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Saturday, June 15, 2024

Broadway phenomenon ‘Hamilton’ takes the crown at Madison’s Overture Center

With performances like this, you better not throw away your shot to be in the room where it happens.

 The national tour of the hit musical “Hamilton” stopped at Madison’s Overture Center from August 9 to August 21. Edred Utomi as Alexander Hamilton, Zoe Jensen as Eliza Hamilton and Josh Tower as Aaron Burr faced the daunting task of filling the shoes of the iconic Broadway cast that made the musical a global phenomenon.

Written in 2015 by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the show takes the story of Alexander Hamilton and presents it using modern musical styles such as R&B, rap and jazz. The show and its songs captured audiences across the world and now comes to Madison for the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The original-cast Broadway show’s release onto Disney+ meant that the cast of the touring Hamilton shows now have to perform in front of audiences who may have already seen the performances of  stars such as Miranda himself as well as Leslie Odom Jr. and Christopher Jackson in the leading roles.

However, the Madison cast not only met audience expectations. It exceeded them.

The performances of the lead female cast members stood out. Zoe Jensen, who performed the role of Alexander Hamilton’s wife Eliza Hamilton, mastered the huge emotional shift required of the character. From the innocence and lightheartedness of  “Helpless,” the raw sadness and anger of “Burn” to the grief and forgiveness in “It’s Quiet Uptown,” Jensen effervesced. 

Stephanie Umoh was exceptional in the role of Eliza Hamilton’s sister Angelica Schuyler, providing great performances in “The Schuyler Sisters” and in “Satisfied” which give a different perspective of people close to Hamilton. The synergy between Eliza and Angelica was perfected by both actors leading to an incredibly effective portrayal of the bond between the Schuyler sisters.

The comical relief provided by Peter Matthew Smith as King George III was on point. His addition of a growl to the low notes added an extra deranged feel to the character, a wonderful detail that amazed the Cardinal.

Some might say that “The Room Where It Happens” is the showstopper in Hamilton. However, Paul Oakley Stovall stole that honor with a powerful portrayal of George Washington and a breathtaking solo performance in “One Last Time”.  

Stovall’s George Washington was distinct from Jackson’s in the original cast but each decision was perfectly executed.  His creative choices added new, exciting dynamics to the character. Overall, Stovall’s performance stood out in the excellent cast as he captivated the audience with his impressive voice. 

We’d go as far as saying Stovall’s performance was the best stage performance either of us has ever seen. 

Edred Utomi’s performance as Alexander Hamilton was up to the standard of what one might expect of a high level Broadway performance but was not particularly noteworthy. There was a moment that pulled both of us out of the performance, looking at each other with eyes that read “did that actually just happen?”. 

There is a moment in “Helpless” when Hamilton is free to improvise a comedic dance move as part of a joke. Utomi chose an infamous dance move from the video game “Fortnite”, known as “Orange Justice.”

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In a show with an abundance of references to modern society, this decision stood out in a negative way, distracting from the overall performance.

Overall, however, these small nitpicks are near inconsequential compared to how incredible the cast performed, Utomi and the rest of the cast gathered for a performance to remember.

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Ian Wilder

Ian Wilder is a Sports Editor and former senior staff writer for The Daily Cardinal. He’s formerly covered the men’s hockey beat, state politics and features. Follow him on Twitter at @IanWWilder.

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