “In the Heights” which had a similar urban feel, punctuated with modern hip hop that made it stand out when it first premiered.
What also stood out to me was the choreography and overall thematic that felt very similar to Les Mis, another powerful musical that has not aged over time. In fact, Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda got some inspiration from that musical/book. “The things that you can see in Hamilton that are affecting people are also present in Les Mis. One, it’s trying to capture so much of the human experience that even if we fall short, we’ve got a lot of it. I mean, Les Misérables starts in prison. It’s ‘Look down, look down, you’re standing in your grave.’ And then it goes up from there,” he said in an interview with Grantland.
Jennifer Van Evra of CBC radio takes you through some really cool insights around Hamilton which you can read here. Two of most fascinating to me while watching the production was there was no singing like in traditional musicals and no dialogue. The whole musical is a rap and it felt like it was a continuous one as it flowed so well. Both facts came up in the CBC article.
It contains almost no dialogue
Traditionally, musicals have dialogue between the songs, and for a time Miranda worked with a playwright — but found the spoken text didn’t meld with the hip-hop.
“We actually went down the road with a playwright. There’s a version of Act 1 where we had songs and they were the songs that are in the show, but we found that if you start with our opening number, you can’t go back to speech. The ball is just thrown too high in the air,” he explained to Grantland.
“So then the challenge for me became, how do I write scenes that still have this hip-hop feel? And that’s when I would listen to Friend or Foe by Jay-Z on a loop.”
It packs in a whole lot of words
Musical theatre isn’t usually known for fast-paced dialogue; because it’s sung, it can take a long time to get a thought across — but using hip-hop, Hamilton has seriously disrupted that norm.
In fact, the stats-minded website fivethirtyeight.com took the cast albums of eight top musicals, and calculated the number of words they contained per minute.
Oklahoma! clocked in at 59 words per minute, with a total word count of 4,303; Pirates of Penzance had 58 words per minute, with a total of 5,962; Phantom of the Opera had 77 words per minute, and a total of 4,709 words.
But Hamilton blew them all out of the statistical water: the show packs in 144 words per minute, and its total word count is 20,520.
According to fivethirtyeight, the fastest tracks are just under 200 words per minute, while the slowest range from 64 to 80. If Hamilton were sung at the pace of other Broadway shows, it would take four to six hours to perform.
Take a listen to the top 10 songs from the performance and I’m sure you’ll be hooked and looking to book tickets.
Tickets, if you can still find some, are available at mirvish.com, by phone at 416-872-1212 or 1-800-461-3333, and in person at the box offices at all Mirvish theatres during their regular opening hours. There will be a lottery for forty (40) $10 seats for all performances. And, as we’re all hoping for, and extension to the run beyond May 17, 2020.