A revolutionary experience: photo editor reviews “Hamilton”

An upwards look at Richard Rodgers Theater.
The Richard Rodgers Theater currently hosts the musical "Hamilton." Photo editor senior Bethany Travis watched Hamilton over winter break and wrote a review of her experience. (Photo by Bethany Travis)

New York City — a conglomeration of art, history, food and humanity. Since the beginning, it’s been the city of dreams, big breaks and standstill traffic. During winter break, I got the chance to be completely immersed by this city for a whole week. It was my goal to see and do everything, from the American Museum of Natural History to the Statue of Liberty — and seeing “Hamilton,” the most genius musical ever written, on Broadway. It was easily the most anticipated part of my trip.

The entire play takes place with the same basic scenery. A plain wood floor is surrounded by a balcony of thick beams draped with ropes and various accents to give the air of a 1700s American city. In the center of the stage floor is a rotating circle. This is used throughout the choreography to give each scene a sense of movement despite the static backdrop. If the moving floor didn’t blow your mind, the witty lyrics, dramatic action and larger-than-life characters will draw you into their colonial world.

The choreography had a hip-hop style that matched the music but conflicted with the historical nature of the costumes. The characters were hilarious and sarcastic. Alexander Hamilton was full of passion, juxtaposed by Aaron Burr, who was full of caution. Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson, portrayed by the same actor, were both charismatic and headstrong. A lot of other actors in the production played dual roles, showcasing the diversity of their talents. Additionality, two of the main female characters, Angelica and Eliza Schuyler, were badass sisters finding ways to make a difference in a world where they have little power. King George III, of course, was full of sass and relished in the conflict surrounding their brand new country. All these aspects came together to create a world that the viewer didn’t want to leave.

Act I is full of action, battle, patriotism, romance and conflict. It’s a revolutionary take on a story you’ve studied since grade school that completely draws you in. In contrast, Act II is just a replay of cabinet conflicts and legislative politics long past. However, by that time you’re so invested in the story that you’re on the edge of your seat just to see how Hamilton manages to pass his financial plan through Congress.

My favorite scene by far was when Angelica toasts Eliza and Alexander’s marriage in “Satisfied.” The song itself flashes back to when the Schuyler sisters first meet Alexander, from Angelica’s point of view. Because of the time-traveling nature of the song, I was most interested to see how the scene played out on stage. The answer — flawlessly. The rotating stage was used to help the actors move backward to show the “rewind.” The actors held poses and reversed choreography expertly. The scene literally rewound itself in front of your eyes. It flowed smoothly and was easily the most impressive part of the play.

Throughout the play, I was completely displaced to the late 1700s, reliving our nation’s history with a fresh twist. However, if, like me, you have listened to the soundtrack endlessly and can rap every line to rival Lin-Manuel Miranda himself, you might have to lower your expectations. The performers I saw were not the original cast — obviously, otherwise I would’ve cried through the whole thing — and I was not listening to the perfectly edited version of the soundtrack. The actors and actresses messed up. They made some mistakes. They modified songs to keep things interesting. There was a part of me that made it hard to look past these things. I had to work to be impressed with the amazing and brave endeavor these professionals were taking on. So, just some final advice to those who might head into performances with expectations of perfection — appreciate the humanity of the experience.