I was in a summer theatre training program and I was in rehearsal for “Twelfth Night” (yes, there was a time when I did plays as well as musicals.) And our teacher, who was a mature student studying advanced acting at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, was directing the Shakespeare comedy. She was giving direction – an acting lesson really – to the actor playing Duke Orsino. She said, “People with a lot of power (Kings, Queens, etc.) don’t move much. The more power they have, the less they move.” I have remembered this comment through all these years – and she was right. Watch the movie Elizabeth – When Elizabeth (Cate Blanchett) is in court she barely moves at all – only her mouth.
Well…where is this going? I finally saw HAMILTON last night. After all these years and months, our tickets arrived and I saw the show that I had been dreaming of for quite a while. And here are some of my observations:
- I think the actor playing King George took my acting class because he walked very slowly on stage and sang. Moved very little – VERY little. And what little movement he did do – a finger wag, a pop of his hip, an eyebrow lift – was hysterical. Of course the song is funny, but the laughter from the audience came from both the song and the actor’s performance.
- The show is very tight – very tight. I mean the writing is succinct, the words say ONLY what is needed to be said and nothing more. My neighbor turned to me at intermission and said, “Wow that was a long first act” but I asked, “Yeah but what could you cut if you wanted to?” The answer is: “Nothing!” The action shifts so quickly and seamlessly between scenes and actors that there is no boring moment in the show. I didn’t notice the length at all.
- The lighting is another star of the show. The colors and images that are part of the lighting create battlefields, war rooms, offices, homes, bedrooms, fields and much more. I wondered how long they had to “tech” the show? I am told months…yes…months. (Tech rehearsals are usually a day or two – if you get more tech rehearsal you are very lucky.) A tech rehearsal is when the show puts together the lights/sets/costumes, and creates the finished product. The lighting is created and adjusted and programed into the system.
- The characters are deeply written and the actors must be not only talented but highly trained. They must have the ability to “spit out the words” since there are so many, many words – and sometimes in one or two measure of music.
The woman behind me in the theatre said, “I have been listening to the music for over a year and I never imagined it would have been staged like this.” She was right! I had trouble sleeping last night because I kept “seeing” the show in my mind all over again.
What are/were your thoughts about HAMILTON? Love to hear them.