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'Hamilton' review: Thrilling show by Lin-Manuel Miranda of 'In the Heights'

Phillipa Soo and Lin-Manuel Miranda in Hamilton, with

Phillipa Soo and Lin-Manuel Miranda in Hamilton, with book, music, and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, inspired by the book "Alexander Hamilton" by Ron Chernow, with choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler, and directed by Thomas Kail, running at The Public Theater. Credit: Joan Marcus

Alexander Hamilton, we hardly knew you. Wow, did we not know you. Thanks to "Hamilton," a thrilling, audacious, deliriously overloaded invention by Lin-Manuel Miranda, this lost founding father has not only been found alive beyond the $10 bill. His story is suddenly a cross-cultural milestone in musical theater.

In the 2008 Tony-winning "In the Heights," composer-star Miranda, director Thomas Kail and choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler merged hip-hop and Latin rhythms into a wonderful conventional musical that, for starters, was Broadway's first Hispanic musical created by a Hispanic.

With "Hamilton," the team makes early American history happen in its own time but tells it with the unpredictable multicultural urban sensibilities of right now. The show is sung-through in the style of a pop opera. The vocabulary -- rap, jazz, '60s rock, Gilbert and Sullivan patter songs and ballads inspired by golden-age Broadway -- is a confluence that, by all rights, should be a hodgepodge.

Instead, "Hamilton" is an original. Miranda -- star, composer, lyricist and authornspired by Ron Chernow's biography -- combines subtle, complicated, playful storytelling with the jagged rhythms and unexpected lyricism of hip-hop.

Yes, he probably could take out two of every 10 ideas and still be left with piles of startling character development. And perhaps Hamilton's backstory, passed around different narrators, can be made easier to follow and the final scene lifted to the power of the rest of the show before the inevitable Broadway transfer.

Or maybe the musical and every charismatic actor and each swirling, popping dancer should just be left as they are. Miranda, in a sweaty pony tail and britches (cool yet historical costumes by Paul Tazewell) traces Hamilton's journey from bastard immigrant orphan to the right-hand man of George Washington (Christopher Jackson) during the Revolutionary War, then on to the Constitutional Convention, to writing most of the Federalist Papers, to establishing the federal bank and having what just may have been the first sex scandal in American politics.

But this is anything but a one-man show. Every supporting character on the double-decker turntable set (by David Korins) is a vivid personality, including Leslie Odom Jr., as rival Aaron Burr, Daveed Diggs as a wildly individual Lafayette and, most lovably evil, Brian D'Arcy James as a deliciously snide King George.

The program cover asks "who lives, who dies, who tells your story." Hamilton could never have imagined who would tell this one. He is in brash and brilliant hands.

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