NEW TO THE STAGE: “HAMILTON” & “NEVERMORE”

Hi Everyone,

I have been on a bit of a Theater kick for the last year or so seeing more shows than usual— “Heathers,” “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” “Cabaret,” “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” “The Elephant Man”— the list goes on. Last night I got the chance to see a pre-preview of the fantastic “Hamilton,” The Public Theaters newest show which opens this evening for full previews. The show has an official run from February 17- April 5th.

Judith Light was also in the audience, which was pretty amazing. I’m pretty good at keeping it together around Celebrities, but I had to use every ounce of my dignity not to go up and ask that Broadway babe if she had any of those fab capes Angela used to wear on “Who’s the Boss?” in storage. I adore her, and she’s super glam in person.

I also checked out a preview of “Nevermore – The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe” Monday evening. I wasn’t as enamored. My take on both shows is below.

Take a look, sound off below, and let me know what you think!
— Christian

 

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Photo courtesy of The Public Theater 

The show, inspired by Ron Chernow’s biography “Alexander Hamilton,Hamilton,” follows the story of Alexander Hamilton from his early life, becoming the first Secretary of the Treasury, and all the way to his death. Torrid affairs and ego-trips included. While I consider myself to know a decent amount of History, I wasn’t aware how egotistical and self-destructive Mr.Hamilton was.

Lin-Manuel Miranda (“In The Heights”) who plays the title character, wrote book, music, and lyrics for the show. He’s amazing in it; I didn’t see “In The Heights” but wish I had as I enjoyed his performance so much. With little spoken word the show is a unique mix of slam poetry, rap, and Hip-Hop infused Broadway songs. The show also has completely color blind casting which is extremely refreshing.

The cast is really something else. Complimentary to one another, no one’s performance is lacking with all that great chemistry. From Christopher Jackson’s incredible stage presence as George Washington, to Renée Elise Goldsberry who brings heartache to Angelica Shuyler (in love with her sisters husband, Hamilton).

Eliza Hamilton is brought to life by Phillipa Soo. Soo has an interesting voice, almost a Broadway version of Jessie J; her sympathetic nature and understanding of her (unstable) husband feels genuine and kind. Maybe the performance I enjoyed the most though was Leslie Odom Jr.’s Judas-like Aaron Burr. Portrayed as the villain of the story, Odam Jr (“Smash”) has arguably the best voice of the cast and is a fantastic dancer. Even when desperate and down you somehow feel for him by the end of his number.

Brian d’Arcy James also has a hysterical role as King George. Popping up anytime things are going South, d’Arcy James’ King has an air of John Lithgow’s Lord Farquaad of “Shrek”— but with even more sass and sarcasm.

Aside from the great performances, the visuals of “Hamilton” are outstanding.  David Korins created a beautifully industrial set that has functionality and Historical accuracy. Choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler plays well off Mr.Korins set as the moving circular centerpiece on stage adds another element to the dance. Classically Victorian costume design by Paul Tazwell is well executed; outfitting the dancers in such garb is not always easy in keeping with the accuracy of the time, but Mr.Tazwell did it with ease.

At a running time of 3 hours, the show is a bit long but holds your attention. Hopefully it will be trimmed a bit after it’s run in Previews. Even still, I highly recommend “Hamilton” if you can get your hands on tickets. Easily one of the more unique shows I have seen.

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Photo courtesy of New World Stages

Unfortunately the same couldn’t be said about the show I saw Monday evening.

I did something I have never done because I respect the Arts too much, and quite frankly it’s rude: I left during intermission. That is how badly I couldn’t sit through this show. Maybe I just couldn’t connect, who knows, but if you asked around the Theater I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. The cheese doesn’t always stand alone…

The show (which I mentioned in Fridays “Weekly Roundup”) was “Nevermore – The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe.” The musical based on Poe’s life and subsequential death could have been really good. It should have been, instead, it was just silly. Honestly, silly is the only word I can muster up.

From the weird stage direction to the all over the place music, you didn’t know what to focus on. The costumes looked like imitation Tim Burton concept sketches— in fact, the whole show looked like it was trying to masquerade as a Tim Burton project. While I’m sure the budget wasn’t huge, you can go a long way on a short amount of funding and that was not the case here (ie: “Hamilton” which I would almost guarantee has a similar budget and still looked amazing).

I had really high hopes for the show. Even thought it’s still in previews, it doesn’t seem much will change. All the elements are in my wheelhouse—intriguing, dark, weirdly gothic— but it just didn’t add up.

Check out the links below for tickets to both shows. Maybe you’ll be more into Mr.Poe than I was…

“Hamilton”
http://www.publictheater.org/en/Public-Theater-Season/Hamilton/

“Nevermore – The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe”
http://nevermoreshow.com

© Copyright 2015 The New York Narrative. All rights reserved.

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