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Do you remember Andy Griffith’s “What It Was, Was Football”? Griffith’s description of his first football game was hilarious. And so was the Durham Performing Arts Center’s performance of the Broadway play “Hamilton.” Especially if you could overlook the celebration of New York’s Hamilton at the expense of Virginia’s Jefferson.
Regardless, the comedy begins with Alexander Hamilton seeking fortune, sacred honor and the good life when he gets wind of Virginians offering lives, fortunes and sacred honor. He lands in New York where farmers are making a wartime fortune selling their crops to feed the British army. Hamilton becomes the father of insider trading, hoarding worthless treasury notes using the ingenious creation of a bank that can lend money to itself to redeem the worthless notes.
Enter the villain, Thomas Jefferson. Cast as a cross between Amos & Andy’s Kingfish when he grins and Mr. Bojangles when he dances, the hilarity does not end here. George Washington is cast as a diminutive Danny DeVito, Aaron Burr as a power forward and Madison lost on stage and in history.
Relying upon Chernow’s imagination, Hamilton becomes a war hero and vocal abolitionist and Jefferson a draft-dodging slaveowner vacationing in France during the war. Then tragedy strikes just when things seemed headed for a happy hereafter. Not wishing to miss his shot, Hamilton, well, gets shot. Does that make sense?
In summary, the play has the shock value of “Jesus Christ Superstar” and the historical creativity Disney studios would envy, confirming the Greatest Showman’s belief, “No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.”