In Case You Missed It: Does Hamilton Live Up to the Hype, and Did London Critics Harm Benedict Cumberbatch?

News   In Case You Missed It: Does Hamilton Live Up to the Hype, and Did London Critics Harm Benedict Cumberbatch? So, the most popular kid in class was voted Prom King. Surprise.

Theatre translation: the can-do-no-wrong, critical darling Hamilton opened on Broadway this week, and the critics once again switched out their poison pens for purple prose in an attempt to praise the musical in the way a show that has been seen by both the Prez and the Veep has become accustomed.

Typically, when a Broadway show opens, this column, in an effort to encapsulate the critical reaction, extracts representative sections from a variety of reviews. But it was a fairly foregone conclusion that the critical corps were going to lavishly like the Lin-Manuel Miranda historo-bio-rap-musical. So to keep us all entertained, let’s look at the various reviewers decided to go in their opening gambits for what will likely be their best-read reviews of the season.

The New York Times (the tell-it-like-it-is lede): "Yes, it really is that good."

AP (the "wait for it" lede): "Revolutions are messy, sudden, often brutal things. They're not meant to mature gracefully. Thankfully, no one told the creators of the pulsating Hamilton."

The New York Post (the political joke lede): "At last, bipartisanship! Hamilton may be the only thing the Obamas and Cheneys ever agree on."

AM New York (the same political joke lede): "What do the Obamas, the Clintons and Dick Cheney have in common? They've all already seen Hamilton."

The Daily News (the "Broadway still matters, Damn it!" lede): "With Hamilton, Broadway is officially the coolest place on the planet. And the smartest. And most exhilarating."

Variety (the exposition lede): "Hamilton was a sensation in a 299-seat house at the Public Theater, where the blazing inventiveness of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop musical tribute to one of our illustrious Founding Fathers played right into the downtown vibe. But this innovative show is shaping up to be just as much of a phenomenon uptown, playing in a Broadway house with four times the seating capacity, and to a more traditional but no less enthusiastic audience."

Time Out New York (The "I give up already; you win" lede): "What is left to say?"

The Hollywood Reporter (the history lesson lede): "Forty-six years ago, a musical about the Founding Fathers entitled 1776 opened on Broadway at the 46th Street Theater, going on to win the Tony Award for Best Musical and run for several years. History now repeats itself with another musical about the Founding Fathers, playing at the same theater (now renamed the Richard Rodgers) and seemingly destined for perhaps even greater success."

New York magazine (the "I’m writing an essay, not a review" lede): "A typical musical might list 18 numbers in its program; Hamilton, with 34, is more in the range of operatic works like Porgy and Bess."

Carleigh Bettiol, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr. and Anthony Ramos in <i>Hamilton</i>
Carleigh Bettiol, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr. and Anthony Ramos in Hamilton Photo by Joan Marcus

The Wall Street Journal (the "It’s a business" lede): "Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, the multiracial rap musical about Alexander Hamilton and the making of America that sold out the Public Theater this spring, has now moved to Broadway, just in time to profit from the ruckus over the possible removal of its namesake from the $10 bill."

Even the first Republican debate and the final episode of Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show" couldn’t quite make the world — and, more importantly, social media — forget that Hamilton was opening on Broadway the same night. The show has been tearing it up at the box office since first beginning previews a month ago, regularly selling out its performances. Its advance take was $30 million prior to its official Broadway bow.

The show has also generated its share of controversy — as one might suspect of a property so intensely under scrutiny. The New York Post Michael Riedel — who seems to have appointed himself Hamilton's single enemy in the New York theatre — reported that the show’s producers are making tickets available to Tony voters on only 16 days in August and early September. A tempest in a teacup, to be sure. But there will no doubt be many such tempests for the show in the days to come.

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The Broadway revival of On the Town, sadly, didn’t have as much to celebrate this week. It posted its closing notice. The big dance musical will end its run at the Lyric Theatre Sept. 6 after 28 previews and 368 regular performances.

Ballet fans needn’t fret: All the recently-announced cast changes will go on as planned. Original lead Megan Fairchild will be succeeded by New York City Ballet soloist Georgina Pazcoguin, who will step into the role of Ivy Smith Aug. 11-23. Beginning Aug. 25, Misty Copeland will make her Broadway debut as Ivy for 12 performances only through the show's final performance, Sept. 6.

Jay Armstrong Johnson, Tony Yazbeck and Clyde Alves
Jay Armstrong Johnson, Tony Yazbeck and Clyde Alves

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Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company has had luck with John Steinbeck in the past. Its adaptation of The Grapes of Wrath won a Tony Award back in 1990. For its 40th anniversary season, it will test its luck with the novelist once again.

Beginning Sept. 17, Steppenwolf will present a world-premiere adaptation Steinbeck’s 1952 work East of Eden. Frank Galati, the same director-writer who brought The Grapes of Wrath to life, has penned the script. Set in the years leading up to World War I, the story follows two families, the Trasks and the Hamiltons. (No, not those Hamiltons! Get your mind off Broadway for a minute.)

The show will be directed by Steppenwolf co-founder Terry Kinney (who starred in Grapes), and the production features ensemble members Kate Arrington, Francis Guinan, Tim Hopper and Alan Wilder. Fun fact: Steppenwolf ensemble member Lois Smith, who also starred in Grapes, co-starred alongside James Dean in the famous 1955 film version of East of Eden. If the Steppenwolf publicity department is smart, they’ll find a part for the ever-busy Smith in this East of Eden.

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Frank Langella certainly likes plays called The Father.

In 1996, Langella made a comeback on Broadway playing the title role in August Strindberg’s classic drama The Father. He won a Drama Desk Award for his acclaimed work.

Now, in 2016, he will return to Broadway in The Father. No, it’s not the Strindberg work again, but the American premiere of a Florian Zeller play about a man falling into the grip of dementia. The Father (Le Père) debuted in Paris in 2012, winning the Molière Award, the national theatre award of France. Christopher Hampton translated the play into English.

The show will begin previews March 22, 2016, and opening April 12 at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. The Manhattan Theatre Club production will be directed by Doug Hughes.

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You know those restless, young restaurant critics who review new eateries on the first day they’re open for business? Well, London’s theatre critics seem to be taking a page from their jump-the-gun rulebook.

This week, two UK newspapers published reviews of Benedict Cumberbatch’s heavily touted new Hamlet. The show, which is three weeks away from opening night, is sold out and has been generating considerable buzz.

Neither paper sent their regular drama critic to appraise the still-aborning show and its "Sherlock" star. The London Times sent critic Kate Maltby, a freelance contributor to the paper, to review it. Her verdict, posted online within hours of the curtain coming down on the first preview, gave the show a two-star review, declaring, "This is Hamlet for kids raised on 'Moulin Rouge'." The Daily Mail also broke the customary embargo, but sent a columnist Jan Moir, not a theatre critic.

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