I recently found myself saying something I never would have thought I might say: "I'm so in love with George Washington right now."
The reason for such a strange statement? Hamilton. It's an odd concept, a hip-hop musical about the guy on the ten dollar bill, most famous for having been killed in a duel with the current Vice President, based on the 800+ page biography by Ron Chernow. And it's magnificent. Lin-Manuel Miranda earned his MacArthur Genius Grant with this work.
There are a number of reasons that this is a perfect storm of a musical. Narratively, it's a story with antagonists, but not villains. Not even King George—flamboyantly portrayed by Jonathan Groff (best known as the voice of Kristoff in Frozen)—is really a villain, he's just a confused (and/or abusive) parent who doesn’t understand why his children are rebelling. Aaron Burr, the man who killed Alexander Hamilton, is largely portrayed as a friend with a wildly different perspective. The writing is absolutely breathtaking. The music is not only appropriate to the mood, it’s intensely catchy. Historical figures are humanized without bringing them down. Finally, the cast is mind-blowingly good.
In a work filled with amazing performances, the source of my love for George Washington lies in Christopher Jackson's performance. His presence is confident, strong, wise, and passionate. From his introduction to his farewell, he’s the perfect picture of a man with hard-earned wisdom, frustration with the lack support that he’d been promised, irritation with flunkies who misunderstand him, and a paternalistic affection for the titular Hamilton.
Washington is far from the only amazing character, though. Virtually everyone has passion and depth that will inspire you to dance, laugh, and cry. The weakest voice is that of Miranda's Alexander Hamilton, but his rapping is on point; the slight strain in his singing voice actually works quite well as a young upstart immigrant looking to prove himself. His portrayal of someone constantly struggling against the odds is brash and compelling. Phillipa Soo provides a chest-punch of a performance as Eliza Hamilton (née Schuyler) from her confident introduction through her tear-wrenching epilogue.
There is no single part of this that I can single out as the absolute best, because my favorite bits shift from day to day, but I will say my consistently favorite song is Aaron Burr’s expository song, “Wait for It,” which contrasts with Hamilton’s running themes of “just you wait” and “I’m not throwing away my shot.”
Death doesn't discriminate
between the sinners
and the saints,
it takes and it takes and it takes
and we keep living anyway.
We rise and we fall
and we break
and we make our mistakes.
And if there's a reason I'm still alive
when everyone who loves me has died
I'm willing to wait for it.
I'm willing to wait for it.
There’s no way I can do justice to this in a quick review; all I can do is implore you to listen for yourself.
Do not throw away your shot.