OCTOBER 4, 2018, BOSTON – A curious musical number appears in the first act of “Hamilton” – namely “Ten Duel Commandments.” Whether author-composer Lin-Manuel Miranda was aware that Alexander Hamilton studied Torah and basic Hebrew at a Jewish day school on the Caribbean island of Nevis in the mid-1700s, that title – connected to the eventual shooting of the first Secretary of the Treasury by Aaron Burr – could be an unusual allusion to the Bible.
Still, this remarkable winner of 11 Tony Awards presents Hamilton as an immigrant and an outsider, something that could relate directly to indications that George Washington’s right-hand man was the son of a woman who converted to Judaism on the island of St. Croix. Harvard University Press will be publishing the evidence next year in Jewish historian Andrew Porwancher’s book, “The Jewish Founding Founder: Alexander Hamilton’s Hidden Life.” At the same time, the evidence is clear – both in the Broadway original and the strong tour now playing at the Boston Opera House – that its subject is the kind of Founding Father who always defended equality and wholeheartedly supported immigrants. Tellingly, a rousing cheer erupted from the audition after the assertion “Immigrants – we get the job done.”
Brilliantly, the cast of “Hamilton” at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York and the one on tour largely includes Hispanic and African-American descendants of immigrants. The Broadway cast even includes a black Jew named Daveed Diggs, whom this critic saw powerfully play both Thomas Jefferson and French hero Marquis de Lafayette.
Significantly, Miranda gives time to the dream of freedom and the ideal of a black regiment. At another key moment, Hamilton counters Jefferson’s complaint about money spent to assist New York by reminding the cocky Virginia slaveholder that his state’s burgeoning economy depends upon slavery.
If Hamilton is unrepentantly outspoken, nemesis Burr comes across as deliberately cagey. The latter talks less and does not let people know where he stands. Fairly envious of the man who established America’s solid financial status, Burr observes, “The man is nonstop.” Hamilton accomplishes a great deal thanks to his tirelessness.
Miranda – with a vivid book and an exquisitely eclectic score of rap, hip-hop, rhythm and blues, jazz, pop, and folk – beautifully captures Hamilton’s commitment to the Constitution and the nation. Andy Blankenbuehler captures the dynamics of the Revolution and the debates of historical figures in his often stylized but always sharply delineated choreography.
History buffs will welcome the musical’s observation that James Madison, often seen as the father of the Constitution, only wrote 29 of the pivotal Federalist Papers while Hamilton wrote 51.
Director Thomas Kail has built up a terrific touring ensemble, effectively as good as the cast this critic saw in New York. Edred Utomi (substituting for Austin Scott) has the right combination of guts, self-confidence, and occasional vulnerability as Hamilton. He delivers the well-known number “My Shot” with fitting bravado. Winchester native Nicholas Christopher moves convincingly from frustration to fiery purpose as Burr. He brings an impressive belt to Burr’s ambition on “The Room Where It Happens.”
Hannah Cruz captures Eliza Hamilton’s deep love for her husband as well as her inner conflict about Alexander’s shortcomings. Sabrina Sloan shares fine harmonies with Cruz as her insightful sister, Angelica Schuyler. Paul Oakley Stovall captures Washington’s authority. Bryson Bruce exudes Lafayette’s panache and Jefferson’s attitude. Peter Matthew Smith is a hoot as buffoonish King George.
Kudos go to Paul Tazewell’s handsome costumes, David Korins’ smartly evolving scenic design and Howell Binkley’s often surreal lighting.
“Hamilton’’ lives up to the hype surrounding it and more. Make sure you see this great musical.
“Hamilton,” presented by Broadway in Boston at the Boston Opera House through Nov. 18. Visit bostonoperahouse.com.