WEEK IN REVIEW, Feb. 14-20: Heralded and Hyped Hamilton Takes Aim at Broadway as Hedwig Lands a Warbler

News   WEEK IN REVIEW, Feb. 14-20: Heralded and Hyped Hamilton Takes Aim at Broadway as Hedwig Lands a Warbler
 
As Robert Falls, director of the successful revival of The Iceman Cometh at BAM tweeted on Feb. 18: “Damn. Had the biggest hit in town for 5 days.”

Iceman, though still running along just fine, three intermissions and all, was supplanted in the news this week by the thunderous opening of Hamilton, the best example of what they used to call “the hottest show in town” back in the day. The new musical by In the Heights star and creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, which explores the life of American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton (among other Founding Fathers) has been generating talk for some weeks now, with tickets hard to come by at the Public Theater’s Newman Theater, and talk of a Broadway move sounding like a fait accompli.

http://cdn-gd.playbill.com/images/cache/remote/http_cdn-images.playbill.com/ee_assets/Aiken/mert/iceman-lane-dennehy.jpg

With the reviews that met the Feb. 17 opening, however, the floodgates opened. Hamilton was a bona fide, citywide cultural event. “It’s probably not possible to top the adrenaline rush of revolution, when men can chant, ‘Hey yo, I’m just like my country/I’m young, scrappy and hungry/And I’m not throwing away my shot,’” wrote the New York Times. “Ambitious, enthusiastic and talented in equal measures, Mr. Miranda embodies those sentiments in a show that aims impossibly high and hits its target.”

“Over-hyped?” asked the AP. “Perhaps. But this almost three-hour show, with some 50 songs, reprises and song fragments -- is also rollicking, messy, and earnest -- just like America's founding… It's the kind of show that Broadway insiders are already applauding: Edgy without being scary, historical without being dry. It's hip-hop with a master's degree. Could it be the thing that rescues Broadway? When everything works, it's thrilling to watch... Hamilton is nothing less than a reclaiming of America's founding story, a retelling of the 18th century story by a nontraditional cast wearing vests and cravats and singing about ‘dropping knowledge.’ In its own way, it's a revolution, all right.”

“There's rarely been a history lesson as entertaining as Lin-Manuel Miranda's new hip hop-infused musical about Alexander Hamilton,” offered The Hollywood Reporter. USA Today echoed, “Live entertainment doesn't get more exciting than this, in any form. So believe the hype: Hamilton is revolutionary in its own right, and an extraordinary achievement.” And Time Out New York opined, “Not just for its lyrical virtuosity, but also structural elegance and fierce topicality, the piece is a signal achievement, expanding the subgenre of tuneful takes on national identity (1776, Assassins and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson). Even more than that, it offers a template for the fully integrated hip-hop musical (also mixing in R&B and indie pop) that repurposes the social and verbal strategies of rap and slam poetry for supposedly off-limits topics. In remixing the past to his own beat, Miranda shows us the future.”

Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan, Anthony Ramos and Lin-Manuel Miranda
Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan, Anthony Ramos and Lin-Manuel Miranda Photo by Joan Marcus

So it’s seems a foregone conclusion that the theatre world will be pretty much talking about Hamilton “non-stop” (as Alexander himself is described by his foes in the shows) from now until awards time, and that The Grange, Hamilton’s well-preserved, sleepy, museum home in Harlem, will be enjoying its best tourism year ever in 2015. One would think that the long-awaited Broadway move would have been announced a millisecond after those reviews hit the Internet. But no. If the Hamilton-founded New York Post is to be believed (and that’s always an open question), there’s a backstage dispute underway as to whether the show should be transferred to Broadway this spring (the producers’ stance) and later on, allowing for more work on the piece (the creative team). A number of critics, while still loving the piece, thought it could do with some trimming. The show currently runs two hours and 45 minutes— which makes it just over half a performance Iceman.

In the meantime, while we wait for this drama to unfold, Hamilton is running through May 3 at the Public. If you can get a ticket. Which you can’t.

***

Second Stage has hit a bump on its road to becoming a Broadway player.

It was announced in 2008 that Second Stage acquired the rights to purchase the Hayes. Flash forward six years and it seemed the plan was actually going to happen. But the cost to buy and renovate the Broadway house had soared to $35 million because of Second Stage's plans—both artistically and architecturally—for the Hayes. It was reported in December 2014 that Second Stage was in the process of raising a total of $58 million (to own and operate the theatre, produce desired works and for construction costs).

However, as of Feb. 17, the planned closing date on the Hayes, Second Stage did not have $25 million required to close on the property and requested a 90-day extension. The two parties could not agree on terms of the extension.

http://cdn-gd.playbill.com/images/cache/remote/http_cdn-images.playbill.com/ee_assets/chita/hh.jpg

The Hayes owners asked for $175,000 from 2ST in return for an extension through the end of March (among other conditions, including a final agreement on potentially lucrative air rights for the theatre). That's about $2,000 a day for those keeping score at home. Second Stage said thanks, but no thanks, and countered with a request to pay $175,000 in exchange for a 90-day extension. The Times reports that Hayes owner Jeffrey Tick and his partner, Martin Markinson, rejected that proposal.

Enter the judge. Following a meeting in New York City court Feb. 19, judge Joan M. Kenney is urging Second Stage Theatre and the Helen Hayes owners to settle their differences.

Tick and Markinson are two of the very few independent theatre owners on Broadway and they are, well, very independent. They were seeking additional payment from Second Stage because a delay in the purchase agreement was depriving them of possible rental income for the Hayes. Producers showed interested in the Broadway home following Rock of Ages' closing, but Tick said that it wouldn't be possible. Additionally, Tick has reportedly had a change in heart and wants to hold onto the Hayes for personal reasons, following the death of a daughter a year and a half ago.

***

http://cdn-gd.playbill.com/images/cache/remote/http_cdn-images.playbill.com/ee_assets/Aiken/hellno/dc1.jpg

The television show “Glee” owes much of its soul and spirit to the musical theatre. And now the programs is giving back to the stage it so liberally borrowed from for its material and stars.

“Glee” stars are going to be all over the Broadway stage this season. Matthew Morrison, who played the teacher Will Schuster, will be back on stage as the lead of the new musical Finding Neverland. Frequent guest stars Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth are currently playing in If/Then and On the Twentieth Century.

And, now, we hear that Darren Criss will be the next actor to step into the role of East German transgender rocker Hedwig in the Broadway production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Criss will begin performances April 29 for a 12-week limited engagement at the Belasco Theatre. He succeeds Hedwig co-creator and original Off-Broadway star John Cameron Mitchell , who joined the production Jan. 21. Mitchell, who is currently out on a week-long hiatus, will return to Hedwig Feb. 24 to continue through April 26.

So, Lea Michele, where are you?

Today’s Most Popular News: