Husband and I are both big theater fans, like really big. We have been fortunate enough to see numerous Broadway and off-Broadway shows, so many that we’ve lost count. It’s no surprise that when Hamilton: An American Musical first started picking up speed, it caught our attention. I remember asking Husband, what this Hamilton play was about and then, how could a musical about a founding father be that good??? It just didn’t sound right. For a while we put off downloading the soundtrack. We didn’t want to ruin it for ourselves, but we also weren’t quite convinced. Then, the 2016 Tony awards happened, or shall we call them the HamilTONY’s.
Peter wasn’t home that night, so I watched the award show alone, and couldn’t wait to see a Hamilton performance, finally a peek into this supposed phenomenal show that people could not stop talking about. HOLY CRAP. They didn’t just perform one of their hits. They performed multiple times. They won multiple times. They were introduced by a touching speech from the Obamas. Even the acceptance speeches they gave were touching and memorable. I couldn’t stop watching. I was forever hooked and mad at myself for not already knowing everything there is to know about this musical. I spent the rest of the night researching, reading and watching every YouTube video I could find about Hamilton. When Husband got home I remember telling him he had to start listening to the soundtrack ASAP. We were missing something big!
That was 10 months ago. We have since listened to the Hamilton soundtrack (and now mixed tape) approximately 4,587,989 times. We listen to it so much that not only do we know every single word to every track, but so does Luna. In fact, she requests it. She can spot the “Hamilton Star” a mile away. It’s become an obsession for all of us. When Christmas rolled around, our very very kind and generous Aunt Amy bought us tickets to see Hamilton in Chicago. It was a dream come true. Sure, we had to wait until March, but we were finally going to get our chance to see the show that had already stolen our hearts.
March finally came and Husband and I booked our hotel and flight, arranged sitters for Luna, packed and anxiously began our “babymoon” to Chicago. Honestly, we both felt kind of nervous going into the show. Have you ever loved a band/singer/song so much, then watched it being performed and felt intensely disappointed? I was sincerely worried that our soundtrack obsession might ruin the live performance for us. Especially since the show is the soundtrack. There are no spoken lines in the show, and there is only one cut song (very VERY short song) from the album. So, it seems as if, if you know the music, you know the show…no surprises. So, how on Earth could a completely different cast in a completely different city compare to the original cast we had become so accustomed to?
Well, I don’t know. I don’t know how anyone can compete with the original cast, but that is just what the Chicago cast did. It took about a minute to fully draw us in, but before the first song was over, we were completely enthralled. The voices and little nuances that we’d become so familiar with were not the same. This cast has their own variations when it came to key lines and little quips, and they were wonderful. I mean, I don’t know what I was worried about…it doesn’t seem possible that someone would be cast in Hamilton and not be impeccably talented. What was even more impressive was reading through their bio’s in the playbill… some because of their previous big Broadway/TV/movie gigs and some because of their lack of virtually any theater experience. How does one go from being a Miss America and American Idol finalist to playing Eliza in Hamilton????
Can we talk about Ari Afsar for just a minute? That’s right. She was Miss California, then was in the top 10 for both Miss America and American Idol. THEN, this beautiful and clearly talented girl landed the roll of Eliza Schuyler in Hamilton! AND, she killed it! I actually cried when she sang Burn. It was so moving and powerful. Geez Louise, this beauty queen clearly has skills and a future in Broadway for the rest of her career (if she wants). Then, there was Jin Ha, who play Burr’s understudy. You see, Wayne Brady was supposed to play Burr, but for whatever reason wasn’t there, and after Jin Ha’s performance, I could care less. Jin Ha just graduated from NYU and as far as I can tell has ZERO Broadway or off-Broadway experience. How he managed to play, arguably the most important character, I’ll never know.
I would be completely remiss if I didn’t mention a third very impressive performer….Chris De’Sean Lee. Chris was so so so so good and hysterical! He nailed his roles. Oh and did I mention he’s only 21? Or that he’s just a junior in college? Or that he attends Belmont University right her in Nashville? After playing these two specific characters in this specific musical, I can only assume he has his pick of jobs once he leaves Hamilton. I cannot imagine being 21 and landing such a huge role. What an incredible honor, not to mention life/career changing experience.
Speaking of life changing, I hate to sound over-the-top, but that the best way to describe Hamilton. It is the most captivating work of art I’ve yet to encounter. I feel lucky just to know the soundtrack, but to actually be able to watch it performed live (by such a talented cast no less), is truly a dream come true. I would encourage any and everyone to see this show. It is worth the money, it is worth traveling to and it’s worth catching on tour, which there are now two national tours, so be sure to look up that schedule. The only disappointment, for me, was the fact that the song “Wait for it” had no choreography. I had the entire number choreographed in my head for months, so I was sad to not see any dance moves put to that music.
As the show came to an end, and the inevitable standing ovation began, I realized everyone around me was wiping tears from their face. And I mean, everyone….women, men, children, etc. That’s something I’ve never experienced before. So, PLEASE, if Hamilton is new to you, do yourself a favor and get the soundtrack! (It’s on spotify BTW). And, of course, do yourself an even bigger favor and get tickets to a show.
If you’ve seen Hamilton, know the music or plan to see it, please let me know all about your experience!