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Why "Hamilton" Meant So Much to Me

September 7, 2015

 

I have been a fan of Lin-Manuel Miranda since I saw him perform "In the Heights" at the 2008 Tonys. I remember thinking, "Wow, this guy is super-talented!" Miranda freestyled his acceptance speech for Best Original Score and the show walked away with the award for Best Musical.

 

I downloaded the Heights soundtrack and started following Miranda on Twitter. Every year when the local theater sends its season ticket holder survey with the question: "What one show do you want to see the most?" I always, always answer "Heights." I watched YouTube videos from Miranda's college performances and even before. He composed Neil Patrick Harris's closing rap for the Tony Awards, which COME ON - it was brilliant!

 

In 2009, President Obama invited Miranda to the White House Evening of Poetry, Music and the Spoken Word. He had recently won the Tony and was asked to perform something from Heights, but he had something new up his sleeve. He'd been working on a concept album about Alexander Hamilton, America's first Treasury Secretary. And what better place to debut it than the White House? (He was not throwin' away his SHOT!) And it was phenomenal in a whoa-this-changes-everything kind of way. 

 

I remember thinking, "This man is a MUSICAL GENUIS." and I had heretofore only ever bestowed that honorific on Freddie Mercury so you know this was getting serious. 

 

Naturally I followed all the news about Hamilton as it transitioned from concept album to off-Broadway musical to hottest ticket on Broadway. By the time I saw him explain to Mo Rocca, "We take it as a given that hip-hop music was the music of the Revolution," I was OBSESSED, and lamenting that I live so far from New York City. 

 

Then some time around June, my husband suggested a "show trip" to New York. Mind you, he was not aware of the love affair I was having with Hamilton. He's just a guy with a good heart who periodically tries to fulfill some of my bucket list items. And I had yet to see a Broadway show in my lifetime, even though I have been involved in musical theater in one way or another since high school. So when he suggested this trip, my response, "OMG HAMILTONNNNN!!!" was probably not the reaction he expected exactly. 

 

"It's a hip hop musical about the Founding Father Alexander Hamilton," I explained, and he gave me an okay-whatever-you-want shrug and tickets were bought. 

 

I thought Labor Day weekend would never get here. I read all the feature stories and reviews of Hamilton, viewed pictures of the celebrities taking it in, and watched the #Ham4Ham videos where Miranda did live sidewalk performances for the 500, 600, 800 people hoping for a lucky lottery ticket. I followed along live on Twitter as he told his #YayHamlet story. I literally started counting down the days. 

 

Until finally it was here. I was in New York, going to my first (!!) Broadway play - and it would be Hamilton and I was going to see a MUSICAL GENUIS perform live. Right there. On the stage. Right in front of me. 

 

I literally felt like I could throw up. 

 

The music started - I already knew the opening song because I'd watched that White House video so many times - and my heart was pounding. When Miranda appeared on stage, my heart leapt into my throat; I clutched my husband's hand and tears welled up in my eyes. 

 

I don't think my pulse slowed for the entire show. 

 

The cast of Hamilton is crazy talented. It's a multi-racial cast because it began as a concept album and Miranda selected voices that could do certain things. When the album became a musical, the cast was already set. "It's the story of America then told by America now," Miranda told Mo Rocca. "It looks like America now." 

 

And it feels like America now. It's about race relations and states rights and immigration. When Hamilton and Marquis de Lafayette are making battle plans for Yorktown, they sing, "Immigrants - we get the job done." and high five. The audience erupts in applause. Miranda didn't expect that. He had to add a couple bars of music to allow for the audience response. When the show moved to Broadway, he had to add a couple bars more. These are not Trump fans. 

 

Hamilton is a game-changer, destined to be a classic. Look for it to sweep next year's Tony Awards. I would be shocked if Leslie Odom, Jr. (Burr), Renee Elise Goldsbury (Angelica Schuyler), and Daveed Diggs (Lafayette/Jefferson) didn't walk away with actor trophies. 

 

I am no less obsessed having now seen the show. The cast soundtrack comes out at the end of the month so pre-buying that now. And we're already talking about a return trip over Thanksgiving. 

 

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