Review: 'Hamilton' in Des Moines? Yes, it's really that good.
From announcing the show in April 2016 to the anticipated takeover in summer 2018, a look at how the world's biggest Broadway show landed in Iowa's capital city.
The success of “Hamilton” is non-stop. And Des Moines is no exception to its excellence.
The Grammy-, Pulitzer Prize- and 11-time Tony Award-winning musical opened Wednesday night at the Des Moines Civic Center, a rousing performance worthy of the production’s near two-and-a-half year wait to invade Iowa’s capital city.
The show, based on the Ron Chernow biography and with book, music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, runs in downtown Des Moines through July 15.
“Hamilton” grabs you from its opening number and sends you on a nearly three-hour sprint (seriously, it’s two feet on the gas pedal from opening applause to closing ovation) dedicated to the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton.
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It shows our protagonist rise up from a zealous immigrant on the streets of New York City to becoming a war hero responsible for creating America’s financial system, only to see his legacy be questioned by the same tenacity that earned him such acclaim.
It’s a nearly 250-year-old story about presidential speeches and backdoor politics. It’s not supposed to be this exciting.
But, damn, it is.
It's exciting because it uses the musical language of 2018, hip-hop, to tell the story of 1776. The staging sends you from battlefield to courtroom without effort and each song comes choreographed to add depth without speaking a word. That’s what makes “Hamilton” a must-see piece of entertainment.
Still, it’s the writing that makes it a generational work of art.
It snatches at you with wit and personality, introducing immediately themes that resonate with America today: legacy, love and the power of freedom. Wielding lines like "young, scrappy and hungry" and "history has its eyes on you," the story again and again successfully connects on a human level.
And this group, coined the Philip cast, delivers that story with the charisma and boundless energy needed to pull off “Hamilton.” As Hamilton, Joseph Morales balances ambition with charm and humor. He’s empathetic despite Hamilton’s flaws, a skill needed to successfully deliver the show's emotional payoff.
Nik Walker plays a cool and collected nemesis to Hamilton in Aaron Burr. Walker’s Burr doesn’t hit the ground running, but offers a rare slow build to the man you see by show’s end.
Marcus Choi offers wisdom and stability as George Washington while Kyle Scatliffe and Fergie L. Philippe play worthy political rivals in Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.
In arguably the night's most impressive performance, Shoba Narayan brings chills as Eliza Hamilton. She shows in the second act an unmatched strength and emotional control, selling the musical's most difficult moments.
It's a humorous show, too, especially when Jon Patrick Walker's King George enters the spotlight. Patrick portrays George as a pouty and entitled ex-boyfriend to America, earning laughs as he prances and sings lines like "when push comes to shove I will send a fully armed battalion to remind you of my love."
"Hamilton" will make you laugh. It could make you cry. And it should, as all memorable art does, make you think.
It's clear there's no stopping “Hamilton.” And, with something this good, that's how it should be.
“Hamilton” in Des Moines
- When: Through July 15
- Where: Des Moines Civic Center, 221 Walnut St.
- Cost: 198.50-$373.50 before fees; limited tickets remain.
- More information: dmpa.org