From left, Rubén Carbajal, Julius Thomas III, Simon Longnight and Brandon Louis Armstrong star in “Hamilton” onstage at the Orpheum. (Courtesy Joan Marcus)

Back in SF, ‘Hamilton’ as entertaining as ever

There are a few novel things about “Hamilton” at the Orpheum in San Francisco in 2019.

First: Most of the actors in the third national tour’s cast are different from that of the first, onstage here in 2017.

Second: Tickets, though pricey, are available for purchase directly from the box office (although a daily lottery for $10 seats is offered again).

Yet, as expected, the Broadway blockbuster, Tony-, Pulitzer Prize- and Grammy-winning show by Lin-Manuel Miranda is as exciting and educational as ever, telling the formerly little-known story of Alexander Hamilton’s role in the founding of America with brilliant contemporary rhyme, music and movement.

From rival Aaron Burr and the ensemble’s urgent rap introduction, to his wife Eliza’s conclusion, recounting his (and her own) legacy, “Hamilton” is riveting.

Filled with rap, pop, R&B and jazz, it’s marvelously dense, visually and aurally, and dramatic. And though they flow seamlessly, the scenes-slash-songs, both personal and political, are works of art unto themselves. Most are high energy; there are a few quiet breaks.

The performers of all races and ethnicities meet the challenge of the complex (and fun) wordplay and music. Julius Thomas III plays the ambitious, enterprising, compulsive Hamilton with urgency; Donald Webber is commanding as his foe Burr, the more measured fellow who becomes history’s villain after a famous duel.

Returning from the first tour is Isaiah Johnson as George Washington; at Thursday’s opening show, he brought the house down with his soulful finale in his retirement theme, “One Last Time.”

Rubén Carbajal again is versatile in the dual role of statesman John Laurens and Hamilton’s son Philip, as a child and teen.

New to the show, also dual roles, are the funky and diverse Brandon Louis Armstrong as colonist Hercules Mulligan and James Madison; and Simon Longnight, shining as the flashy French Marquis de Lafayette and France-loving Thomas Jefferson. Rick Negron adeptly provides comedy as King George.

The women are equally strong: Julia K. Harriman as Eliza is appropriately enamored and enraged; Sabrina Sloan is powerful as her conflicted yet tough sister Angelica; and Darilyn Castillo does double duty as sister Peggy and Maria, who successfully seduces Hamilton.

Under director Thomas Kail and choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler, the chorus is equally important, gorgeously woven into the action throughout, particularly when the turntable on designer David Korins’ perfectly functional set revolves.

And although the fervent opening night audience surprisingly didn’t stop the show with applause during the wild battle of Yorktown number when Hamilton and Lafayette assert, “Immigrants, we get the job done,” it’s clear that “Hamilton” will withstand the test of time.

Happily, this time around in The City, more people will have the opportunity to experience it.

REVIEW
Hamilton
Where: Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market St., S.F.
When: 7 p.m. most Tuesdays, Thursdays-Fridays, 1 and 7 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays, 1 p.m. Sundays; closes Sept. 8
Tickets: $194 to $686
Contact: www.shnsf.com
Note: A lottery offers 44 tickets at $10 each (two per customer) two days before each performance; visit hamiltonmusical.com/lottery or download the app: hamiltonmusical.com/app to enter.

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