When “Hamilton” opened in Chicago in the fall of 2016, it felt like a shot, to use the show’s signature metaphor. The energy and excitement of that initial run was palpable and relentless.
After a three-year absence following its three-year run, “Hamilton” is back in Chicago for a three-month run.
The shot, however, is more subdued this time around even if the show itself is more relevant than ever. The hip-hop element was as much of a revolution as the one portrayed. From its opening until the Act One curtain and again through the duel at the climax, “Hamilton” grabbed you by the throat in an exhilarating way and only let go for comic relief appearances of George III.
But the touring production that opened Thursday at the Nederlander Theatre has Broadway-ized the tempos, rhythms, volumes, voices and forces which has the effect of dulling much of the urgency and swagger of the show. That is an aesthetic choice, of course, which I suspect many will welcome. I found myself holding my breath for the anticipated electricity experienced last time around only to find flashes here and there, but that the lightning never fully struck.
Many of the performers last time around had the chops to bring off the rhymes in rhythm at breakneck speeds organically and with passion. This cast is more of the show-voice variety. Fewer chances are taken, more consistency is achieved. It comes off homogenized with the character-driven styles present not as clearly delineated. Make no mistake, there is a fine cast doing a fine job delivering an epic and difficult show. But moments that were once revelatory come off now as perfunctory.
What that sameness reveals is that “Hamilton” is such a superbly crafted show that it nonetheless remains rewarding and relevant. It is through-composed—a hip-hop opera, basically—and it is certainly easier to understand every word this way.
Its overall message that one’s legacy can be minimized and controlled by the bias of jealous contemporaries only to be retold and reborn in another century celebrating those biases remains compelling and effective.
“Hamilton” plays through December 30 at the Nederlander Theatre, 24 West Randolph, broadwayinchicago.com.