For two and a half hours, the premiere of the German premiere in the Stage Operettenhaus was all fired up: when rapping, volleys of syllables pattered at what feels like a Japanese tempo (7.8 syllables per second) into the audience, who can hardly keep up even with just watching. All the actors dance and sing, play and jump across the stage almost continuously. There are often only a few minutes to change the costumes, which are constantly necessary because there are only double or multiple roles plus two complete armies in addition to six main characters.
Lin-Manuel Miranda's musical "Hamilton" (book, music and lyrics) about the life and death of the American founding father Alexander Hamilton, one of the biggest Broadway hits and already exported to Great Britain and Australia in English, is an artistic godsend.
Not only is it set at the time of the American Revolution, it revolutionized the genre itself. The story of the climber Hamilton, who was sent as an orphan boy from the Caribbean to the English colony of America and, through political and private turmoil, made it to the position of the first Treasury Secretary of the United States under George Washington, is told by an ensemble of actors with a migration background. Discussions stimulated by the casting decision are certainly welcome - right up to the question of whether Hamilton himself kept slaves that his father-in-law, General Philip Schuyler, bought for him.
For the consideration and evaluation of the musical, the more far-reaching considerations of authenticity play no role. Miranda does not embellish or falsify the story in his narration. So there is nothing wrong with simply enjoying the performance of the human spectacle, which is extraordinarily demanding for a musical. Against the backdrop of David Korins, a mixture of warehouse building and cathedral from the late 18th century, Howell Binkley uses elaborate lighting design to define spaces and create differentiated moods.
The story in the historically inspired costumes by Paul Tazewell, directed by Thomas Kail, is mainly supported by the performances of Benét Monteiro in the title role and Gino Emnes as Senator Aaron Burr, who repeatedly makes pacts with Hamilton until he finally gets him shot in a duel. Charles Simmons is an authoritarian George Washington, and Ivy Quainoo loves and suffers compassionately as Eliza Hamilton.
Vocally, Chasity Crisp as Angelica Schuyler stands out from the vocally strong ensemble, which also performs dance tricks in demanding choreographies by Andy Blankenbuehler on the revolving stage. There is dancing over tables and chairs, scenes in the battle are atmospherically embodied as aptly as a stroll down the boulevard or a bar fight. Jan Kersjes provides comedic highlights in the demanding and thankless role of King George III, who loses the British colony to the revolutionaries.
The double roles in the second row are well designed across the board: Daniel Dodd delights with a French accent as Marquis de Lafayette and as presidential candidate Thomas Jefferson. Rapper Redchild convinces as Hercules Mulligan as well as James Madison and Oliver Edward, after John Laurens, also plays Hamilton's son Philip, who is shot before his father in a duel because, following Alexander's advice, he magnanimously fires into the air. After the loss of her son, Eliza forgives her husband for having an affair with Maria Reynolds (played by Mae Ann Jorolan as Peggy Schuyler), which almost turned into a state affair because of blackmail.
The most exciting question in advance of the German version was: Can the translators Sera Finale and Kevin Schroeder create a lively version without major compromises? The answer is clearly yes. A few rough edges, also as a result of the very free translation, result in linguistically pretty creations. So Burr dredges the general's daughter Angelica with the words "Baby, I want to drink your bath water". Elsewhere, a revolutionary confesses "I'm in the mood to keep dissing the British".
As the truism confirms, when it comes to translating, mastering one's own language is more important than mastering the source language. This is exemplified in the translation of the central song title "I am not throwing away my shot", which characterizes Hamilton as driven. In German he sings "Man, I have only this one shot" in the sense of "I only have this one chance, this one life" and uses his shots until Burr's pistol shot him down. Love, death, life are just "blind to everything".