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Company of Hamilton National Tour. Photo: Joan Marcus

Broadway’s Hamilton at the National Arts Centre—on July 13–31

By Laura Gauthier and Samara Caplan on July 14, 2022



Laura and Samara spend their days as non-profit unicorns and fill every spare minute exploring the world of musical theatre as BFFs (that’s Broadway Friends Forever). Follow @bffs613 on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

After a long wait of over two years, Broadway Across Canada’s touring production of Hamilton has arrived at the National Arts Centre.

Even if you’re a stranger to the world of musical theatre, it’s pretty much guaranteed you’ve heard about this show. This sensation has nabbed all the awards (including numerous Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize), has multiple tours across the globe, and is a pop culture phenomenon. Tickets were in such high demand that you had to book months and months in advance to get a seat, and it even had a live filming of the original cast production that launched on to Disney+ when Broadway and tours shut down during the pandemic.

Company of Hamilton national tour. Photo: Joan Marcus

Hamilton seems like an unlikely engaging topic for a show, let alone a musical, but by now, you’ve likely also heard of the musical theatre genius behind it all—Lin-Manuel Miranda (who did win a MacArthur “Genius” grant for this, after all). Using various styles of rap, hip hop, jazz and more, Miranda brings the fascinating story of a young immigrant who becomes one of America’s founding fathers into the present day by casting more diversity than you might be used to seeing on Broadway stages. Many of the themes are universal—ambition, legacy, conflict—plus still relevant—the fight for equal rights, immigrant contributions to society, and democracy—which makes this show more than a simple biography. It’s layered with detail, meaning, and symbolism.

It’s no secret that the Broadway show is a smash. But outside of the stages of New York City, audiences experience these shows through touring casts, which can vary in levels of talent, scenery complexity, music, etc. Each Hamilton tour is named after a character in the show, and here in Ottawa, we landed the #PhilipTour, and it did not disappoint.

Company of Hamilton national tour. Photo: Joan Marcus

The sets and transitions moved like a choreographed dance, somehow matching the quick pace of the music and lyrics. Every piece of the stage felt like a living and breathing part of the show and would transform the scene before you knew it. Each song was met with cheers from a boisterous audience whose energy and excitement to finally be seeing this production was palpable. Pierre Jean Gonzalez’s Hamilton and Jared Dixon’s Burr commanded the stage and roused the audience. Their performance of Dear Theodosia displayed some of the night’s most beautiful blending of vocals. Neil Haskell as King George brought cheers and laughter throughout the hall, while Marcus Choi’s George Washington commanded the stage with an assertive softness brought to the role. The ensemble brings the show together, moving from scene to scene flawlessly, adding depth and vibrancy to each song.

Neil Haskell of Hamilton national tour. Photo: Joan Marcus

Ottawa audiences have been waiting a long time for this show, as tickets initially went on sale to subscribers in mid-2019. Of course, we know how the story goes; it was postponed twice during the worst of the pandemic and has finally arrived in the capital as the first Broadway touring show since things started to reopen. Tours typically play Ottawa for a week, maybe two if it’s a big show in demand, but it’s unheard of for a performance to play here this long and with additional matinees during the week. The appetite for the show has not lessened, even with all the postponements and delays, and at last count, we were told the show was 95% sold out, so there’s only a small window of opportunity to scoop up the last of the seats even though it plays until the end of the month.

Even if you watched the Disney+ filmed version, there’s nothing like seeing these productions live. There are close-ups and stage sections zoomed in on for the filming, but seeing it live when you can take in the full view as the show is meant to be seen is vastly different and a better experience. Even with all the virtual performances, we were so happy to see this one during the pandemic. You simply cannot replace the feeling of live theatre, especially at this level, as the #PhilipTour has many Broadway alums in the cast. The nuances a live actor adds, taking in the whole scene like a moving painting, and the little quirks that can happen with any live production make it memorable and way more immersive than watching a filmed production. You’ll only be disappointed if you throw away your shot and miss your opportunity to be in the room where it happens. (Click boom!)

Hamilton is playing at the National Arts Centre until July 31. Performances Tuesday through Saturday starting at 8pm and on Sundays at 7:30pm, matinees are on Thursdays and Saturdays at 2pm, and Sundays at 1pm. The last day of the show only has a matinee performance. Tickets start at $91.50. There is also a lottery for 40 $10 tickets for every performance through the app or online (though the date for some lottery drawings has already passed).