There are a few things all Hatteras Islanders know about traveling off the island. First, never leave on a Saturday in the summer; second, check the Pea Island camera before you go, and third, you probably don’t need to leave for very much at all.
Trips to Norfolk, V.A., are even less necessary. The exceptions here are the Costco runs, the airport drop off, and right now, Hamilton, the touring Broadway production. Yes, it is necessary! Get tickets. Drive. Fast. It is quite simply amazing, and for the rest of December, you can see it in Norfolk at Chrysler Hall.
This touring show has been crossing the U.S. since 2017. The original Broadway show was nominated for a record 16 Tony awards. It won 11 including Best Musical. Using Hip Hop and Rap in the musical soundtrack, the show has a modern edge with a very historical base. Tickets are often sold out.
If you are skeptical that the touring show could ever possibly live up to the original, you will be challenged to find a difference. The set is the exact one used on Broadway; the costumes are a match; the music – while not live – is the tracked original score. Most astounding is that the cast can match the vocal and dance dynamics without missing a beat.
“We do this together everyday,” said Tyler Belo, of his fellow cast members, the morning after the Dec. 11 performance. “When I first started doing this, I felt overwhelming pressure to live up the original, but now it is a good pressure to do my best encompassing my role.”
A member of the principal cast, Belo, who plays dual roles as both Hercules and James Madison, enjoys the opposition of the two characters. “I feel like I have a truth to both,” he explained. “I have a bold side that is like [Hercules] Mulligan, but I like the calculating way [James] Madison is always pulling the strings and putting ideas in Jefferson’s head.”
As the story of the two goes, Hercules Mulligan, an Irish immigrant who worked in New York City as a tailor, was one of the Sons of Liberty and was famously recruited by Hamilton to be a spy for George Washington. According to the CIA.gov website, Hercules twice is credited with saving the life of George Washington, and co-founded with Hamilton a group to abolish slavery in New York. Madison wrote drafts of the constitution, and later was elected President.
The many history lessons contained in this musical will have you running to Google afterwards to put it all together. But the story is very relatable with its rivalries, love stories, battle scenes, deaths, heroism, loyalty, and even betrayals.
Certainly the musical, with its some 46 songs, stands by itself when listening to it on CD or streamed, but with the visual enhancement of the stage and its talented cast, the musical numbers, especially the title song “Alexander Hamilton,” “My Shot,” and the hilarious “You’ll be Back” (sung by character King George), had the audience screaming and yelling with delight. There was rarely a moment that the audience was silent.
Belo, who first saw the original musical on Broadway when he was in high school, also has his favorites. “When performing in the show, my favorite part is ‘Yorktown,’ but when watching it, I enjoy ‘Satisfied,’ the most,” Belo added. Audiences generally agree with him that “Yorktown” is the favorite number in the show.
With his musical theater degree, Belo can look at the whole show from a broader perspective as well. “Honestly I can’t think of anything I would change. It is an amazing stage from lighting to set to movement. From the moment it begins, the music, design and presence of the actors are always there,” he explained. “When the pacing needs to be serious, it is; when it needs to be campy, it is. Lin [Manuel Miranda, creator and star of the original Broadway show] writes something that I have never seen anything like before.”
For anyone hesitant of the long running time of musicals in general, or even of the historical subject matter as entertainment, do not fear. Even without context or a great understanding of history, the story makes sense. There is even the country’s first sex scandal in the background as Hamilton’s extramarital affair is exposed and its serious consequences are addressed. And the music, while more modern, had the audience of all ages and colors riveted and engaged.
Hamilton tells the story of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton. An orphan immigrant, Hamilton is usually remembered in history classes for the duel he lost to Aaron Burr in 1804. The musical, which borrows from the 2004 historical text Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, fills in the story by reminding the audience of the genius of Hamilton.
His appointment to Treasury Secretary by his mentor Washington established and saved the new country from economic failure. His close relationship with Washington, ambitious drive to succeed, and love life are also explored. The story also humanizes and puts Aaron Burr in a light rarely seen.
The sound effects, lighting ,and stage all add to the power of this musical story. Its songs and cast drive it to a level of entertainment not easily accessed off the Broadway stages. See it while you can.
Hamilton is playing at Norfolk Chrysler Hall daily through Dec. 29 (except Dec. 24 and 25). Prices start at $89. It is the best gift you can give yourself this year.