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It’s not every day that you wake up and know that you will be checking off a major item on your bucket list. When those days do arrive they are usually filled with anticipation, electricity and if you lean pessimistic like me, dread. Could Hamilton fail to live up to my expectations? What if I have built this thing up so much in my head that disappointment is the only likely outcome? What if I get hit by a bus or a NYC cab and I don’t even make it there? (If you think the latter is an irrational fear, you’ve obviously never been to NYC).
It’s not every day that you wake up and know that you’ll be checking off a major item on your bucket list.Click to tweet
I try to keep these thoughts to myself as we get dressed for the theatre. We are going to see Hamilton! We’re REALLY going!! I have to reapply my lipstick because my hands are shaking so bad it looks like our 6-year-old did my makeup. My husband, however, is the picture of calm, cool and collected. He has the look of a man who knows he’s about to make one of his wife’s dreams come true—part Cheshire cat, and part cat who ate the canary, but definitely feline and smug. It’s the same look he gives when he does the dishes without me asking and that moment, like this one, is rare.
When we get to the lobby of our hotel, I stop to thank the woman at the front desk. She is lovely, looks a bit like the r & b singer Brandy. Earlier in the day, she gave our daughter a plastic “big apple” full of candy. As we thanked her, she smiled sweetly and told us we looked nice and asked us where we were headed. “Hamilton, we’re going to see Hamilton!” “Wow, have a great time, tell me all about it when you get back!”
How did I get here?
As we walk from the hotel to the Richard Rodgers theatre I wonder to myself: How did I get here? Well take a Black girl who is
- a lifelong drama nerd and history buff,
- who double majored in sociology and drama,
- grew up on old school hip hop,
- absolutely LOVES live theatre,
- add the most talked about, innovative musical in a generation that uses hip hop to tell history, and
- the show has a cast almost entirely made up of people of color!
How could I end up anywhere else?! Almost everyone in my orbit is obsessed with Hamilton and has been since the cast album was released on Spotify. We’ve dissected every song, analyzed every character, tried to catch every Easter egg (those are lines in the musical that are references to other songs. For example “you’ve got to be carefully taught” is a reference to Rodger’s and Hammerstein’s South Pacific and the “10 duel commandments” is based on the “10 crack commandments” by Biggie Smalls ).
We even got a deal!
While we’re in line my husband Brian (the cool cat that got us the tickets) notices the face value is listed at $177. “Wow we paid about $350 a piece on StubHub back in January.” “Boy did you get a GREAT deal” said the woman behind us, “I paid $850 for ONE TICKET! And I thought I got a deal because in some places they were going for $1500.” Somehow hearing this news lifts his spirits and I wonder if he’ll enjoy this moment more than the show itself.
THE SHOW ITSELF
It’s hard to describe the feeling that sets in once you enter the theater. There’s an electricity that is palpable. The thing is, as expensive as the tickets are, and as hard as they are to get, nobody is here that doesn’t REALLY want to be here. And right here, right now, in this theatre, at this moment is the only place in the world I want to be.
I had to share on social media
I could barely contain my excitement as we got to intermission. I opened my phone and started furiously typing all my jumbled thoughts about the show to my friends on social media. Here’s a slightly condensed (and cleaned up for clarity) version of what I wrote both at intermission and immediately after the show.
Some of my posts on Facebook
[alert type=”info” icon-size=”normal”]Below you will find text of some of the posts I made on Facebook discussing my experience seeing Hamilton.[/alert]
There’s no overture, no curtain rises, Burr starts rapping the now infamous question: “How does a bastard, orphan son of whore and a Scotsman…”
Leslie Odom Jr. and Sydney James Harcourt
Let’s talk about Burr for a second. Tony award-winning Leslie Odom Jr. in my mind will always be Burr. His voice is iconic, a 10 out of 10. “Wait for It” gives me chills. “Dear Theodosia” makes me misty, and the “Room Where It Happens” makes me long for the stage in a way only a true show stopper can do. Only Leslie, (like Lin, and Pippa) left the show the WEEK before our ticket date.
For our performance, understudy Sydney James Harcourt stepped up to the challenge. I don’t envy his position. Who could possibly follow Leslie? And though he did a good job there’s no way to measure up to the prototype. Not Sydney’s fault at all. He was wonderful, he handled the narrator role with aplomb and came alive during the “Room Where It Happens.” But as much as you want to give yourself over to his take on the character, I kept hearing the soundtrack in my mind so every deviation from the notes and inflection used by LOJ (especially in “Wait For It”) sounded not only different but wrong.
Javilton! Initially I was really bummed I was going to miss Lin Manuel Miranda in the title role and that disappointment only lasted until Javier entered. As soon as he said he was Alexander Hamilton, he was. And just like that I was hooked. Although he’s been falsely identified as Linn’s understudy, in actuality he co-created the role with Lin and was the one to perform for Beyonce and Jay Z as well as President Obama. LMM may be the genius behind the whole thing but Javier is the sexy Hamilton with (dare I say) a better voice.
Lin Manuel Miranda may be the genius behind Hamilton but Javier Munoz is the sexy Hamilton.Click to tweet
Daveed is amazing and he has so much energy on stage‼ I don’t know how he handles the fast rapping, leaping across the stage, and the French accent all at once. No wonder he won the Tony!
Also I may or may not have lost my mind a bit during “Guns and Ships.” And I may or may not have spit all the lyrics in a really animated stage whisper to my husband complete with my arms flailing. And I may or may not have heard people a few rows back laughing at me.
More posts about the cast
Chris Jackson is making me feel like the wrong man is in the money. We really need to change the dollar to his face. Except then I would blush every time I spent one. I shouldn’t be lusting after the first founding father.
Alysha Deslorieux is the new Eliza Schuyler. And even though I suppose there’s no shortage of beautiful sopranos on Broadway, you’ll definitely remember her.
I want to be Renee Elise Goldsberry when I grow up! She is insanely beautiful and talented!!!
Rory O’Malley as the king is cracking me up. He’s so campy and over the top!
SJH is doing a good job as Burr but he’s not Leslie. He’s better in the narrator role but loses a little something in the solo numbers.
Anthony Ramos, that poor cutie, he dies twice on stage and I am not emotionally prepared either time. He’s too young to die!!!
I like how the choreography underscores the words. I know some people find it overdone, but I think it’s necessary because if your ear isn’t trained for the speed of rap you’ll lose the train of thought.
The Second Act
2nd act SJH came alive as Burr for the Room Where It Happened he was having the most fun of anyone onstage but then he lost a little something again at the end Javi (Hamilton) was more charismatic throughout the duel
Oak is a wonder! Hercules Mulligan and Madison are such different characters, but he embodies them both equally convincingly
Nobody has more fun than Daveed Diggs playing Thomas Jefferson as a Prince and Morris Day hybrid in Act 2. That pimp walk is killing me.
Jasmine Cephas Jones is so hot and has such a throaty come hither voice that I’m questioning how straight I am.
Burn is staged so differently from what I saw in my head. It’s such a confrontational song I expected her to be toe to toe with Hamilton, not on stage alone which is more reflective posture than the song portrays. If I ever direct it I’d do it differently.
I am having a cross between an orgasmic and a spiritual experience!!! This must be what the rapture will feel like!!!
The crowd was electric and we were on our feet as soon as it was over. Aside from my wedding day and my daughter being born, it was the best day of my life!
Immediately after the show was over, I could do nothing but cry. The show is an emotional roller coaster for sure and most of the tear jerking moments are in Act 2, but that’s not why I cried. I cried at the pure privilege of having a transformative experience in the theatre, and I cried because a bucket list dream came true. I cried because while my dream of being on Broadway in my 20s didn’t come true, my dream of seeing Hamilton on Broadway in my 40s did come true, and that’s not nothing.
What’s going on there?
As we were leaving, Brian noticed that people seemed to be gathering by the stage.
Brian: I wonder what’s going on there?
Me: I dunno but I’d really like to get to the stage door to see if we can meet some of the cast.
Brian: Why don’t we hang back here and see what happens first.
We started talking about the show. As I was discussing various directorial choices I would make (I should note the direction was excellent it’s just that I have ideas) the usher overhears us. He me, “Are you a drama teacher?” I say “yes” absently because I was. I’m not anymore and it’s still a large part of how I define myself.
“Okay then grab a seat up front we should be starting shortly.”
It’s a Q&A!!!
Turns out that night they were hosting a question and answer session/meet and greet with the cast specifically for “Broadway teachers” – musical theatre teachers in the NY/ NJ area! I couldn’t believe my luck! Karma usually works in the other direction for me (hello pessimism my old friend, how are you?).
We sat there stunned until the cast started coming out gradually and here come the tears again. I had enough presence of mind to take grainy cell phone pictures. Hubby had even more presence of mind than me.
He got Daveed’s autograph as well as a selfie with him. The whole evening is a blur of wonderfulness. Renee came out last, too late to take questions or sign autographs (the stage manager was already dismissing people) but she did let me take her picture and shake her hand.
We floated back to the hotel, my eyes swollen from crying most of the evening, hubby beaming because this night has exceeded both of our wildest dreams.
We bump into the lovely lady that looks like Brandy again. “So how’d you like the show?” She asks. And we start to recount our amazing evening. “Wow I’m glad you liked it so much, I’ll have to tell my brother, he’s in it. He plays Hercules Mulligan and James Madison.” “OMG YOU ARE OAK’S SISTER?!!!” I screech loud enough to lose ALL my cool points. She laughed and politely said yes. “Well now we need your picture too!” She posed with us and with that my night went from epic to surreal.
Back in January, when we got our tickets, I had this grand vision of possibly meeting Lin Manuel Miranda at the stage door and giving him a cool gift— partly so he’d remember me but mostly because he gave us Hamilton. When someone gives a gift like that to the world you kinda want to do something nice for them, you know.
I was heart-broken when he announced he was leaving July 9th especially since it was so close to the date we had tickets for (July 14th). I had already found what I thought was the perfect gift (socks featuring one of his favorite rappers Biggie Smalls, who he references musically in Hamilton quite a bit) so I decided to mail it to him along with a fan letter. Not two days after we arrived back home, I got this card in the mail.
From the Desk of Lin-Manuel Miranda
From the desk of Lin-Manuel Miranda:
Thank you very much for your lovely letter and awesome socks!
Thanks for being an amazing fan and I hope you enjoy the show.
Written in his hand, signed with his autograph, featuring his picture on the back.