My mom and I visited New York this past weekend to attend the Pratt Institute’s Accepted Students Day — and while that visit was only okay, the important part of the trip, the only part of the trip that truly mattered, was that we finally got to see Hamilton. Live. In Person. For Real.
I’d read online a couple people balking at the idea of lining up before the show to wait for the doors to open, especially when it’s 50 degrees outside and you can just as easily show up at 8 o’clock and stroll right in. What these naysayers don’t realize is that sometimes, when you line up an hour before you show, you might just end up standing right outside the stage door all the actors need to use to get into the building.
Which means, Anthony Ramos slips past you, grinning brightly, to get inside. Jasmine Cephas Jones smiles and waves at everyone wishing her a good show. And Daveed freakin’ Diggs saunters up and greets everyone and takes pictures for like five minutes proving that he’s the coolest cinnamon roll to ever cinnamon roll.
I, of course, was way too much of a coward to get a picture with him. (because I kinda hate the process? Like everyone just whipped out their cameras, slid in front of him, got in his face, and had a picture taken with him. It was kinda pushy and embarrassing. My mom, though, of course snatched my camera and joined the crowd amassing around him. XD)
(Another little rant: This group of teenage girls hung out with the actual ticket-holders just waiting to take pictures with the actors as they came up. (And then said “Okay, let’s go stand outside Jersey Boys,” and took off) These girls took up all the time Daveed had — once he’d taken pictures with them, he had to rush inside to get ready for the show, so all of the ticket-holders actually in line for the show didn’t get a chance to have their picture taken with him!)
Anyway, everyone was so flocked around Daveed, only about two of us noticed Renée Elise Goldsberry sneaking through the crowd. 😛 Shortly afterwards, but just before the show was going to start, Chris Jackson came hurrying up. He couldn’t do pictures, but was very gracious to everyone wishing him luck and whispered for everyone to enjoy the show — which was the moment I realized all these interactions we’d been having with the actors had been completely silent. Even Daveed I don’t think said five words to anyone, and if he did he was whispering. I’d never appreciated that they would have to stay quiet and save their vocal chords until showtime — I can’t imagine the strain singing that much has on your throat! Lin was out the week before with laryngitis (and tbh you could kind of tell from his singing that night, not that I’m complaining because everything was still amazing.)
The Richard Roger’s Theater is beautiful, if very small. We were in the front row mezzanine, seats A 17 and 19, and while the view was spectacular, the leg room was almost hilarious. Like, I don’t know how any architect thought humans would be able to fit in those seats. I’m 5’3″ and my legs were scrunched up, knees rubbing against the wall. I had to stand up for the entire intermission to stretch my legs and back. The view was incredible, but I’d never do those seats again.
But yeah, the view. From up in the mez you got to see the whole stage, all the lights, appreciate the revolving floor — but we were still close enough to see the actor’s facial expressions, which I really hadn’t thought we’d be able to. Let me tell you, Leslie Odom Jr.’s face when Hamilton chooses to support Jefferson in the election of 1800 is soul shattering. The man looked so shocked and devastated and betrayed. My heart was crushed.
Anyway, stray thoughts from a diehard Hamilton fan finally seeing the musical in person:
- There are tons of little things you don’t get to see just listening to the cast recording. For instance, King George’s finger quotes when he says, of Washington, “No one else in their ‘country’ looms quite as large.” You also miss Laurens’ death, and Eliza’s final gasp at the show’s close.
- Everyone cheered so hard for Daveed when he came out as Jefferson that he did this whole pantomime of “stop, stop, okay yeah go on” that was hilarious.
- King George was doing something with his scepter during Adams Administration that made Leslie bark out a laugh in the middle of his line. He kept singing anyway, grinning super hard, and it was utterly my favorite moment of the show.
- What was really fun about our audience is that everyone was exuberantly excited to be there and extremely supportive of the whole cast. It felt like a Harry Potter convention — everyone was there because they were enthusiastic about the thing, as opposed to some shows you go to and the audience is half full of people who haven’t heard of the play, just got tickets for something to do, etc. When the lights went out for the show to start, everyone GASPED and then went SILENT.
- My other favorite moment and an example of the audience’s enthusiasm: at some point during History Has Its Eyes On You, Chris Jackson hit an absolutely beautiful note, and someone let out an appreciative “WOOO” that led to everyone applauding him — in the middle of the song! It felt like we were at an intimate concert or something, I loved it.
- Other than having the new King George, the only other original cast member we didn’t get to see was Mulligan/Madison. The understudy was good, but I wanted to see Oak throw those rose petals. 😦
- The guy who played Charles Lee was probably the worst part of the play for me. IDK he had this shit eating grin on his face when he sang, and maybe it was part of the character, but it stank of super cheesy musical theater acting to me — I’m pretty sure he was an understudy and not the main guy, too, because he didn’t sound like the cast recording. IDK but his FACE bothered me.
- Lin’s ACTING needs a special shout out. When Eliza takes his hand and forgives him during It’s Quiet Uptown and he breaks down crying — so heart-wrenching.
- Daveed’s commitment to constantly doing something every second he’s onstage also needs it’s own special mention. He was acting even when the focus was nowhere near him, always reacting to whatever else was going on onstage, bouncing and dancing and making little jokes that were purely through hand gestures and pantomimed reactions — I don’t even know how to describe it but, like Hamilton, the man is a force unto himself.
- The cannons during Yorktown feel like they shake the whole theater — they’re so intense.
- During The Reynolds Pamphlet, some of those guys threw those papers FREAKING HIGH. They’d punch the air and almost hit the ceiling before raining down. An AMAZING visual.
- Songs that I don’t love as much on the album (things like Take a Break or Burn, for example, I rarely listen to unless I’m listening to the full show in order) were undoubtedly spectacular onstage. Burn in particular was just incredible and raw.
- THERE ARE SO MANY BACKGROUND GAGS AND THINGS GOING ON. So much interpretative dance by the background dancers, Daveed is always doing something hilarious, King George stumbling onstage after he loses the war (and dancing around during Hamilton’s downfall) is so, so funny.
- So, while Chris Jackson has the most beautiful voice of any voice that has ever voiced, and Daveed was endlessly entertaining and had such humor and presence your eye just constantly drew to him, I have to say Leslie was the incredible, powerful glue that held the whole show together. His voice, particularly during Dear Theodosia, just broke me. His dancing in The Room Where It Happens is incredible. And his devastation and anger in the final numbers creates this palpable, powerful tension that permeates the room. He needs to get that Tony.
I wish I could remember every single moment of seeing the show live and play it back in my head, I know I’m forgetting so many little moments. Lin has spun gold. Everything is so intricately written, performed, put together — you can tell how much thought and care and intelligence and talent has been poured into this production. My mom’s an American History teacher and she was in tears by the time the show was over (as was everyone, to be fair) — she told me several times this experience was a Moment in her life she’s never going to forget. (Doesn’t hurt that she’s long raved about Hamilton and despised Jefferson, so everything about this play was almost tailor-made to her interests.) I’m so happy we went, the show was simultaneously everything we expected and so far beyond anything we could’ve imagined.
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Have you guys risked financial ruin to see Hamilton live yet? TELL ME YOUR FAVORITE PARTS OF FINALLY SEEING THE SHOW ON STAGE. Or, have you listened to the cast recording more times that you can count?? TELL ME YOUR FEELINGS ABOUT EVERYTHING. Or, if Hamilton has completely passed you by, what’s your favorite musical/play/theatrical experience?? LEAVE A COMMENT, SING A SONG, TELL ME THINGS!!!