Hamilton

Critical response

Hamilton has received nearly unanimous acclaim from professional critics, being deemed a cultural phenomenon.

Marilyn Stasio, in her review of the Off-Broadway production for Variety, wrote, "The music is exhilarating, but the lyrics are the big surprise. The sense as well as the sound of the sung dialogue has been purposely suited to each character. George Washington, a stately figure in Jackson's dignified performance, sings in polished prose... But in the end, Miranda's impassioned narrative of one man's story becomes the collective narrative of a nation, a nation built by immigrants who occasionally need to be reminded where they came from."[41]

In his review of the Off-Broadway production, Jesse Green in New York wrote, "The conflict between independence and interdependence is not just the show's subject but also its method: It brings the complexity of forming a union from disparate constituencies right to your ears.... Few are the theatergoers who will be familiar with all of Miranda's touchstones. I caught the verbal references to Rodgers and Hammerstein, Gilbert and Sullivan, Sondheim, West Side Story, and 1776, but other people had to point out to me the frequent hat-tips to hip-hop... Whether it's a watershed, a breakthrough, and a game changer, as some have been saying, is another matter. Miranda is too savvy (and loves his antecedents too much) to try to reinvent all the rules at once.... Those duels, by the way — there are three of them — are superbly handled, the highlights of a riveting if at times overbusy staging by the director Thomas Kail and the choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler."[42]

Ben Brantley in reviewing the Broadway production in The New York Times, wrote, "I am loath to tell people to mortgage their houses and lease their children to acquire tickets to a hit Broadway show. But Hamilton, directed by Thomas Kail and starring Mr. Miranda, might just about be worth it.... Washington, Jefferson, Madison – they're all here, making war and writing constitutions and debating points of economic structure. So are Aaron Burr and the Marquis de Lafayette. They wear the clothes (by Paul Tazewell) you might expect them to wear in a traditional costume drama, and the big stage they inhabit has been done up (by David Korins) to suggest a period-appropriate tavern, where incendiary youth might gather to drink, brawl and plot revolution."[43]

David Cote in his review of the Broadway production for Time Out New York wrote, "I love Hamilton. I love it like I love New York, or Broadway when it gets it right. And this is so right... A sublime conjunction of radio-ready hip-hop (as well as R&B, Britpop and trad showstoppers), under-dramatized American history and Miranda's uniquely personal focus as a first-generation Puerto Rican and inexhaustible wordsmith, Hamilton hits multilevel culture buttons, hard... The work's human drama and novelistic density remain astonishing." He chose Hamilton as a Critics' Pick, and gave the production five out of five stars.[44]

A review in The Economist notes that the production enjoys "near-universal critical acclaim".[45] Barack Obama joked that admiration for the musical is "the only thing Dick Cheney and I agree on."[46]

Although the musical and production were mostly praised, there were dissenting opinions and critiques. Elisabeth Vincentelli, of The New York Post, wrote that Hamilton and Burr's love/hate relationship "fails to drive the show – partly because Miranda lacks the charisma and intensity of the man he portrays," and that "too many of the numbers are exposition-heavy lessons, as if this were 'Schoolhouse Rap!' The show is burdened with eye-glazingly dull stretches, especially those involving George Washington."[47]

Some commentators have criticized the show for making Hamilton and other historical personages appear more progressive than they really were, while ignoring the roles of actual people of color in the Revolutionary era. For example, Ishmael Reed writes: "His reputation has been shored up as an abolitionist and someone who was opposed to slavery. Not true."[48]


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