By: Crappy Critic ~A Guy Who Likes ‘Hamilton’~
Xavier University Theatre is not throwing away its shot. I sat in my blue upholstered chair and started drifting through the program for Xavier Theatre’s production of Hamilton: An American Musical, unprepared to be thrust so violently into the world of theatre.
Hamilton: An American Musical is the story of a historically neglected founding father who played a large hand in shaping our country. Starting with his childhood in St. Croix, we follow Hamilton through the Revolution, love, the constitution, debauchery, tragedy and SPOILERS: his death. I was thrilled to see what Xavier Theatre would do with the musical that has taken hold of our country.
I could tell I was “on the bow of a ship, heading towards a new land” when the set was revealed. Consisting of only a single piece of rainbow colored yarn, a small army of stagehands would use small sticks to lift up areas of the string to make buildings and hurricanes and tents and everything else the set required.
When asked about the unusual set, student set designer Meryl Streep commented, “I really wanted to show how Hamilton was so much bigger than the world around him.
Also, due to the miniscule budget given by the university to the theatre program, we could really only use what we could find in the dumpster behind the local Michael’s Craft store.” The company of Hamilton: An American Musical was already proving to be as young, scrappy, and as hungry as the nation they were portraying.
The cast was interestingly made up, as it was a mostly white cast playing a group of historically white people who are typically played by actors who are not. In fact, the racial makeup of the cast was completely flipped from the original layout, with the only person of color being first year theatre major Aaron Robinson as King George III the only main character typically played by a Caucasian male. Robinson owned the part and had the audience rolling in the aisles. At intermission I asked Lin Manuel Miranda, creator of the musical and the person seated to my left, what he thought of the casting choice being so different from his own?
He only commented “love is love is love is love.”
Program director Stephen Skiles made the bold choice of casting himself as Alexander Hamilton. Directed by outside director Dale Dimmadome of Dimsdale Dimmadome, Skiles believed himself to be a better pick for the titular role than what the director had originally wished. Having seen his performance, I would have to agree. Skiles was truly on a level above, with a deeply affecting performance. The one thing the cast seemed to be lacking was choreography. Often, the single piece of yarn would trip up the actors along with their own feet.
Though most performances made up for it, ensemble member Jessup Chunk was continuously the worst. Chunk was in the most simple of the ensemble parts, and I left the show believing Jessup’s spirit animal would be a rice and sour-cream burrito from Chipotle, he was so floppy and wet.
When announcing Hamilton: An American Musical as part of the season, it was commented that perhaps Skiles had bit off more than he could chew. Skiles simple, and only reply, was “No.” Having now seen Hamilton: An American Musical I fervently agree with Skiles.