Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Hamilton on Broadway - A Resurrection of America's Forgotten Founding Father

"It must be nice. It must be nice to have Washington on your side."
Thomas Jefferson & Aaron Burr 
(Source: @DavidKorins )


“How does a bastard, orphan and son of a whore, and a Scotsman dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean by providence, impoverished in squalor, grow up to be a hero and a scholar?”
~ Aaron Burr (Leslie Odom Jr.)  


Those outside the microcosm of New York City may not understand or have even heard of the hyperbole surrounding Hamilton -- the most coveted ticket on Broadway -- but it is the logical culmination of a decade plus long resurrection of America' forgotten Founding Father. The musical, originally played off-- Broadway at the Public Theater, ran to rave reviews in its initial New York incarnation. Could that acclaim be topped as it made its Broadway debut in August? The answer has been a resounding yes. We were fortunate enough to attend the September 9th evening show and came away duly impressed with the talent, passion, athleticism, and joy on display to a packed house in Manhattan.

To be clear, the revival of Alexander Hamilton (the person) isn't without criticism. But any such criticism has nothing to do with the artistry of the production; it would be aimed at the arguably Manichean narrative of Hamilton as principled protagonist and Burr as an embodiment of Machiavellian opportunism. In terms of accuracy historians such as William Hogeland have taken exception to Ron Chernow's view (on whose book Alexander Hamilton published in 2004 proved to be the inspiration for Lin-Manuel Miranda's stunning work) of America's first treasury secretary. Hamilton's legacy which is on display for public consumption ignores events such as the Newburgh Conspiracy. Those striving for historical accuracy will claim that Chernow's work paints an undeserving and positive Panglossian color of the Founding Father in a world where that realities of politics and statecraft are anything but black and white.

Make no mistake though that despite any historical misgivings, Hamilton the Broadway musical, running close to 3 hours was superb. 

To the uninitiated it is atypical of Broadway: comprising a cast of color resembling America's urban youth, interjecting a lingua franca of clearly enunciated rap to tell the story as it would be told in the streets of modern America rather than in slavish homage to an 18th America that one may find in a period piece made for PBS. 

But the delivery of the story isn't a predictable monotonous monologue; the hip-hop prose is interspersed with colonial english, modern R&B and familiar Broadway fare. The sometimes colorful language is balanced by the gravitas of The Federalist Papers, of Hamilton's unlikely rise through the force of his intellect, his capacity to work tirelessly, his proclivity to womanize, and the friendships forged through camaraderie and militancy during America's infancy in becoming an independent nation state breaking away from the empire of Great Britain's George III.
Lafayette, Hercules Mulligan, John Laurens, and Alexander Hamilton
(Source: New Yorker featuring picture by Joan Marcus)

All the while we see stirring performances that complement one another rather than dominate at center stage: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s lead role is played with a gravitas portraying an Alexander Hamilton always running out of time, never satisfied with his lot in life; Leslie Odom Jr. executes with precision the calculating Aaron Burr, confident at the beginning then becoming bemused, befuddled and becalmed by Hamilton's rise when he believed his patience and cunning on the sidelines was the right way forward for success; Daveed Diggs insouciance as the returning Thomas Jefferson in post independence America is counter-posed by his portrayal of Marquis de Lafayette, the French aristocrat with a cause, in Act I during the fight for independence from the British Monarchy; and Christopher Jackson as the steely Commander-in-Chief delivers with a deftness that is animated and fiery. 

Not to be outdone are the leading ladies, Phillipa Soo and Renee Elise Goldsberry Jones (who played two of the three Schuyler sisters) whose love of theater are clearly on display for the audience to see with their performances that are respectfully measured when necessary and emotionally charged when required -- their scenes required classical Broadway virtuosity and range -- and they delivered. In addition, Jonathan Groff's cameos of King George, where he has the stage to himself, provide the audience with the necessary comedic relief valve as the plot's rising action thickens around him. Indeed, Groff delivers an unforgettable performance fit for a mad King turned jilted lover.

Hamilton director, Thomas Kail, Miranda's co-conspirator / co-creator from his Wesleyan University days, must surely be on the short list for the 70th Tony Awards and set designer David Korins illustrates a devotion to his craft in employing a clever revolving stage (reminiscent of Les Misérables) that is there for more than a visual effect; it is an indispensable tool as the production surges forward with Andy Blakenbuehler's choreography that successfully cross-pollinates the flair and mentality of modern hip hop with the rigor of ballet and strut of Broadway show tunes.

In our minds there is little doubt that we are seeing the beginning of what will be much more to come from Hamilton the Broadway musical. It will go on tour, it will be made into a movie one day, but arguably its long lasting legacy will be the full resurrection of America's Forgotten Founding Father for the digital generation. Alexander Hamilton's likeness may be coming off the US ten dollar bill but the victory of the supporters of the Hamiltonian project to make Alexander Hamilton part of today's zeitgeist is complete.

If you are fortunate to see the Broadway production with this current cast then do so.


★★★★★ (out of 5 Sukasa Stars)

Hamilton

Runtime 2 hrs and 55 min.

Credits Written by Lin-Manuel Miranda; Inspired By The Book "Alexander Hamilton" by Ron Chernow; Choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler; Directed by Thomas Kail; Set design by David Korins

Cast Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton, Javier Muñoz as Alexander Hamilton (currently for Sunday performances), Daveed Diggs as Marquis De Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson, Renee Elise Goldsberry as Angelica Schuyler, Christopher Jackson as George Washington, Jonathan Groff as King George, Anthony Ramos as John Laurens/Philip Hamilton, Leslie Odom Jr. as Aaron Burr and Phillipa Soo as Eliza Hamilton; Also Jasmine Cephas Jones as Peggy Schuyler/Maria Reynolds and Okieriete Onaodowan as Hercules Mulligan/James Madison

Richard Rodgers Theatre
226 W. 46th St.
Midtown West
212-221-1211

website



Guest Blog post by @ArijitBanik (Banking professional and independent thinker who occasionally scribbles at arijitbanik.com and www.correlationmatrix.ca) 


Friday, 18 September 2015

The evolution of wine tasting

We came across Jancis Robinson's views on the evolution in the wine market, wine tasting and opinions that come with it; suffice to say that Ms. Robinson's views show that there isn't one objective analysis.

Source: Jancis Robinson on wine experts versus amateurs (Financial Times, September 4, 2015 1:47 pm)

See our post on Wine Tasting Is Bullshit? Here's Why Not and read the rest of Robinson's post (behind FT's paywall).

You want wine with that steak?

Good advice from Jeff Flowers (Twitter handle: @Bukowsky) on pairing wine with specific steak cuts:
Specific Wines for Specific Cuts of Meat 
If you’re at the wine store and having trouble deciding which specific wine you should pair with your steak, there are a few labels that can help ease your burden.
Well-Marbled Ribeyes — Balance this steak out with a high-tannin wine, such as Mastroberardino’s Taurasi Radici Riserva.
New York Strips — The perfect pairing for this steak is a bold Pinot Noir, such as Lucia Vineyards Gary’s Vineyard “Lucia”.
Filets — Give your senses an aromatic lift by pairing this steak with an elegant Syrah, such as Patrick Jasmin Cote Rotie.
Ribeyes & Strips — A hearty red blend with acidity and dried fruity notes are the perfect complement for these steaks. We’d suggest pairing with any red from Tommaso Bussola.
Steaks with Pepper Crust — The Colonial Estate “Exile” is made with rich fruit characteristics such as watermelon, pomegranate and jam, all of which are a well-balanced combination for steaks made with Diane sauces or pepper crust.
Read the rest of his article here: How to Pair Wine With Steak 


If you are in Ontario and don't have the wines listed above readily available, here are some SukasaStyle recommended options to consider:


Well-Marbled Ribeyes
Taurasi Red 2008 VINTAGES#: 418707 - $44.95 for a 750 ml bottle.





New York Strips

La Crema Pinot Noir 2013 VINTAGES#: 58024  - $45.95 for a 750 ml bottle.







Filets

Burrowing Owl Syrah 2011 VINTAGES#: 73072 - $39.95 for a 750 ml bottle.





Ribeyes and strips

Caparzo Brunello di Montalcino 2008 VINTAGES#: 579094 - $44.95 for a 750 ml bottle.







Steaks with pepper crusts

Ridge Lytton Springs 2012 VINTAGES#: 982413 - $52.95 for a 750 ml bottle












Please remember to trust your own palate. These are merely suggestions for the various cuts; we have leaned towards the full bodied end of the robust red spectrum as we feel these varietals and blends pair best with the cuts of meat described above.


Salut!