We saw it. It took signing up for a waiting list, winning a spot in a lottery, clicking through at just the right time and a whole lot of luck, but we scored tickets and saw Hamilton on Tuesday night.
I’ve been trying to stay away from knowing too much about the show because I wanted to experience it for the first time right there. I must be one of the only people on the planet who does not have the music memorized. I don’t even own the cast album. And I was a theater major and president of my high school Drama Club, so this was hard for me. But I know how amazing it is to see something live, with a room full of people who are excited to be there. I wanted that experience.
Hamilton is breathtaking. And I mean that in many ways. The first act literally never takes a breath. There are no scene changes to wait for, no transitions, no scenes full of dialog where you can sit back and relax. There is music and choreography and visual tableaus to take in from the very second the show starts until you feel like you can exhale at intermission. I have never seen a show that grabs you like this and doesn’t let you go. I will argue that Wicked has the very greatest act one closer ever, but Hamilton leaves you with a similar kind of rush.
Thinking about it, I am a little surprised that Hamilton is as popular as it is, honestly. It is an odd show. Maybe that’s what does it. It is more like an opera than a musical. There are about five minutes of the whole show that are spoken dialogue. Everything else is in song. And fast, complex, unhummable songs with complicated language. The chorus is very much like the tradition of a Greek chorus. They become the set. They are the special effects of bullet shots and explosions. They transform into characters and abstract images of the events going on behind the words. The original choreographer deserves as much credit as Lin-Manuel for making this crazy show work. (I just looked it up. The choreographer was Andy Blankenbuehler and he won a Tony for the choreography. As he should have.) The chorus must be flat out exhausted after a performance. They are moving non-stop through the entire show. The costuming was also adding to the chorus-like feel, with most of the cast in a pale cream “parchment” color that is a cross between a suit and a leotard; simultaneously a period costume and something more modern. A friend commented that he thought it was weird that they looked like they were in their underwear but then he saw the show and it all made sense. I totally agree. The costume geek in me also appreciated that the ladies costumes transitioned to a Regency silhouette by the end of the show, a tiny element that showed the passage of time.
I am thrilled that I got to see it live and without many spoilers. I look forward to listening to it again. I am a very visual person and I know that there are whole things I missed because I was caught up watching the lights and the visual story. It was a lot to take in all at once.
A special bit for me is that when I won the spot in the lottery to be able to buy tickets, they let me get four, which meant we got to take a couple of friends with us. We invited our friend E, a highschool theater geek, and her dad, a musician. My husband and I (also highschool theater geeks) agreed that we would have DIED to have the opportunity to see the hot popular musical of the day when we were in highschool (for us that was Phantom of the Opera or Les Mis). So I am delighted that we got to go with her. (And don’t bother to treat your inner 16 year old self to seeing Phantom of the Opera; it’s terrible.)