Ordinary people are writing history each day, through their personal choices and collective power. It’s a central theme for the Broadway musical Hamilton, which helps explain why it resonates with people who’ve heard the music, but never seen the Broadway show.
Phoenix creatives have seized on that theme with an original musical revue called History Has Its Eyes On You. Charlie Levy, who founded Stateside Presents, conceived the show. Chanel Bragg and David Moroney, both vocalists with the Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra, created the revue last fall. "Of course, we have all appropriate licenses for the music featured in the show," Levy told Phoenix New Times by email on Monday, January 28.
The 90-minute concert premiered at The Van Buren in Phoenix on Saturday, January 26, and traveled to The Rialto Theatre in Tucson the following day. History Has Its Eyes On You captures the spirit of the musical through strong vocals, live and DJ music, and hip-hop dance performance. Like the Broadway musical, which celebrates diversity and democracy, it features predominantly artists of color. And they’re extremely talented.
The revue incorporates select songs from Hamilton, which was conceived by Lin-Manuel Miranda. He’s a New York-based artist with Puerto Rican roots, whose musical In The Heights won the Tony Award for best musical a decade before Hamilton did the same.
Hamilton explores the life and times of Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant who created the country's treasury department during George Washington's administration, before being fatally shot in a duel with Aaron Burr. Miranda conceived the musical after reading Ron Chernow’s biography of the man.
For several years now, Hamilton has been the hottest ticket on Broadway. But Miranda has also taken Hamilton to the masses through ticket lotteries, national tours, an album of covers called The Hamilton Mixtape, and a series of single releases called Hamildrops. Most recently, Miranda returned to the lead role for a series of Hamilton performances in Puerto Rico designed to support communities impacted by Hurricane Maria in September 2017.
Parts of the mixtape and Hamildrops songs are folded into History Has Its Eyes On You, resulting in an energetic, upbeat concert that pays homage to the Broadway musical while giving fellow fans a way to share the Hamilton love.
History Has Its Eyes On You includes more than a dozen Arizona-based creatives, including Alexandra Ncube, who delivers a charismatic performance that anchors this talented ensemble. Ncube hails from Tempe, where she grew up seeing Broadway musicals at ASU Gammage, and later performed as part of the first national tour for The Book of Mormon.
The music revue also features performances by Matravius Avent, Alyssa Chiarello, Miguel Jackson, and Eddie Maldonado. The live band includes Geibral Elisha and Shea Marshall on piano, Steve Himmelstein and Sean Mullaney on guitar, and L.T. Green on drums. Himmelstein serves as music director, and Nick Flores as dance consultant.
DJ Kimberly Robbins (who goes by Kim Fresh), dancers Michael Bell and Terrance Eddings, and guest artists Zalamar Davis (Zee-Dub) and Kevin Cole (KASH), round out the list. Moving forward, Bragg will be part of the ensemble as well.
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Bragg curated the concert set list, blending primarily soul and hip-hop sounds well-matched to the performer’s vocal strengths in harmonies and high notes. Hamilton fans hear select songs from the musical, including "My Shot" and "The Schuyler Sisters," plus Hamilton Mixtape numbers such as "Satisfied" and "Immigrants (We Get The Job Done)."
Concert highlights include a moving duet from "Found/Tonight," a Hamildrops mashup of two popular songs from Hamilton and another beloved musical called Dear Evan Hansen. Another happens after performers close out the show. While the audience disperses, people hear "One Last Time (44 Remix)," complete with Obama reciting an excerpt of George Washington’s farewell speech that’s featured in Hamilton.
History Has Its Eyes On You takes viewers on an emotional journey, channeling the hope at the heart of the Broadway musical.
Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the promoter's intention to take the show on tour.