You might not like what you’re about to read. I’m going to go ahead and put myself out there… out myself and say I did not enjoy the theatrical phenomenon that is Hamilton as much as I would have. But before any cancellation begins, let me explain what and how it came to be. Hopefully, this won’t come across as invalidating anyone’s work – it’s just an opinion based on what I saw and experienced.
When it was announced in 2018 that the Hamilton touring production will play Vancouver, I was more than ecstatic as I have been really wanting to see and check what the hype was all about so off I went securing my tickets by renewing my Broadway Across Canada subscription (the season offering was good so the decision was very easy). I was set. I was going to see Hamilton in June 2020.
Insert blip here.
May of 2022 and I am entering the Queen Elizabeth Theatre feeling all excited not only because I was going to see the most anticipated show of the season but also because theaters are now back in business – the much delayed 2019-2020 season (now 2022-2023) has officially started!
The first beats of the opening number, “Alexander Hamilton” came on and out comes our Aaron Burr played by Donald Webber, Jr.. This set everyone into a frenzied applause and you can feel goosebumps all around, myself included, especially laying eyes on Andy Blankenbuehler’s choreography live for the first time. But something happened during the third number, and from then on, I had a hard time keeping up on what was happening. The rapid-fire rapped-through dialogue on about (I’d say) three quarters of the show was too much for my old brain to process, which created for a mix of confusion, to frustration, and a dash of apprehension (because I should be appreciating this more!). At first, I thought, “Okay, it might just be the rapping part. I should be good when one of my favourite songs start – Helpless.” No, that didn’t improve. I had a hard time comprehending Victoria Ann Scovens’ (as Eliza) as it sounded like it was mumbled through. Don’t get me wrong. Miss Scovens can sing, her voice is really good and I am not saying there’s no talent because there really is. I think it might be the material or the bad sound system (more on that in a bit), or my brain still processing from the previous numbers. It was at this point that I succumbed and accepted the fact that I will just need to sit through the show and politely appreciate the hard work.
For about an hour and half (including intermission), I pretty much went through the motions, watching the show as if it was a video album – not trying to follow the story line and not stressing to keep up with the dialogue and it worked to some degree. I did enjoy a couple of numbers and found appreciation for some of the songs that I didn’t have before, despite my mind processing them like Charlie Brown’s teacher. I may need to re-watch this on Disney + which I held off watching since it came out streaming two years ago, and see if I can appreciate it more with subtitles.
I mentioned something about the sound system/ speakers in the theatre. The Queen Elizabeth Theatre should really fine tune because there were a lot of times when it becomes static-y and the clarity of the performers’ gets affected. There are times, too, when the orchestra will overpower the singing (could it be the microphones?). Yeah, I’d say the technical stuff had a lot to do with my not-so-enjoyable-experience of the show.
Hamilton is really good work. I’m not denying anyone that, most especially the people who are involved in this work. The music is exceptional – that I can say because I’ve been listening to the cast recording since it came out. The choreography is spectacular. The cast of the And Peggy Tour is wonderful. Costumes? Yes, I loved it. Set? Loved it, too. So, what I think happened? Might be the theatre, it might be my brain, or it might be the set expectations. I don’t know. What I do know is being there got my curiosity (pun alert) satisfied.
If able to still get tickets, Hamilton is playing at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre until June 19. I’d still advocate for people to see this show, and hopefully have a better experience than I had.