Friday, February 3, 2023

Review: A Hamilton Holiday Celebrates Hometown Traditions

Who: Theatre Aquarius
What: A Hamilton Holiday
Length: 2 hours, 15 minutes with intermission
Where: 
Theatre Aquarius Mainspace (190 King William Street)
When: December 7 – 24
Tickets: $30 and up
To Buy Tickets: https://tickets.theatreaquarius.org/

Celebration, as a rule of thumb, is one of the few things that all human cultures have in
common. Not everyone celebrates Christmas, or puts New Years on the same day, but
almost every human society has something that’s worth throwing a party over.

A Hamilton Holiday is a show dedicated to those celebrations, and the many traditions
that accompany them. It takes the form of a collection of song-and-dance numbers,
intermingled with real, personal stories from the show’s performers. The majority of the
show lacks anything resembling a fictional narrative; there’s plenty of stories to share,
but all of them come from real Hamiltonians.

The performance uses songs from a wide variety of genres, cultures and time periods;
traditional folk songs, oldies from the 60s or 70s, or more recent music from the 2000s.
The opening number is a Hamilton-themed cover of Perry Como’s Home For the
Holidays
, and several others are complete originals. One of the highlights of the
performance is the diverse nature of the songs performed. Songs like O Holy Night or
Ave Maria coexist with traditional Indigenous music, and a cover of Alvin and The
Chipmunks can appear alongside music by Gene MacLellan or the Arkells. The show’s
inclusion of Indigenous culture and music is especially valuable, given how important it
is to acknowledge everyone who’s called this land home throughout our history.

As the name suggests, the show is heavily focused on the city of Hamilton—not only on
the city as a whole, but also on the experiences of individual people living here. It has a
cast full of people with close ties to Hamilton; some who were born and raised here, and
others who moved in from elsewhere. All of them are given the chance to share their
stories: family holiday traditions, their personal feelings about the city, important
moments in their family’s lives, or an anecdote about the song they’ll be performing
next.

With so many separate musical numbers and personal stories, the deeper themes of
the show might not be obvious at first. I would have been happy just to watch a show
about Hamilton in general, but it felt like it was also about family and tradition. In
particular, it feels like they took the entire concept of tradition and made the most of it,
showing all the best parts of traditions both large and small. Most of the songs and
stories involve one or both of these concepts, either directly or indirectly.

As a lifelong resident of Hamilton myself, I may be slightly biased when I say that
there’s a lot to be proud of in this city. Regardless, it’s always nice to see that pride
expressed creatively, and on top of that it’s just plain fun to watch. Each and every
performer is enormously talented, and getting the chance to know them in the process
just made watching them even more enjoyable. Whether you’re looking for an uplifting,
family-friendly Christmas show, or something deeper and more artistic, you should come
and see A Hamilton Holiday. I can guarantee you’ll get both.

Arthur Bullock
Arthur Bullock
Arthur Bullock is a graduate of McMaster University, Mohawk College and Algonquin College. He's spent nearly all his life in Hamilton, and has been reviewing plays at the Fringe since 2015. He has a passion for writing of all kinds, and loves to combine that with a longtime interest in local theatre.

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