Broadway in Boston: Hamilton

We headed back into Boston today to see the national tour of Hamilton.

On the way into town, driving along the turnpike with Boston University coming-up, the car screatched a warning and for the first time presented two warnings on the screen, indicating both cruise control and emergency breaking were unavailable. Presumably there was some issue with the imaging system, possibly caused by the sudden brightness of the setting sun popping in from between the skyline as we followed the curve in the road, but neither a soft-reboot (steering-wheel reset) nor shifting to park cleared the warning. While the stop-and-go traffic provided sufficient opportunity to test shifting into park, I wasn't about to do a full power cycling from the settings menu in the middle of the interstate. Following dinner and the play, the car did have full cruise control and autosteering enabled (and did not present a warning about emergency breaking, either), so presumably the full power cycle worked (when we got back in the car was in its minimalist "Car Off" mode).

Hamilton

For those who have not seen Hamilton, it's admittedly a difficult musical, with a lot happening on stage to a fast, changing, and often complex, beat. We had seen the show on Broadway previously, and it was amazing; watching it in Boston made us appreciate the performance we saw in the Richard Rodgers theatre even more. The Broadway cast put on a show that was polished and appeared effortless; in contrast, the touring company demonstrated how complex and difficult the musical was.

From curtain-up, the sound balance was noticeable different. The Richard Rodgers Theatre is less than half the size of the Boston Opera House (1,319 seats compared to 2,907), which accounts for some of the difference, but it made certain bombastic numbers feel significantly less powerful, such as in Right Hand Man. The sound set-up cannot take all of the blame, however, as the cast's poor sense of timing provided an even more deleterious drain on the numbers. The ensemble failed to accentuate Right Hand Man with the coördinated onomatopeia it needs, and with Paul Stoval as George Washington walking through his lines as if they were all prose. For example, when the song shifts from rhyming on -eeding to -ook, his delivery didn't follow and the chess metaphor was left isolated and stranded:

We put a stop to the bleeding as the British take Brooklyn Knight takes rook, but look

Washington wasn't alone in falling off of the beat.

I was most excited about DC and Boston for that reason: the historical importance of these two places. I’m really looking forward to saying lines like, “And what about Boston? Look at the cost and all that we’ve lost,” and actually being in the place that I’m talking about. I can’t wait to feel the energy from the crowd.

Austin Scott hung on to Boston just a little too long as well in an obvious attempt at fan service, which received no audible reaction from the crowed (unlike the gratuitous asides about New Jersey later in the show).

The experience was not just shaped by the focus characters. One of the great joys of watching a live event is experiencing the details, what people out-of-focus are doing. The ensemble was neither crisp nor in-sync with their movements, and even the principal cast appeared to be waiting around for their lines rather than being an active part of the show. This was most apparent when Lafayette missed his entrance during Aaron Burr, Sir; but transitions throughout the play came across as awkward, not just that transition from John Laurens to Lafayette.

Nicholas Christopher's interpretation of Aaron Burr also stands out in contrast from the canonical interpretation. The Broadway performance has been portraying Burr as somewhat aloof and removed from the fracas around him. This fits with his wait for it attitude, and directly follows from his refusal to be decisive or take a stand in several numbers. Christopher's interpretation presented him more anxious and annoyed, but did show this anxiety growing up through In the room where it happens and into the final climax. As the actor who alone seemed to be keeping rhythm and beat during the performance, another audience member suggested the frustration wasn't actually intended to be that of Burr's, but that of the actor caused by his colleague's inability to hit their marks.

I'm not suggesting you cancel your tickets for the touring show if you're already planning on seeing it. I'm not suggesting you don't buy tickets if you want to go see it. I am suggesting is that you consider making a trip to NYC to see the show at its home theatre regardless of whether you see it elsewhere. Maybe the touring troupe had a bad night, but it's hard to imagine them ever putting on a show as polished and impactful as on Broadway.

New York Marriott Marquis

I am not a fan of Times Square, so the thought of staying in a hotel there was not something I'd ever considered before. Nevertheless, the location of the New York Marriott Marquis, literally adjacent to the Richard Rodgers Theatre, made this a necessary hotel to consider for our trip to see Hamilton when we saw it on Broadway.

My at-the-time Gold status with Marriott was not worth an upgrade, even though this was before the 2018 devaluation of the status. It was good enough at the time for lounge access, which essentially meant being able to take the elevator up a few floors to get free bottled water. While the lounge was ostensibly staffed, they weren't doing anything to discourage the blatant loitering and subsequent tailgating.

The room we booked, the Deluxe, is the basic room; but as we were travelling solis parentes this trip, the space was more than sufficient. A king bed had its back to the bathroom, facing down a surprisingly long room for Manhattan, with a sofa (which pulled-out into another bed), chair, and coffee table before getting to the windows overlooking the street. Our room was such that, without too much effort, we could look down the street into part of Times Square, but was well above the bussel and noise. Unlike the new Moxy going-in down an 36th, the Marquis is actually in Times Square. There are several decent (or better) restaurants nearby, and we were able to get a seat at Sushi of Gari not far from the hotel (as opposed to the Michellin-starred upper East side location). Whatever you do, follow the standard advice and do not eat within a block of Times Square. We made the mistake of having brunch across the street at Junior's Cheesecake while we waited for our ride to the airport, which was a let down across the board: with bad coffee, greasy and poor tasting food, and absentee service.