Everything about “Hamilton” is supersized, including fans’ expectations. And the second national tour of the hip-hop musical, playing in Salt Lake City through May 6, rises up to deliver distinctive performances.
Set aside the hype (fueled partly by 11 Tony Awards) to remember what’s remarkable about the “Hamilton” phenomenon: This is art that invites us to rediscover the young, scrappy and hungry revolutionaries who founded our country.
This cast is strong, but the touring production also spotlights “Hamilton’s” innovative design elements. And Andy Blankenbuehler’s choreography — which includes oddly jarring movements — is groundbreaking in the way it anchors the plot and subconsciously reveals more of the story. The show creates beautiful stage pictures that reveal more and more on repeat viewings.
Of course, this cast offers a different spin from the performances on the Broadway cast album. Marcus Choi’s George Washington is a compelling presence, thanks to the actor’s strong-shouldered stance and his rich, terrific voice.
Nik Walker creates Aaron Burr with an ironic, patrician air, finding a new, arch dimension for the show’s complicated narrator and villain. “Wait for It,” “Non-Stop” and “The Room Where It Happens” are highlights.
Joseph Morales, as Alexander Hamilton, leads with authenticity, if not swagger, in one of the theater canon’s most expansive roles. His performance is richly layered in the second act, from the mess of “Say No to This” to the emotions of “It’s Quiet Uptown” and the wreckage of “The World Was Wide Enough.” The actor conveys much in simple gestures of humor and emotion.
Morales is agile in scenes with Walker and with his crew of revolutionary home boys, Kyle Scatliffe’s Marquis de Lafayette, Fergie L. Philippe’s Hercules Mulligan and Elijah Malcomb’s John Laurens, who are spirited and lively to watch. (Unfortunately, Lafayette’s lines can get muddled in the sound mix, which is otherwise terrific.)
In his Act 2 role, Scatliffe plays Thomas Jefferson with delicious foppishness, but I wished for a bit more gravitas underneath.
Morales conveys rich emotions in scenes with wife Eliza Hamilton, played with sweet authenticity by Shoba Narayan. She’s got a show-stopping voice, and she sisters well with Ta’Rea Campbell’s fast-rapping Angelica Schuyler. “A Winter’s Ball,” “Helpless” and “Satisfied” are beautifully realized.
As King George, Jon Patrick Walker is so righteously over-the-top that it’s hard to appreciate the audaciousness of the character’s poppy breakup songs. After all, in echoes of the Trumpian world we all live in, King George delivers a curtain speech to remind us it’s his show.
There’s such dramatic richness in the performances and production of this musical that it’s hard to tell newcomers where to focus their attention. And maybe that’s the best message of the “Hamilton” revolution and this tour: The world is wide enough for many voices in telling and retelling our American story.
It’s quiet uptown<br>A richly voiced cast introduces new audiences to the Tony-winning musical about the “ten-dollar founding father without a father” with book, music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, orchestrations by Alex Lacamoire, choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler and direction by Thomas Kail.<br> When • Reviewed Thursday, April 12; plays through May 6<br>Where • Eccles Theater, 131 S. Main St., Salt Lake City. <br>Tickets • Sold out, but check artsaltlake.org/events for late-release seats, apply for the daily lottery or look for tickets on the secondary market.