Post-Hamilton Roundtable

We saw Hamilton. After following it from a Youtube sensation during Obama’s first term, to this thing Lin-Manuel Miranda kept tweeting about writing, to the off-Broadway masterpiece I seriously considered traveling to see if I could snag a ticket, to the cast recording we obsessed over, we finally saw Hamilton. It’s a little surreal finally seeing a show you’ve built up so much. We knew there was absolutely no way we’d be disappointed by it, but we couldn’t quite conceive of what it would be like to actually SEE it. We knew what you could know from Hamiltome, various tv interviews, awards show performances and a whole lot of social media stalking, but nothing could have really prepared us for attending Hamilton. If you’re wondering about what to expect, or if you’ve been and want to see how our experience measured up, read on.

The Room Where It Happens

M: First of all, we know that we were incredibly fortunate to get tickets to Hamilton while it’s still the hottest seat in town and some of the original cast is still performing. That being said, we were willing to wait for it (forgive me, I had to). But seriously, Traci saw a block of tickets go up in November of 2015, bought the tickets that day, and we went in October of 2016. If you’re patient or need some time to plan a trip, this is a great way to do it. We didn’t have to deal with the secondary market and our seats in the left mezz were, like, $110 or something ridiculous like that. Well worth it.

T: In full disclosure, I planned an East Coast trip last November because my friend said she was getting married in Connecticut in October 2016, and I basically was like – ‘What date are you getting married again? Now you can’t uninvite me because I asked the date.’ What I’m saying is, force yourself to be a guest at a friend’s wedding and double up the trip by getting tickets to Hamilton.

M: If you haven’t been to the Richard Rodgers and are concerned about having a bad seat, don’t sweat it. Sometimes I like the birds-eye view from above, and in this case it was a great vantage point to see what was going on in the upper levels of the set and far-flung corners of the stage. Obviously it’s a bit harder to catch things like facial expressions, but that’s what they make opera glasses for. Note: we did not bring opera glasses. Anyway, if you don’t have orchestra seats, you’ll be fine. If you DO have orchestra seats, I have some student loan bills you can give me a hand with.

photo-oct-05-10-57-04-pm

T: Like Molly said, I loved that we could see the entire stage from above, and it was great for two notable reasons: A) there were amazing lighting designs displayed on the stage during Hurricane and It’s Quiet Uptown that still stick out in my mind and made the songs next level. B) it was easier to spot OG HAM OTP Anthony Ramos and Jasmine Cephas-Jones share intimate stage moments with each other, including right after the final bow when they walked off the stage together with their arms around each other it’s fine.

M: I’m assuming if you’re reading this you’ve seen the Hamilton set from Hamiltome, the PBS documentary, and photos. I’ll just add that in action, it was fantastic. The second balcony/catwalk level gives you plenty to watch outside of the primary action and is used to great effect in the opening number. You’ve probably read that it was designed to evoke old ships and shipyards, and it does. I love that the set rode the line of not being too literal – not like a high school play where they would have rolled out a fake mansion set for the wedding, a cheesy backdrop for Yorktown and potted plants for the duel – but also not being overly spare and abstract. However, everything had enough 18th century flavor that it was easy to suspend disbelief.

T: I loved that the set was simple yet intricate enough to make you use your imagination just a little bit, but props and moving set pieces provided much more detail than just listening to the soundtrack. ALSO the turntable. A++++, set designer David Korins.

M: Plus LIGHTING, which Traci touched on above. Things like creating “rooms” in The Room Where It Happened were incredibly effective and visually engaging, but without edging into gimicky laser light show territory.

T: Speaking of the staging, I own the Hamiltome but have only briefly flipped through it because I didn’t want to get “spoiled” with how each song was played out on stage. When the cast performed Yorktown at the Tonys, I got literal chills when they got to the line “the world turned upside down” and everyone was in slow motion while flipping chairs and props upside down in the air. That’s the same feeling I got when seeing the soundtrack visually played out for the first time.

M: Likewise, the staging of Reynolds Pamphlet with all this chaos and King George III snickering at the action (I had NO CLUE he’d be there), and the slow-moving human hurricane with Hamilton at the eye in Hurricane was just amazing.

T: Obviously Helpless followed by Satisfied was a highlight, but other memorable staging came from the likes of Ten Duel Commandments, Take a Break, one fab lighting change in What Comes Next? and of course, The World Was Wide Enough aka the final duel aka OH THE TEARS

HamilTrash for the HamilCast

M: If you’re seeing Hamilton anytime in the future – in New York or Chicago – you aren’t seeing much or any of the Original Broadway Cast. What you ARE seeing, whenever and wherever you see it, is one of the most talented, affecting, energetic young casts working in theater today. Count yourself as lucky.

T: I’ve written about this subject before, but the cast of Hamilton has a deep bench. Like Mariana Trench deep.

M: Over the days after we saw Hamilton, I think we looked at each other and just said “MANDY” like five times. We are both fans of Mandy Gonzalez’s other work – especially as the original Nina in In The Heights – and she made a fantastic Angelica. I can’t compare it to Renee Elise Goldsberry’s performance because I haven’t seen that, but Mandy’s vocals were every bit as solid as Renee’s are on the cast recording. And since she’s such a seasoned actress, it wasn’t an imitation of Renee’s Angelica. She was at the same time warm but more worldly than Eliza, and it was easy to believe that she, not Alexander, was the smartest person in the room (a comment Lin has made about Angelica – so she played it just right).

T: To be fair, the Post-Hamilton days included a content pitch that was, ‘But what if we tweeted to each cast member we saw individually to tell them how good they were and why?’ (This seemed tedious, but here this post is anyways).

M: I know they’ve heard that they’re good, but it’s almost as though I wanted to individually thank everybody for what they left on the stage that night – and every night.

M: You know how Javier is “Sexy Hamilton?” It’s true, he is. And I can’t even tell you exactly why, which I realize is useless. It’s his overall confident, swaggery vibe I guess. Javier’s Hamilton very believably ages from a young, scrappy and hungry kid from the West Indies to a middle-aged politician. My heart both swelled and broke for young Alex during My Shot when we hit the “do I talk to much?” part, and by the end when he said goodbye to Eliza before the duel I found myself thinking “wow, he has gotten so much older.”

T: You know who else was sexy – even though HamilTrash knows this already – Anthony Ramos. There’s a part in Blow Us All Away where Phillip is hitting on some ladies and says, “And y’all look pretty good in ya’ frocks/How ‘bout when I get back, we all strip down to our socks?” and I was like the anti-Dobby and was on the verge of throwing my socks AT Anthony Ramos. Good lord.

M: I had seen reference to Peggy being young and adorable, and when I only had to go off of the cast recording I was like “yeah, I mean the ‘and Peggy’ part is cute I guess.” But seriously, guys. Jasmine Cephas Jones is adorable playing Peggy as the quintessential tagalong kid sister, which makes it even more amazing to see her transformation in act two. Jasmine’s vocals in Say No To This were spot-on and I didn’t even feel like I was watching the same actress as I was in act one. Mark it: 2016 is the year the Cephas Jones fam takes over the world.

T: INSERT BLATANT PLUG FOR THIS IS US.

This man will always have my heart. ❤️ Happy Fathers Day pops. #Jonesin

A post shared by Jasmine Cephas Jones (@jazzy_joness) on

M: We love Andrew Chappelle – mostly from Snapchat, follow Achapphawk if you aren’t already – and were really excited to see he was on as Hercules Mulligan/ James Madison the night we went. The same humor and high energy that we love on Snapchat comes through on stage. I so associate Hercules Mulligan with the gentle giant vibe that Oak brings to it, and it was fun to see the character interpreted a little differently.

T: Hamilton has helped make a tectonic shift in theater/Broadway in many different ways, and one of them is that it became the first cultural phenomenon in a digital age. The last time a show like this became popular way outside the radius of New York City was Rent, and that was 20 years ago when we still saw ads with the phrase “AOL Keyword: Titanic”. Actors of any medium have the chance to reach out to fans like never before, and the mostly millennial cast of Hamilton, notably Andrew Chappelle, has taken advantage of that. He’s hilarious, talented, entertaining, and made a lot of people pay attention to swings like himself, who have often times gone unrecognized for their extensive skills in knowing multiple parts. Never before have I entered a theater, looked at the cast and been ecstatic that a swing, nevertheless knew their name before going into the show, is on that night.

We have so much fun at work. ✌🏼️

A post shared by Andrew Chappelle (@achapphawk) on

M: Speaking of people we love because they’re funny on the internet, Thayne Jasperson was a fantastically pesky Samuel Seabury. A Farmer Refuted is fun on the cast recording but not one of the biggest showstoppers – live, with the counterparts of Hamilton’s rap and Seabury’s nerdy loyalist song, it was a delight.

T: Farmer Refuted was one of the songs I usually skipped but after seeing it IRL I skip it no mo’.

M: The fun thing about seeing Hamilton as a weirdo who follows basically the whole cast on social media is you know who all of the members of the ensemble are and can watch for them all individually like a proud mom at a high school musical.

T: CARLEIGH BETTIOL IS A GD BEAUTIFUL TROPICAL FISH.

M: She is one of those ensemble members that you seriously can’t take your eyes off of. I mean, PRESENCE.

M: This post is mostly a big pile of positivity, but we have to pause for a moment to call out a 14-year-old child. AKA, this girl young enough to be wearing braces sitting behind us who went on a furious rant like only an entitled but ill-informed tween can do, because the original cast wasn’t performing. Girl. They have BEEN GONE. At one point she was whining that Daveed wasn’t there and like, if you are such a big fan you would have known that he left months ago? Besides, you are seeing an amazing show with a fantastic cast, and it’s one of those plays that is NEVER going to be a vehicle for one star performer – it’s stronger than that.

T: I passive-aggresively tweeted the link to that understudy post I wrote knowing full well the teen behind us wouldn’t see it but maybe she would just feel the annoyance steaming from our auras. But to continue with what Molly was saying about this show not being entirely weighted by the cast, I’ll just let the HamGod, Lin-Manuel Miranda himself, speak to that:

“The first time I saw the show on Broadway was the first time he (President Obama) saw the show on Broadway. He came to our sixth preview and he didn’t see me in it. He saw Javier Munoz, the amazing alternate who is in it right now. The White House called and said the President is coming to the Saturday matinee – but I’m not in the Saturday matinee. That’s my time to take notes. It’s the only chance I get to watch it. We’re still in previews, we’re still making changes. And then I realized that this is actually great, because you send a message to the world – I’m not the star of the show. The show is the star of the show. And so for the President to see Javi was like a really great way of sending that message…” {x}

Your Pants Look Hot

T: Costume designer Paul Tazewell was one of the HamFam that added to the heap of Tonys this year, and rightfully so. Any piece 18th century is quite a feat to create, and Paul and his team created masterpieces on stage. With the main characters like Alexander, Burr and Jefferson, each had a distinct style and flair. This was prevalent even more so with Jefferson’s Purple Rain outfit, which was fit perfectly for both Daveed Diggs and Seth Stewart, who we saw as his replacement.

T: Mr. Tazewell then impressed even further with accompanying ensemble costumes that had a modern flair to them.  The idea behind the ensemble is that they’re dressed in a neutral base, as a visual metaphor of parchment. Because Hamilton was writing like he was out of time, duh.

M: Plus there was this concept that everyone would be modern from the neck up and 18th century or 18th century-inspired from the neck down. This goes to something I say to anyone who is critical of the multicultural casting. Well, the first thing I say is get over yourself, it’s not as though white people lack for opportunities. But secondly, this is “a story about America then, told by America now” and things like the modern hair and the parchment-colored clothing make it clear that the actors are the storytellers. That is, the ACTORS playing the characters are multicultural, but it’s not as though the CHARACTERS change backgrounds.

 

T: I would die to see these up close (they’ll probs be available in the Smithsonian some day), but for now, we have Hamilcast member Hope Easterbrook doing a twirl that I’ve watched on repeat.

Twirling into 2 shows like…. 💃🏻 #hamiltonbway #twoshowday #twirl

A post shared by Hope Easterbrook (@hopebrooks) on

 

You Knock Me Out, I Fall Apart

☠️☠️☠️☠️ #Hamiltober #Hamiltour #CAndSTakeNYC

A post shared by Cookies + Sangria (@cookiessangria) on

M: If you’re going to Hamilton, you’re going to cry.  I teared up in the opening number, before anything even happened. Like, by the time his mother died (spoiler? Not a spoiler), if not before.

T: I had to stop myself from tearing up as soon as I heard those first notes, ya know the BUM BUM-BUM-BUM-BUM BUM BUM dooo doo doooo doo part. But by the end of the song I couldn’t hold it in any longer and was really glad I had the foresight to have a tissue out and at the ready.

Although I knew I was going to cry, the one song that I was surprised to cry the most at was The Schuyler Sisters, which we all know is a V upbeat jam. But watching it all play out and hearing those three angelic women sing “how lucky we are to be alive right now” and “the greatest city in the world” while sitting in the Richard Rodgers after waiting all those months – it was too much for me.

M: I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it through Wait For It without turning into a total tear-mill, and I was right. And of course some of it is the song itself – this and It’s Quiet Uptown were ones I had to skip for a while – but let’s not forget about Brandon Victor Dixon in all this. It’s also worth noting that for a few numbers, the staging and choreography gets super minimal and you really pay attention to the music above all (another example would be Dear Theodosia, which of course I cried during as well. Of. Course.)

T: Yes. Tears for all of the above. Dear Theodosia was perfectly still and wonderful. As was Best of Wives and Best of Women. Ugh. His meeting was at dawn though.

M: It’s Quiet Uptown didn’t so much hit me right in the feels, as the kids say, so much as punch me straight in the stomach. This is one of those numbers you can’t really experience in the cast recording – the harmonies are gorgeous but the way they swell in the theater was more beautiful than I would have guessed.

T: Again, the staging of this pushed me over the edge too. We are criers, if you couldn’t tell by this or the entire week of posts we dedicated to the act of crying.

M: I don’t think the end of Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story is a huge spoiler, but just a warning in case you’re sensitive to that kind of thing. In the end Alexander gives Eliza his hand, like she’s crossing a threshold, and she looks up and gasps and you will cry. There are a few interpretations – that she’s seeing heaven, or Alexander (which doesn’t work as well for me only because he’s already next to her) – but my favorite is that she’s looking up at the audience and realizing that she had done more than enough to tell Alexander’s story. Throughout the whole show I kept thinking about what the real historical figures would have thought about this show, once they made sense of what modern music sounds like and why all the ensemble ladies are in breeches or whatever. At that moment, I knew that the real Eliza would be – or is, maybe – shocked that the story she worked so hard to preserve is changing America over two hundred years later.

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