Friday, November 16, 2018

Do Not Throw Away Your Shot: 2+ Years Along in Chicago 'Hamilton' Remains Simply Extraordinary -- Chicago Theater Review

Theater Review

CIBC Theatre
Open Run (presently booked thru May 2019)
Seen November 13, 2018
Previously reviewed Oct. '16 | Mar. '17

Last weekend, tickets went on sale for a 3-week run of Hamilton in San Juan, Puerto Rico in January 2019.

Most of the cast has not been announced, but Lin-Manuel Miranda--who wrote, composed and initially starred in the show during its ongoing Broadway run--will reprise his performance in the title role of Alexander Hamilton.

25% of the tickets for each performance will be priced at $10 solely for locals, affording Puerto Rico residents a wonderful opportunity to see one of the greatest musicals ever created.

For all other American citizens, and people everywhere, box office tickets for the PR run were considerably pricier, starting at $99 and going up to $338.

This actually sounds fairly reasonable compared to the second-hand frenzy in New York during Miranda's stint, and a quick check of Stubhub reveals that even today, the high-end face value in Puerto Rico is less than the cheapest scalpers' tickets one might find for Broadway.

I was somewhat seriously interested in buying a ticket for Hamilton in Puerto Rico, especially if I could get one for $99 on a Saturday night--i.e. not miss much work--but a perusal of flight and hotel prices made me decide that it wasn't worth $1500 or so to me to see Lin-Manuel Miranda play Hamilton (factoring in a couple more days to see San Juan).

My regard for LMM and his talent couldn't be any higher, but I'd seen him on Broadway in his likewise Tony-winning In the Heights, and as much as I would like to support the residents of Puerto Rico as they continue to recover and rebuild following the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria, I really couldn't do it. (The run sold out in minutes so who knows if I could've got a ticket had I tried.)

But having seen, loved and reviewed Hamilton in Chicago in October 2016--a week after its run here began--and again in March 2017 (see links at top for those reviews), I had a hankering to see it yet again, further stoked by the mythic Puerto Rico possibilities and my currently working downtown, just 2 blocks from the CIBC (long known as the Shubert) Theatre.

Photos not necessarily of current Chicago cast members. 
I have fairly frequently entered the $10 ticket lottery for Chicago on the Hamilton app, but have never been successful in winning the chance to buy such cheap ducats.

Though the show is booked at the CIBC through late May 2019 and still seems to be selling well, after more than two years in Chicago, tickets can pretty readily be had for face value for weeknight performances, though due to dynamic pricing, that can vary greatly.

But if you're flexible, you can find fairly good deals as I did, abetted by my being a Broadway in Chicago subscriber which meant that I could buy the ticket through their Customer Service Dept. and avoid some of Ticketmaster's service fees.

On Monday, Nov. 12, after seeing what I wanted on Ticketmaster's seat map for the next night's show, I called BIC and bought a single seat in the Orchestra, row L, seat 1 for $92, which adjusted up to $105 with some fees.

This is the cheapest I've ever seen such a good seat available for, besides the lottery which often allots the first two rows. And interestingly, as I write this on Thursday, Nov. 15, the same seat for Tuesday, Nov. 27 is showing as $192, with Ticketmaster fees pushing it to at least $221 (with perhaps more tacked on in completing the transaction).

So yes, I paid $105 to see a show I've seen twice before, but I wanted to be up close for a change--I'm usually in the balcony--and felt it well worth the price.

And while it would be amazing to see Lin-Manuel Miranda play Hamilton, the terrific Miguel Cervantes has performed the role in Chicago for it's entire run and thus--unless there were long furloughs I'm not aware of--he has been Hamilton more times than LMM or probably anyone else alive, though there is now also a London production and U.S. Tour.

Even though I had loved Cervantes, all the original Chicago cast members and the show in full just a week into it's Windy City "sit down," it now really feels like his role, not him inhabiting Miranda's take.

Obviously, his vocal timbre and that of others in the current Chicago cast don't exactly match those of the Original Broadway Cast Recording, but when a friend asked me via text how Hamilton was, my answer was simply:


Devoid of any expectations innately tied to seeing the latest, greatest, most overhyped thing, I watched Hamilton this time--from a damn good seat--as though I was seeing a splendid touring rendition of, say, Les Miserables, which I consider the greatest stage musical ever created (though The Producers remains my personal favorite).

And Hamilton holds up as not just a great musical, or one with a groundbreaking hip-hop infused score--though In the Heights actually did it first--or even an astonishing incisive American history lesson, wrought extremely resonant for a multicultural contemporary populace.

While acknowledging that I'm prone to redundant hyperbole, I perceive--at this moment in history--that Hamilton stands at the greatest artistic achievement of the 21st century, of any idiom or ilk.

I won't regurgitate the show's genesis, storyline nor the diversity of its casting in embodying the U.S. Founding Fathers. Either you know this, can read my past reviews and thousands of other sources, or you simply don't care.

I will reiterate, as this viewing certainly did, that dubbing Hamilton a "hip hop musical" shortchanges the varied beauty of its score, including the wondrous "Wait For It," "Burn" and "The Quiet Uptown."

But otherwise, I'll simply say that the current Chicago cast--and there has been considerable turnover outside of Cervantes--is sensational.

I have only the highest of praise for everyone in it, including Akron Watson, who is superb as Aaron Burr, Jamila Sabares-Klemm, wonderfully sung as Eliza, Montego Glover, really terrific as Angelica, Tamar Greene, a stately presence as George Washington, Colby Lewis, quite charmingly handling the dual roles of Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson, and Andrew Call, who is a hoot as King George.

You can see the current Chicago cast members here, and feel comfortable that in their hands--and phenomenal voices--Hamilton is being presented as well as it presumably can be anywhere.

Including, conceivably--with all due deference--Puerto Rico. 

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