Tag Archives: Musical Theater

Hamilton: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Miracle

It’s true: Hamilton totally earns the hype. My sweetheart treated me to a touring company performance of the musical here in Boston last night, and it was the first time either of us had seen it. What a tour de force!

It’s a constantly moving, singing, dancing, quite literally spinning masterpiece of intricate physical, vocal and emotional involvement among cast, crew, musicians, choreographers, set designers and visionaries. Everything is held aloft by Lin-Manuel Miranda’s brilliant rhythm, rhyme, and lyrical passion and inspired by Hamilton biographer Ron Chernow’s erudition.

It starts with a pow and never slows down, and turntables within turntables spin against each other to allow for even more movement and multiple simultaneous stories to play out before your eyes.

There is very little spoken dialog separating the musical numbers—it’s a constantly flowing, beautifully paced river of rhythm, full of emotion yet always supported by a framework of fact, a propulsive political urgency and this historical imperative: Make this moment count. Make your vision real. Fight for what matters. Keep on trying. You can rest another day—acknowledge your power to make a difference right now and turn that potential power into positive action. It’s honest, with no holds barred: thrilling, merciful, inspiring.

Tomorrow Belongs to Me

Here is a chilling scene from the musical Cabaret by composers John Kander and Fred Ebb. In this first week of the Trump presidency, when our freedoms are already being ripped from us and a dark, xenophobic hatred is settling on our nation, sharing this troubling work of art feels particularly and horribly apt and important.

Kander and Ebb wrote a number of musicals, including Chicago, together. Their biggest hits were stories of darkness and decadence in which the music, though catchy and clever, eloquently underscored the sordid qualities of the worlds in which their stories took place. Their songs (including “Cabaret,”  “New York, New York,” “Maybe This Time” and “All That Jazz“) are so pleasing that they can be pulled from their context and enjoyed as great tunes whenever and wherever you like. But in context, Kander and Ebb’s songs enrich and amplify the plays’ messages and power and make them two of the most important creators in the musical theater canon.

As Jews and homosexuals born in the 1920s, both Kander and Ebb had seen and experienced antisemitic and homophobic bigotry personally. One imagines that those difficult experiences can only have deepened their understanding of and sympathy for the characters for whom they wrote.

Please watch this clip to the end to experience its full, chilling power. Far from being a simple musical comedy, Cabaret is the story of life around a Berlin cabaret during the rise of the Nazi party during the early 1930s. It shows how evil infiltrates a cultured and cosmopolitan nation, and how no amount of retreating to the cabaret for distractions can keep the evil truths of the outside world from overtaking a once-beautiful culture.

The Scourge of the Sea? Just Li’l Ol’ Me

“No little children love me. I’m told they play at Peter Pan, and the strongest always chooses to be Peter. They force the baby to be Hook. The baby—that’s where the canker gnaws.”

Last night’s U.S. television broadcast of “Peter Pan Live!” underscored what I have always believed—no other actor, not even one as entertaining as Christopher Walken, can compete with Australian actor Cyril Ritchard‘s memorable and marvelous turn as Captain Hook. That voice! That face! That prancing, preening charismatic villainy! Ritchard WAS Hook for me, and always will be. His was the voice on the 1954 original Broadway cast recording, and Ritchard’s roguish delivery and outrageous campiness earned him a Tony Award for this performance. Ritchard was also the star of another favorite Broadway musical, “The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd.