Hamilton

HamiltonOriginal Broadway Cast, 2015 (Atlantic, 2CDs) 5 Stars (5 / 5) From start to finish, this recording marvelously captures the vibrancy of composer-lyricist-star Lin-Manuel Miranda’s groundbreaking and record-smashing musical about Alexander Hamilton, one of our country’s previously unsung (pun fully intended) Founding Fathers. Recorded almost in its entirety for this two-disc set, Hamilton charts the title character’s biography from childhood to the duel with Aaron Burr that ultimately cost him his life. Along the way, Hamilton’s successes during the American Revolution and his  pivotal role in the formation of America’s new government are expertly handled, as are personal tragedies including the death of his son. The musical vernacular of the score ranges from hip-hop to jazz to R&B to contemporary musical theater. In addition to Miranda’s energetic vocals as the title character, fine performances abound — particularly from Leslie Odom, Jr., who offers a haunted and haunting portrayal of Burr, and Renée Elise Goldsberry, whose voice sparkles as she plays Angelica Schuyler, Hamilton’s sister-in-law and the woman who was perhaps his true soul-mate. Equally terrific are Phillipa Soo as Hamilton’s wife, Eliza (Angelica’s sister); Daveed Diggs in a dual role as the Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson; Christopher Jackson as George Washington; and Jonathan Groff, who wrings every bit of comedy from the cameo appearances of George III, drolly delivering Miranda’s faux-1960s British mod tunes that echo both The Beatles and Herman’s Hermits. What ultimately makes this cast album so appealing is that it gives the listener the ability to savor the intricacies of the show’s construction. With each successive play, one hears new nuances in Miranda’s linguistic genius and the far-flung antecedents that are part of the score, which references to everything from Shakespeare to musicals such as South Pacific and Camelot to the work of rapper The Notorious B.I.G.  — Andy Propst