Angelica Company Captures the Heart of Hamilton at Gilded Orpheum Theatre

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Graphic by Laura Renfroe; photo courtesy Cherry Torres

Hamilton’s Angelica Tour delivers masterful performance to fabled characters, including the shining Schuyler triad, played by Zoe Jensen (Eliza), Yana Perrault (Peggy), and Cherry Torres (Angelica).

Laura Renfroe, Staff Writer

“Legacy. What is a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see,” Alexander Hamilton lamented beneath a stark white spotlight, a cessation in time as Aaron Burr stood behind him, pistol aimed at his rival’s head. The audience held their breaths as a dancer poised motionless, clutching Burr’s bullet that would forever paint him as a villain in our history. 

The Pulitzer-prized and 11-time-Tony-awarded musical Hamilton is an honored household name that requires little introduction. 

First debuted in January of 2015, the 46-track musical threads the riveting story of “ten dollar founding father” Alexander Hamilton on his fight for the American dream and conceptualization of government. A bastard child pulled up by his bootstraps, Hamilton wrote his way to glory to become the right-hand man of George Washington, rival of Aaron Burr, and lover of Eliza Schuyler.

Just as the shrewd figure Hamilton penned “palaces out of paragraphs” in his political and personal writing, playwright and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda breathes vibrant, labyrinthine lyrics into his powerful Broadway show that has often been called “the most exciting and significant musical of the decade.” 

The show flaunts itself as perhaps the pinnacle of wordsmith Miranda’s career, and getting the opportunity to experience this revolutionary (figuratively and literally) musical live in Memphis, Tennessee was a memory that I will never forget.

The matinee show on December 23, 2021, was the third performance of the sixteen-show stop in Memphis at the historic Orpheum Theatre, led by the Angelica company of the National Tour of Hamilton. To say the least, the synergy of this well-rounded cast didn’t disappoint.

I can vividly recall when the lights dimmed in the lavish gold and red theatre, and Josh Tower as Aaron Burr sauntered across the stage, backed by silhouettes and golden lighting. The opening violin twangs spurred electrifying anticipation from the crowd.  

“There is something about a live performance that more strongly connects the senses to the play that a TV recording just cannot replicate. While you await the opening scene, the breathtaking theater sets the mood and heightens the anticipation of what will come,” reflected Pelahatchie High School librarian Eles Renfroe. “Once the actors take the stage and join voices, the energy sweeps you up in a glorious and inspiring story. You feel those powerful, beautiful voices in a way that you simply cannot if you are watching a recorded performance.”

The afternoon show commenced with the quintessential “Alexander Hamilton” number, outlining our protagonist Hamilton’s past and how he climbed to his prestigious position. The title track bustled with puns and wordplay in reference to Hamilton’s literary ingenuity.

To quote, James Madison narrated that Hamilton “put a pencil to his temple, connected it to his brain.” This anachronism affirms Hamilton’s determination as a man who would rather put a pencil to his temple instead of a pistol. 

The play quickly flowed into a jazzy and upbeat song “My Shot,” in which Alexander Hamilton detailed alongside strong percussive and brass elements his ambitions to lay the foundation for the nascent nation. 

In a dynamic shift of perspective, Cherry Torres dressed in flowy yellow as Angelica Schuyler introduced the iconic siblings in the beloved track “The Schuyler Sisters.” The three daughters of “loaded” landholder Phillip Schuyler belted in beautiful tonality their motives for women’s rights.

The remaining 43 pieces, backed with hip-hop and R&B arrangements alike, all showcase diversity in the many beautifully crafted music styles. From the animated rap number “Guns & Ships” to Eliza’s forlorn ballad “Burn,” each song threads a groundbreaking lyrical journey.

Hearing the critically praised Hamilton soundtrack first-hand was an untouchable sensation. The Angelica Tour evoked chills with vocals emblematic of the revered original cast. With waves of audience cheers to accompany musical climaxes, listening to those illustrious songs—once heard on a home television, now in this embellished golden theater—stimulated an unparalleled feeling of rapture.

“The acoustics of the theater provide for such an incredible auditory experience. I remember getting goosebumps multiple times. It sounded so good! The beauty of the theater itself also adds to the mood and vibe of the experience,” Hamilton fan and Pelahatchie High School alumni Brenna Renfroe commented.

Chaperoning the modernized music score, the Angelica company donned Hamilton’s stunning vintage costume collection, with Thomas Jefferson’s bright magenta suit and the Schuyler sisters’ varicolored corset-style gowns to name a few. 

From the immersive costume and set design along with fluid choreographic sequences, every aspect of the December Memphis performance captured the minutiae and heart of Hamilton

And although the play is set in the timeline of blood-stained trench coats and sky blue satin dresses, the progressive themes and motifs prove still pivotal today. 

The play croons about legacy in rhetorical forte, expressing lyrically how the world is wide enough for people with clashing stances and beliefs to still coexist. The impression the drama continues to have on politics, education, and culture just goes to show how much of a mastermind Lin-Manuel Miranda is. 

Hamilton proceeds to urge young people to make the America portrayed on stage a reality, a country in which youth can “rise up” and advocate rights for dreamers, immigrants, and many other social causes. 

The musical is as much a coaxing for contemporary change as it is an ode to flawed figures in history. Just how far were the founding fathers willing to go to leave their legacy for future generations’ eyes to see?

Along with its empowering themes, Hamilton’s color-blind casting continues to serve as a progressive paradigm for theatrics to follow. The Angelica Tour, along with others, portrays key historical figures through Asian, Latino, and black representation. 

Edred Utomi molded his own flair to fit the Alexander Hamilton role, delivering a performance overflowing with emotion and poise. His natural stage presence made a lasting impact on the southern city. Zoe Jensen continued the splendor in her role as Eliza Schuyler, evoking teary eyes with a performance equal parts heartbreaking and soulful.

The entire Angelica Tour ensemble—including David Park as Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson, Cherry Torres as Angelica Schuyler, Josh Tower as Aaron Burr, and many more—encapsulated undying commitment to their craft in this production that will leave audiences cheering, laughing, and crying.

The tour’s seasoned artists encompassed every element that makes Hamilton so addictive, from the awe-inspiring attention to choreographic detail to the comedic flair that “Ham” fans all know and love. 

With soaring vocals that roared to the rafters of ornate Orpheum Theatre, the Angelica company shimmered with undeniable sophistication and talent. The residual impact of seeing such a breath-taking performance in person left me humming the songs for days to come.

It is with great satisfaction to say that seeing Hamilton live not only met expectations but also ascended far beyond them. 

“There is something about seeing and hearing it yourself and being in that room ‘where it happen[ed]’ that is so special. It makes an already iconic and incredible musical just that much more engrossing and unforgettable,” Brenna Renfroe concluded.