‘Hamilton’ blazes into Orange County at the Segerstrom
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit musical “Hamilton” has hip-hopped into Orange County. Don’t miss your “shot” experiencing this inspired and energetic take on American Revolutionary history—and one immigrant Founding Father in particular—as it continues at Segerstrom Hall through Oct. 16.
I had the pleasure of reviewing “Hamilton” at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre last year when theatres reopened after their devastating COVID darkening. Segerstrom’s touring production of “Hamilton” features the same exciting music, lyrics and choreography, historical costuming and minimalist set design, but with a different—and even more diverse—cast.
Though all of the leads in Segerstrom’s production are strong, Donald Webber, Jr. stands out in the pivotal role of Alexander Hamilton’s frenemy Aaron Burr. Webber brings a mature intensity to his politically savvy character—capturing Burr’s deep desire to be in “The Room Where It Happens” but his hesitancy to act—as well as his tender side with “Dear Theodosia.”
As Hamilton, Deaundre’ Woods brings a youthful spirit that works well with his character’s impetuous energy—eager for “My Shot” to be at the forefront of the Revolution and lead Washington’s troops into battle—though perhaps less believable as an inexhaustible essayist and architect of the nascent nation’s financial system.
Balancing Hamilton’s never-“Satisfied” energy is Morgan Anita Wood’s heartfelt and earthy Eliza, whom Hamilton marries through her more cerebral sister Angelica’s (well embodied by Marja Harmon) orchestration—a scene cleverly “rewound” to reveal Angelica’s ambivalence about it.
Whereas Hamilton’s connection to Angelica seemed more highlighted in the Pantages production last year, here Eliza’s pleas for Hamilton to spend time at home and with their son have more depth due to Wood’s emotional delivery. Wood smolders in Eliza’s solo “Burn,” expressing the profound pain of her betrayal through an emotionally resonant voice.
Burr’s solo “Wait For It” is also powerful, as is George Washington’s (Darnell Abraham) commanding solo “One Last Time.” The two performers own these songs, and the volume on these numbers also seems turned up, adding to their emotional charge.
Other characters fit the bill as well, though more unevenly. Paris Nix is somewhat difficult to decipher as the Marquis de Lafayette, perhaps due to the French accent, but he clearly enjoys hamming it up as peacock-in-purple Thomas Jefferson—who enters at the beginning of the second act asking “What’d I Miss?”—accompanied by straight-man sidekick James Madison (a funny Brandon Louis Armstrong).
Conversely, Rick Negron seems a little less comfortable in the spotlight as audience-darling King George—seemingly more focused on modulating his voice for “You’ll Be Back” (which he does well) than being prissily pissed off—though Negron does capture the king’s smug amusement at the political turn of events among his former subjects.
Regardless of any slight differences in cast, this production of “Hamilton” will have you on your feet applauding in wonder at the enthusiasm each member brings to Miranda’s potently lyrical songs, in a range of memorable music. The ensemble numbers are stellar, most of which also require precise choreography, such as “Ten Duel Commandments.”
This cast’s heavy minority representation also inflects interestingly on the story that is at once historical and modern, especially in its themes of freedom, oppression, immigration and whose narrative gets told—familiar refrains from our nation’s history that reverberate as strongly today.
“Hamilton” continues at Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa, through Oct. 16, with performances Tuesdays through Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets range from $49 to $249 and can be purchased online at SCFTA.org or by calling the box office at (714) 556-2787. Masks are optional. Run time is 2 hours and 30 minutes, plus intermission.