“Hamilton” at the Orpheum: Don’t throw away your SHOT!

One thing the world doesn’t really need is another glowing review of the hit Broadway show Hamilton, just opened in San Francisco at the Orpheum.  Here’s one anyway.

I was one of the fortunate few to see this show in the first week of its San Francisco run.  And like everyone else in the seats, I left the theater singing.  With this show, you just can’t help it.  (“I’m not throwin’ away my . . . SHOT!“)  The music ranges from the inescapably rhythmic (“My Shot”) to the powerfully uplifting (“Rise Up”) to the hauntingly beautiful (“It’s Quiet Uptown”) to the show’s final unanswered question (“Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story”).  If you’ve already become familiar with these from the soundtrack, you know what you’re going to like.

But you don’t know nuthin’ until you’ve seen them performed onstage.

The show is a visual feast.  Here are some things you have to be there to know.  A lighting design like no other, where the light shows are one with the sound, and when there is a tender moment in the action, there is a tender circle of light enclosing it; when there is explosion in the music, there is an explosion of light, brilliant and perfectly timed.  There are some fascinating mechanics in the stage itself, a cinematic movement creating action even it seems beside the point of the action onstage. A wildly enduring choreography, never at rest but never intrusive, always perfectly timed and place.  Costumes, color, orchestra, set design all work together in an extravagantly produced show.  Better, I’ve heard, than the NY production.

Don’t worry about taking the cheap seats at the Orphem.   Built in 1926, it retains ALL the details of its glory days. Even the last row balcony has an unobstructed—possibly better—view of the stage.  Don’t forget to bring your opera glasses, though.  Hamilton’s (Michael Luwoye) tear-streaked face when his bride Eliza (Solea Pfeiffer) forgives his errant ways (It’s Quiet Uptown) give so much more passion and potency to the scene, elevating that lovely music to even greater heights.  There are too many other stellar performances for me to name them all here.  Go see for yourself.

The first half of the show, with its revolutionary fervor, its call to risk everything to fight for a cause you have put your faith in, has particular relevance today in the aftermath of the 2016 election.  This is one show that can leave you singing a song that really comes from the heart.

Through August 5, 2017

Box Office:  Hamilton at the SF Orpheum

Review by David Hirzel