Hamilton Chicago: A Review

Hamilton Chicago: A Review

Having been lucky enough to see Hamilton in Chicago twice, I share my very strong opinions on this cast.
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I was lucky enough to be able to fly to Chicago this past weekend to see the incredible cast of their production of Hamilton. Having seen the show in New York more than a few times, I felt very strongly about the casting choices in Chicago and haven't been able to stop talking about them since I got home. These are my thoughts about each actor in their respective roles.

Miguel Cervantes (Alexander Hamilton)

I must admit, I went into the show with relatively low expectations for him. From what I had seen and heard, he wasn't anything special. Boy was I wrong. Cervantes' charisma on that stage is palpable, and his portrayal honestly reminded me of that of original cast member Lin-Manuel Miranda, which is really saying something, especially coming from me. His voice is great, his energy is infectious, and he makes you truly believe that he is young, scrappy, and hungry.

Joseph Morales (Hamilton alternate)

I was lucky enough to see the show twice on my trip, once with the original cast and once with Joseph Morales as Hamilton. In my opinion, his portrayal ranks only slightly below that of Cervantes. Morales' acting started a bit stiff and awkward for me but by the fourth song or so, I was sold. He's the youngest looking Hamilton I've seen which really gave him that youthful energy that Hamilton is so well known for, and I really enjoyed seeing him portrayed that way.

Joshua Henry (Aaron Burr)

I've had the honor (pun intended) of seeing quite a few talented Burrs, all very different in their portrayals. But Henry's definitely stands out to me as the most intense. From the moment he takes the stage and speaks the first lines of the show, the look in his eyes and urgency in his voice is present. He makes an extremely relatable Burr, one I found myself laughing with and crying with by the end of the show.

Ari Afsar (Eliza Schuyler-Hamilton)

She is another who I went in with low expectations of. I try not to form opinions based upon what I hear before I actually experience an actor in a role, but there was a lot of negativity surrounding Afsar's performance that I couldn't help but listen to. However, that completely changed when I saw her. She's is an incredibly charming and sweet Eliza, with a huge smile on her face from the moment she steps onstage. What really sold me on her portrayal, though, was her character development. The difference in Afsar's Eliza between Helpless and Burn was breathtaking, and truly unlike anything I've seen from any other Eliza.

Karen Olivo (Angelica Schuyler)

I can't say enough about Karen Olivo. She was made for this role. Everything from the intensity of her acting, to her rich and controlled voice, to her unparalleled signature Angelica sass, was spot on. Seeing her in this role just made sense. It was like I was watching Angelica Schuyler on that stage, no questions asked. I will sing Olivo's praises in this role for the rest of my life.

Jonathan Kirkland (George Washington)

The praises had to stop sometime. Don't get me wrong, there was nothing glaringly bad about Kirkland's performance. His presence was there 100%, although that could just be due to his height, especially next to Cervantes who is just over five feet tall. I was not completely sold on his voice for this role, however. The man undoubtedly has talent but the tone of his voice didn't carry the same strength and power as Washingtons I've seen in the past. That being said, the physical portrayal is there, his acting is strong, and he definitely looks the part.

Chris Lee (Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson)

Lee was undoubtedly a standout to me in this production. Having seen some not-so-great portrayals of this track in New York following the departure of original cast member Daveed Diggs, I was beginning to lose hope. Lee restored that hope. He has so much energy and charisma, and he's the first person I've seen who can rap Guns and Ships even remotely closely to how Diggs does. He makes the role his own, and doesn't try to copy anyone else's portrayal. Overall, he is one of my favorites in the cast by far.

Jose Ramos (John Laurens/Philip Hamilton)

Is it a pre-requisite that all Laurens/Philips are the cutest people in the cast? Ramos is adorable, he makes a lovable Laurens and believably naive Philip. His passion is there, and he balances the lovability with the intensity required for both sides of the track. I found myself really routing for both his Laurens and his Philip, even though I knew how both stories would end.

Wallace Smith (Hercules Mulligan/James Madison)

I was very excited to see Smith in this role, having seen him play Enjolras in the Broadway revival of Les Miserables multiple times a couple of years ago. His voice was just as strong and unique as I had remembered, and absolutely perfect for Mulligan and Madison. His Mulligan was slightly more subued than that of original cast member Okieriete Onaodowan, but his Madison was perfectly stoic and an ideal match for Chris Lee's Jefferson.

Samantha Ware (Peggy Schuyler/Maria Reynolds)

Ware's Peggy was a bit more strong-willed and persistant, and less cutesy than others I have seen, but it worked for her. I enjoyed seeing a Peggy with a bit more substance and strength, rather than watching her get unapologetically pushed aside. Samantha's portrayal of Maria oozed sex appeal, as she should. She is an ideal seductress and made Hamilton's defeated willpower in Say No To This definitely believable.

Alexander Gemignani (King George III)

What a refreshing take on this role! Having only seen the Broadway portrayals of King George, I was so used to seeing the same thing over and over again. I had become bored of this character and his repetitive songs. Gemignani's George was entirely different. He made the role his own, added some new quirks that were very fun to see for the first time, and actually made me look forward to his three songs both times I saw the production.

Cover Image Credit: Playbill.com

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Why High School Musicals Should Be As Respected As Sports Programs Are

The arts are important, too.
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When I was in middle school and high school, I felt like I lived for the musicals that my school orchestrated.

For those of you who don't know, a musical is an onstage performance wherein actors take on roles that involve singing, and often dancing, to progress the plot of the story. While it may sound a little bit nerdy to get up in front of an audience to perform in this manner, this is something you cannot knock until you try it.

For some reason, though, many public schools have de-funded arts programs that would allow these musicals to occur, while increasing the funding for sports teams. There are a few things that are being forgotten when sports are valued more than musical programs in high schools.

Much like athletic hobbies, an actor must try-out, or audition, to participate in a musical. Those best suited for each role will be cast, and those who would not fit well are not given a part. While this may sound similar to trying out for say, basketball, it is an apples to oranges comparison.

At a basketball try-out, those who have the most experience doing a lay-up or shooting a foul shot will be more likely to succeed, no questions asked. However, for an audition, it is common to have to learn a piece of choreography upon walking in, and a potential cast member will be required to sing a selected piece with only a few days of preparation.

There are many more variables involved with an audition that makes it that much more nerve-racking.

The cast of a school musical will often rehearse for several months to perfect their roles, with only several nights of performance at the end. Many sports practice for three or four days between each of their respective competitions. While this may seem to make sports more grueling, this is not always the case.

Musicals have very little pay-off for a large amount of effort, while athletic activities have more frequent displays of their efforts.

Athletes are not encouraged to but are allowed to make mistakes. This is simply not allowed for someone in a musical, because certain lines or entrances may be integral to the plot.

Sometimes, because of all the quick changes and the sweat from big dance numbers, the stage makeup just starts to smear. Despite this, an actor must smile through it all. This is the part of musicals that no sport has: introspection.

An actor must think about how he or she would respond in a given situation, be it saddening, maddening, frightening, or delightful. There is no sport that requires the knowledge of human emotion, and there is especially no sport that requires an athlete to mimic such emotion. This type of emotional exercise helps with communications and relationships.

Sports are great, don't get me wrong. I loved playing volleyball, basketball, track, and swimming, but there were no experiences quite like those from a musical. Sports challenge the body with slight amounts of tactic, while musicals require much physical and mental endurance.

The next time you hear someone say that it's “just a musical," just remember that musicals deserve as much respect as sports, since they are just as, if not more demanding.

Cover Image Credit: Cincinnati Arts

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10 Shows To Watch If You're Sick Of 'The Office'

You can only watch it so many times...

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"The Office" is a great show, and is super easy to binge watch over and over again! But if you're like me and you're looking for something new to binge, why not give some of these a try? These comedies (or unintentional comedies) are a great way to branch out and watch something new.

1. "New Girl"

A show about a group of friends living in an apartment in a big city? Sound familiar? But seriously, this show is original and fresh, and Nick Miller is an icon.

2. "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend"

Ya'll have been sleeping on this show. It's a musical comedy about a girl that follows her ex boyfriend across the country. I thought it sounded horrible so I put it off for WAY too long, but then I realized how incredible the cast, music, writing, and just EVERYTHING. It really brings important issues to light, and I can't say too much without spoiling it. Rachel Bloom (the creator of the show) is a woman ahead of her time.

3. "Jane the Virgin"

I know... another CW show. But both are so incredible! Jane The Virgin is a tongue-in-cheek comedy and parody of telenovelas. It has so many twists and turns, but somehow you find yourself laughing with the family.

4. "Brooklyn Nine-Nine"

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Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been in popular news lately since its cancellation by Fox and sequential pickup by NBC. It's an amazing show about cops in, you guessed it, Brooklyn. Created by the amazing Michael Schur, it's a safe bet that if you loved "The Office" you'll also love his series "Brooklyn Nine-Nine".

5. "The Good Place"

Another series created by the talented Micael Schur, it's safe to say you've probably already heard about this fantasy-comedy series. With a wonderful cast and writing that will keep you on your toes, the show is another safe bet.

6. "Fresh Off The Boat"

Seriously, I don't know why more people don't watch this show. "Fresh Off The Boat" focuses on an Asian family living in Orlando in the mid 90s. Randall Parks plays a character who is the polar opposite of his character in "The Interview" (Yeah, remember that horrifying movie?) and Constance Wu is wonderful as always.

7. "Full House"

Why not go back to the basics? If you're looking for a nostalgic comedy, go back all the way to the early days of Full House. If you're a '98-'00 baby like me, you probably grew up watching the Tanner family on Nick at Night. The entire series is available on Hulu, so if all else fails just watch Uncle Jesse and Rebecca fall in love again or Michelle fall off a horse and somehow lose her memory.

8. "Secret Life of the American Teenager"

Okay, this show is not a comedy, but I have never laughed so hard in my life. It's off Netflix but it's still on Hulu, so you can watch this masterpiece there. Watch the terrible acting and nonsense plot twists drive this show into the ground. Somehow everyone in this school dates each other? And also has a baby? You just have to watch. It might be my favorite show of all time.

9. "Scrubs"

Another old show that is worth watching. If you ignore the last season, Scrubs is a worthwhile medical comedy about doctors in both their personal and medical life. JD and Turk's relationship is one to be jealous of, and one hilarious to watch. Emotional at times, this medical drama is superior to any medical drama that's out now.

10. "Superstore"

I was resistant to watch this one at first, because it looked cheesy. But once I started watching I loved it! The show is a workplace comedy, one you're sure to love if you can relate to working in retail. If you liked the Office, you'll like Superstore!

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