“Hamilton” In The Time of Trump
The Hamilton tour reaches DC deep in Trump’s first term in office. Look around, look around…
Hamilton, as a phenomenon, arrived in 2014/2015. Obama was in his sixth year in office. Marriage was legal for all. Hillary was about to run for the presidency and be nominated. Progressive values seemed to be winning. Eliza Schyluer’s message of hope “Look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now” seemed real.
Then November 9th, 2016 happened and the tide broke and began to roll back.
The Hamilton run at the Kennedy Center sold out quickly. The show is currently playing to rapturous audiences through September. The cast is stellar. Anyone concerned the touring cast would not live up to the original Broadway group can put their fears to rest. For many who lived on the CD recording, the joy of seeing the show actually acted out will add a depth that cannot be described only experienced. Theater, after all, is never meant to live by soundtrack alone.
Austin Scott, who plays the titular role, is magnetic. For anyone who saw the original cast, it’s a little weird to have a six foot plus man in the part, but it’s more than offset by the enjoyment of someone doing it with impeccable singing skills. The rest of the cast is just as wonderful. Everyone gets their showstoppers, from Angelica (Sabrina Sloan)’s “Satisfied” to Aaron Burr’s (Nicholas Christopher)’s “Room Where It Happens,” everyone who gets a chance to see this production will feel like it was worth the price of admission. A special shoutout to Carvens Lissaint as George Washington, who brings the house down with his farewell address in Act 2.
But Hamilton, when it first landed, was as much a political statement of the time it was produced as it was a piece of Broadway theater. It may still be everything one would hope, but the starry-eyed idealism of the first act rings a slightly discordant note in the current landscape. (On the other hand, the second half descent into tragedy feels a lot more accurate and inevitable.)
One day we may be lucky enough again to sing along with Eliza and mean it with all our hearts. But currently, the only ones lucky enough to be alive right now are those without Twitter apps or billions they can afford to lose.