HAMILTON at Des Moines Performing Arts

Hamilton cast
Photo by Joan Marcus

One of the great things about theater is the stories it allows us to tell. It doesn’t seem like it would work when you first hear the “Hamilton” story and how it is told. The show has proven that idea wrong since 2015, when it took New York and the country by storm. When it first arrived in Des Moines in 2018, it sold out in just hours. “Hamilton” made its triumphant return to Des Moines on May 17 for another limited run through June 5. Although tickets are still available, late-night audiences were packed.
What makes “Hamilton” so successful? Is it the cast, the music, the story, or is it a combination of everything? The show begins with Aaron Burr leading the cast telling the story of Hamilton growing up in the Caribbean and eventually immigrating to the United States, where he became one of the founding fathers. As the story continues, we see his rise to Secretary of the Treasury, the case that became his downfall and eventual death in a duel with Aaron Burr. For me, what makes the story so successful on stage is that it shows the impact people had on his life and lets us see the legacy he left.
One of the great parts of seeing shows like Hamilton repeatedly is how you notice different parts of the show. It could be where you are sitting. The first time I saw the tour I was seated up close and could see some of the fantastic costume details, but I couldn’t see the turntable. This time I have to sit further back. Although I couldn’t see so many small details, I was able to grasp the whole story that the show presents. So the storytelling elements used throughout the series struck me differently.
Sitting further back, I could better understand the brilliant direction and storytelling that flowed through Thomas Kail’s direction and Andy Blankenbuehler’s choreography. There’s a beauty to how the show flows seamlessly between blocked and choreographed scenes. Another aspect of the show that I was able to grasp and appreciate in a new way is Howell Binkly’s lighting. One of my favorite moments that I hadn’t caught before was at the start of “Right Hand Man”. At the beginning of the song, we see blue lights enveloping the stage to give us the impression of being at the port watching the water rise. Although it’s a subtle lighting change, it has a huge impact on the story being told on stage at the time and provides a great transition.
While this show is visually stunning to watch, it wouldn’t be the same without the excellent cast we get to see on stage. We had two sensational performances with Pierre Jean Gonzalez as Alexander Hamilton and Jared Dixon as Aaron Burr. Each of them brings their own flair to the roles. It was also fun to see Ta’rea Campbell, Marcus Choi and Elijah Malcomb return to the Civic Center stage in the roles they played the last time the tour took place. One of the biggest surprises of the night for me was seeing Elijah Macomb’s journey as Philip Hamilton. I really enjoyed watching him transition the character from a child’s youth to an adult who lost his life defending his father.
Some of my favorite moments came to see the actors’ interpretations of their roles in a way that I had never seen before. One of them came in Stephanie Jae Park’s portrayal of Eliza Hamilton. I was surprised how I ended up relating to her character this time around. She brought an awkwardness to the ball where she and Alexander meet that I might point out with. It drew me into her character’s story in a way that I had never been drawn to before. Another fantastic performance came from Warren Egypt Franklin as Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson. While he gave an outstanding performance as Lafayette, he most positively stole the show in his performance as Thomas Jefferson. It was one of the most energetic and charismatic interpretations of the character that I had seen.
Whether it’s your first time seeing Hamilton or your return to the show, you won’t want to waste your shot to see this fantastic production. The way the elements of directing, choreography, lighting and casting come together to tell a story will draw you in from the moment the show begins to the breath Eliza takes at the end of the show. This return commitment is only here for a limited time and tickets are selling out fast. To learn more about the show or to purchase tickets, visit the link below.

About Madeline J. Carter

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