Theater Review: HAMILTON Dazzles at PPAC

Broadway Sensation Lives Up to Billing


There’s no denying it. Hamilton is far more than a brilliant musical. It’s a happening.

The much-heralded show finally arrived at the Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC) this week, well over a year after it was announced. No doubt, it was worth the wait.

The play is remarkable in its scope, and it stands above so many others for numerous reasons. It’s an historical drama that offers a (fairly accurate) narrative of the Revolutionary era. It’s a genre-busting musical and it’s a love story – not only between the principals, but also a love affair with an emerging nation. And, as others before me have noted, the casting of African American actors in the roles of the Founding Fathers, turning tradition on its head, is noteworthy, and although expected, is still remarkable.

The Play

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HAMILTON is based on a dramatic narrative – the life and times of Alexander Hamilton, the Caribbean immigrant who built the nation, assisting George Washington through the Revolutionary War and later his presidency, albeit behind the scenes. The music, based in hip-hop, pop, romantic ballads and some early British Invasion (courtesy of a vibrant King George), was outstanding, flowing along perfectly throughout the performance.

Hamilton is a straightforward character, always working to better himself, even when he reaches the pinnacle of power, serving as the “Right Hand Man” to Washington. He achieves the dream of so many immigrants, while continuing to careen forward to ultimate tragedy. His blind ambition makes him perhaps the most flawed character in the story. Here is a formerly overlooked figure in American history. Not anymore!

The touring cast was exceptional, with standout performances from Edred Utomi (Hamilton), Bryson Bruce (Lafayette/Jefferson) and Hannah Cruz (Eliza Hamilton).  Cruz steals the show in the 2nd Act with her gut-wrenching portrayal, even remaining in character during the final bow and walk off.

The themes explored in the show speak to contemporary issues. Patriotism, political rancor, self-interested politicians and scandalous happenings in government come right out of today’s headlines. In one scene, Hamilton and Lafayette offer some words in support of immigrants – eliciting spontaneous applause from many in attendance.   

Lives Up to Hype

I attended the play for the first time, fully aware of all the hype, yet curious how the performance would be received. Well, to no one’s surprise, the show received an overwhelming standing ovation. Was it the actor’s direct connection with the audience, the soundtrack, or the brilliant storytelling? Answer: All the above and more! It is indeed one of the greatest musicals in history.

This performance never lets up. There are no low points – every scene, every song, is essential for the story to be appreciated. Clocking in at almost three hours, there was no filler – no hint of boredom.

HAMILTON is indeed an event. Don’t miss it. A good number of seats remain for future shows – check the PPAC site here.

WhatsUpRI Rating: 5 out of 5

WhatsUp Ratings Guide
5- Excellent – Don’t miss it
4- Very Good – Well worth your time
3- Good – Solid, but not earthshattering
2- Fair – Not quite ready for prime time
1- Poor – Don’t waste your time or money