Let’s get the big question out of the way.
Will you — a huge fan of Hamilton on Broadway who worships the water Lin-Manuel Miranda walks on … can picture nobody else delivering Aaron Burr smoother than Leslie Odom Jr. … thinks Thomas Jefferson really sounded like Daveed Diggs in real life … — will YOU enjoy the version of the show playing for the next month at the Durham Performing Arts Center?
The answer: Absolutely. A thousand times yes.
I’ve never seen the original cast perform Hamilton, save for a few televised appearances at the Tony’s and other special events. And I might have been a little late to the game with the soundtrack, too, but it’s been in steady rotation for my entire family for over a year now.
So I went into Tuesday night’s packed opener with only the voices to go by. But oh, those voices. It was hard to imagine I’d enjoy this show without those voices.
And that’s where this touring cast of Hamilton succeeds most. They own the show … taking the characters and lines you’ve grown accustomed to and making them their own. If you know every word and note of this show coming in, you’re going find room to accept and love this cast, too. If you’re new to Hamilton altogether, it’s unlike anything you’ve seen before.
For me, seeing Hamilton performed on a stage — adding the visual elements I’ve lacked — enhanced the story I thought I knew.
There are two casts touring Hamilton as we speak, and those of you seeing the show in Durham will be treated to the Phillip Cast.
Joseph Morales is Hamilton. And yes, he is Hamilton. He brings the same energy as Miranda — even sounds eerily like him in places — but also adds his own charm to the role.
The only time I worried about this show was during the famous introduction number … I don’t know if it was timing, first-show-in-Durham jitters (doubtful), or what … but it didn’t feel right. Then again, maybe this was me expecting it to be the original (though my wife admitted it felt “off” at first).
Thankfully, by “Aaron Burr, Sir,” opening night — Election Day, fittingly — hit its stride. And this can be attributed in large part to Aaron Burr himself, Nik Walker, who absolutely shines.
I could go on … and I will. The Schuyler Sisters — Shoba Naryan, Ta’Rea Campbell and Nyla Sostre — are brilliant. I admitted to my wife that when listening to the soundtrack in the past, I always sought the “harder hitting” numbers and was known to skip a few Schuyler tunes … but in this show, I was mesmerized every time they performed. “Helpless” equals the original. The wedding scene adds such depth to show — again, I’d only heard the music before this. “Quiet Uptown” is plain beautiful. The ending, powerful.
I’ll stop here, because really … you already love the show. The question is whether or not this cast delivered.
It did. I loved every minute of it. And for those of you who jumped through hoops to secure a ticket during its run in Durham, the show is worth the effort you put into it.
Hamilton runs through Dec. 2 in Durham.
Billy Liggett is co-founder of LPH Media and The Rant and admits his Broadway knowledge is very limited.