Yesterday, I was in “the room where it happened.”
I originally had plans to see Star Wars Thursday night with my friends (along with Friday, let’s be real, but if I was going to avoid spoilers, Thursday was the day to go. Even though I work in a job where it’s impossible to not be spoiled for big things.) Hamilton is probably the one thing in the world I would give up my Star Wars plans for, so when a good friend who was visiting New York for the week texted me and said she had an extra ticket, I have never responded so fast in my life.
I wish I could accurately describe all the emotions I felt over those 2+ hours, because Hamilton was a defining theatre experience.
That feels like a strange thing for me to say. Even though I didn’t get to a real show until I was 18, when I moved away to college and visited New York by myself for the first time, Broadway has been a part of my life for ages. And because of that, I’ve been to a lot of shows over the years, and have had a LOT of intense, insane, enlightening theatre moments. I mean, hell, I went to the last and final show of Rent on Broadway — a show that changed my life, that I saw over one hundred times and made lifelong friends through, a show that meant the world to me and helped me grow into an actual person. I’ve seen amazing plays and emotional performances that have left me gutted and thinking for days. The very last closing performance of Pirate Queen was a magical afternoon that I’ll never forget. Phantom of the Opera was the show that I first became obsessed with, the show that got me into Broadway in the first place, and when I finally saw it live, I cried from the balcony. Alan Cummings in Cabaret was something everyone should experience once in their life. I could go on and on and on.
I know people (including a friend of the friend I went with) who didn’t want to listen to the music before they saw the show. I’m not one of those people, but even though I knew every note, every lyric, and everything that would happen, I didn’t actually KNOW the show. I didn’t know the staging, I didn’t listen to it thinking “this lines up with this,” etc. Seeing this show live was 100 times more powerful, and it was nothing like listening to the soundtrack, but in a good way. Certain songs like “The Room Where It Happened” and “Wait For It” and “What’d I Miss?” Those should only be experienced live. You think “Quiet Uptown” and “That Would Be Enough” are bad when you hear them on your iPod? Seeing it in front of your eyes is so much more of a gut punch. There’s a magic to live theatre being, well, live theatre. There’s an energy and the intensity that the audience is fed from the stage that you just can’t get anywhere else. That’s partially why I fell head over heels into Rent the first time I saw it live, after listening to it and watching bootlegs incessantly: no matter how much you hear something, seeing it is different. And Hamilton is probably the only other show aside from Rent (for me) that’s proof of something being that much more astounding on stage. Because you SEE things, like the choreography of “Yorktown”, and the staging of “A Winter’s Ball/Helpless/Satisfied.” Things like Jefferson’s LITERAL mic drop during the rap battle, Burr’s face when he realizes Alex chose to endorse Jefferson, Eliza’s emotion during “Burnt”, ANYTHING that Groff did with King George, from facial expressions to small over-the-top movements. You HEAR things, like Eliza’s scream when her son is shot, and the gasp at the end when she realizes, yes, she’s told Alex’s story and become the narrative.
My friends would constantly make cheeky jokes about A.Ham being the idiot who can’t shut up, and I got it, but after seeing Lin perform? Oh yeah, I GOT it. I had always loved Daveed Diggs and Jefferson (how can you not?) but I fell in love a thousand times more. Same with Leslie Odom Jr., who deserves every Tony Award. I always cry during certain songs, but I felt for Eliza and Angelica and freaking George Washington (god bless Chris Jackson) in a way I didn’t expect. I sat in rapt attention for the entire 2+ hours, completely blown away by everything I was seeing.
I would see this show a thousand times, if I could. It’s the type of show I’d never get sick of, because I would always find one thing that would affect me, or something different to notice. Hamilton is so far beyond simply being one of the best Broadway musicals in a long time. It’s an experience that everyone should have the opportunity to be a part of at some point in their lives, no matter what cast they see or how long it takes them to see it.
And I’m so glad I could be a part of that experience.