Hamilton / Photo: Joan Marcus
Just like the wooden platforms that surround the circular stage, there are many layers to “Hamilton” fandom. And it has many access points, too – it was a wildly successful Broadway show penned by wildly successful creative force Lin-Manuel Miranda. The original Broadway cast also captured a performance that was introduced to further audiences via Disney+ and a touring version has already crossed the country, including a pre-pandemic stop in Tulsa, Okla., in late 2019.
Still it’s … “Hamilton,” the rare Broadway show that entered the cultural zeitgeist and changed the way we view our own history. With the dual impact of making us rethink both the namesake and what multicultural casting could look like, it went on to critical acclaim and a host of Tony Awards.
Which is why, despite the multiple avenues where someone might have already interacted with the show, its arrival at the Walton Arts Center remains a big deal. Standard Broadway Series shows at the WAC encompass eight shows spread out over one week. “Hamilton” will continue in Fayetteville for two weeks and 14 more shows, with the final local performance taking place April 3. Tickets are scarce outside of the random-draw lottery that will provide 20 lucky patrons of each performance access to $10 tickets.
Where: Walton Arts Center, Fayetteville
When: March 22-April 3
Cost: Tickets start at $99 plus fees
Tickets: 479-443-5600 or waltonartscenter.org
Note: All attendees are required to wear a mask.
I went into the Wednesday (March 23) performance having seen two versions of the show – the televised/streaming version and one of the live performances at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center. I also spent a full year listening to the original cast’s recording of the songs, courtesy of my wife, who played those songs at rather high volume.
It wasn’t until the live showing, however, that the plot points came together for me. And even still, new insights arrive upon additional viewings. It also helps to sit closer to the stage – and the Walton Arts Center’s smaller confines foster that opportunity. I was able to see and hear things I didn’t in the televised production or from the balcony of the Tulsa PAC.
Miranda based his show on an in-depth biography of Alexander Hamilton written by Ron Chernow. We are meant to love and hate the title character, who both succeeds far beyond his original station in life and crashes dramatically, mostly due to self-implosion.
With that depth of character comes great on-stage responsibility. Miranda handled the role himself on Broadway. In Fayetteville, Hamilton is helmed by Edred Utomi, who brings a tortured confidence to the role. We are often told during the show that Hamilton “writes like he is running out of time.” Hamilton’s time is short, we know, but we don’t know what his downfall will be as we watch him maneuver political and societal conventions against his own ambitions.
Peter Matthew Smith as King George III / Photo: Joan Marcus
“Hamilton” was a great success because of unconventional casting and because of the unconventional protagonist. It is a popular musical about our founding fathers, and one of its catchiest songs is a lament about missing a meeting. It helps us learn about the founding of the nation and Hamilton himself with factual retellings of old material, while also embellishing relationships, such as the one between Hamilton and his sister-in-law Angelica (played by Stephanie Umoh).
It’s the relationship he has with fellow political aspirant and eventual American vice president Aaron Burr (played by Josh Tower) that dominates the proceedings of “Hamilton.” In a speechy-preachy musical like “Hamilton,” where lyrics are pulled or forged from historical contexts, individual performances matter. I would argue that several of the performances in Fayetteville were as good as even their Broadway counterparts. Others compelled me less.
And it is that most recent context that informs the production of “Hamilton” now in Fayetteville. Some of the initial charm of seeing the music is no longer moving for me. It often felt like characters were giving knowing verbal winks to the audience as if to say “You liked that joke, huh?” I say this while also acknowledging that even as I felt my attention drifting through familiar material, I found myself emotionally walloped by the concluding scenes all over again.
“Hamilton” may now be self-aware of its grandiose status in the Broadway realm. But it’s also about one of the most enigmatic and important figures in American history. There are reasons it became such an immediate and lasting success, and it’s worth experiencing live once – if you can find tickets.
Enter the “#Ham4Ham” Lottery
A ticket lottery has been established for a select number of seats of each performance of “Hamilton” in Fayetteville. Forty tickets for each show will be released to lottery winners, who can then purchase two tickets for $10 each.
The lottery for the first week of shows is complete. The lottery for the second week of shows (March 29-April 3) closes at 12:30 p.m. today (March 24).
For additional lottery details, visit http://hamiltonmusical.com/lottery, where you can also enter the lottery.