Pop Culture Blind Spot: Hello Dolly

Welcome back to Pop Culture Blind Spot, where we examine beloved films and tv shows that we definitely should have seen by now. Up today: Hello Dolly, a movie musical totally missed by this person who loves movie musicals.

What I think I know about Hello Dolly: It’s from the 1950s but set in that time all mid-century musicals were – approximately 1908, or whenever Main Street Disney is supposed to be. It’s about Barbra Streisand… doing vaudeville, maybe. The only thing I know is the song Hello Dolly, and by that I mean the part of the song where they say Hello Dolly, well hello Dolly.

Let’s see how wrong I am!

Right out the gate, this was made in 1969, making me nearly twenty years off in release date. I guess I should have been tipped off by the fact that Babs would have been a child in the ’50s.

But it IS from the era I was thinking of-ish: New York City, 1890! I’m already into it by the Ken Burns-y fade-in they do from a still photo of a 1908 street scene to live motion.

The continued opening shots showing people’s feet as they skip, hopscotch and trip-trap about are fantastic. This leads me to look up who directed this… Gene Kelly?!? WOAH. I had no idea he directed, too. Talk about a quintuple threat.

Premise: Dolly Levi (Barba Streisand) is a matchmaker with great hats.

Ambrose (Tommy Tune), doing a nerd voice, wants to marry scroogey rich Horace Vandergelder’s niece Ermengarde. I assume Ermengarde was meant as a nerd name even in the 60s. Ermengarde has a great fuchsia hairbow and a nice complexion.

 

Horace: You are a seven-foot-tall nincompoop!

Ambrose: That’s an insult!

Horace: All the facts about you are insults!

Horace, re: his clerk Cornelius’s announcement that he’s 28 and 3/4 years old: “That’s a foolish age to be at. I thought you were 40.”

Horace (Walter Matthau!) ‘s plan is to get married.  He illustrates that through a cringey song about how it “takes a woman” to do thinks like dump ashes. He describes women as both “fragile” and “frail” but also capable of doing the garbage work he doesn’t want to do like “clean out the drain in the sink”,”washing and bluing and shoeing the mare” and “cleaning the stable.”

Okay, here’s what Horace is. He is to husbands as Marilla Cuthbert is to mothers: he’s more or less trying to buy another human for chores. It sounds like what Horace needs is a maid or a handyman. I assume that in 1969, as in 2017, this song read as a joke about how horrible Horace, the two male clerks and the chorus of singing men behind him are. Men in general I guess.

The scene with Barbra Streisand reading Horace’s palm turned me into a Barbra Streisand fan.

Apparently the frail sturdy chorewoman Horace has in mind is Irene in New York. Dolly sing-explains that SHE wants to be Horace’s wife-maid-stableboy.

Barnaby and Cornelius, the nerdy clerks, are going to New York and aren’t coming back until “they’ve each kissed a girl.” Barnaby is 19 and a half to Cornelius’s 28 and 3/4 so “for me it’s not so urgent.” I should probably mention that they’re in Yonkers, which I guess looked like the Old West in 1890, so it’s not much of a commute. Dolly sends them off to meet that hussy Irene and her shopgirl. I see what you’re doing, Doll.

About to close down the saloon early. Or feed shop. Grainery? General store.

Put On Your Sunday Clothes is the best number so far. “Put on your Sunday clothes when you feel down and out,” sing a bunch of Newsies from a time when ‘Sunday clothes’ meant anything. Ladies dance with parasols, a film industry requirement for all technicolor musicals made before 1970. A family in all white emerges from a Queen Anne-style house and for a second it’s like we’re in a Ragtime crossover. The ladies do a tiptoe move with their bustles that’s the late Victorian precursor to twerking. People talk-sing and you can show that to any old folks incredulous about modern rap musicals. Everyone departs on a train, another one of those midcentury musical requirements.

Parasols. Newsies. Bustles. Trains. Yep, all accounted for.

We meet Irene and her galpal Minnie mid-scene with some quality chuffa:

Minnie: A banana a day keeps the doctor away.

Irene: You mean an apple a day.

Minnie:Who ever heard of a doctor slipping on an apple peel?

Established: shopgirl Minnie is an idiot and Irene’s used to it.

 

Irene Molloy (Marianne McAndrew) would be played by Kristen Wiig if this was made now.

Irene is so much cooler and smoother and better-looking than Cornelius and Barnaby, who is so dense he introduces himself as a hat, plus her shop is unnecessarily large and decorated in sophisticated grays. Minnie Fay is right about on the guys’ level though.

Expensive.

“Forgive me for saying this, but you should see Yonkers.” NEVER.

Everybody is doing that annoying trick where they mention the other person’s significant other to see if they have one. I always secretly like when guys do that, though, because it saves me the trouble about lying about a boyfriend to get them to stop talking.

Horace shows up at the shop to mack on Irene. Dolly shows up in her flashiest purple dress in Old New York and tries to act unassuming. Sorry. Make that the flashiest purple dress in the world. It’s what Prince would have worn if he was a woman in 1890.

Horace is shocked that Cornelius comes into New York City. Again, from Yonkers. In 1890, when there were trains. Dolly talks Cornelius up,  and it’s funny (” Who took the horses out of Jenny Lind’s carriage and pulled her through the streets?”).

Does this take place in one day? Also is there a term for musicals that take place in one day, because it seems like there should be?

Horace is going to march in a parade with “the kind of people I can trust – 700 men.” I remain confused as to why he doesn’t just hire a chore boy.

Barnaby is the Niall Horan of this musical: affable, charming, boyish and underrated.

While searching for images of Danny Lockin I found this FASCINATING info about what happened to him after Hello Dolly – pic links to article. Woah.

Anyway, right?

Not to make too much of Irene’s giant hat shop but it’s so big you can swing a lady in a hoop skirt without hitting anything. Which they do. If I had that kind of hat shop money I’d never get married.

Dolly has so much purple, including a little purse and a feather boa and a giant hat, that she’s like a purple muppet. She has some LONG acrylics as well, just like the Victorians did. They are her “getting back in the dating game” nails. She’s widowed.

I thought Horace was talking about a metaphorical parade, but there’s actually a giant parade. Once again, it looks like Main Street Disney. Women are there too, including some suffragettes (another requirement of technicolor musicals) but Horace goes anyway. Babs sings about parades, which is one of her specialties.

Along with Niall Horan, Barnaby also has some Mark Hamill vibes.

Niall, Cornelius, Irene and Dumb Minnie sing about how elegant they are, a thing I think you’ll notice elegant people never do. Like how smart people don’t talk about being smart. They make a fun friend group and I would 100% watch a spinoff movie of Minnie, Mark Hamill and Cornelius bumbling about and Irene having to be the only adult in the situation.

Image links to cute Hello Dolly post.

Here’s what I appreciate about the costuming here: everyone is head-to-toe color coordinated like a 1980s bridesmaid. Dress, cape, hat, shoes all dyed to the exact same color. Babs changes into what I guess is the most uncomfy loungewear invented, a lacy tan corset top with a lacy tan jacket over it with some giant sleeves. It’s kinda Stevie Nicks-esque and I’m obsessed. Her hair is a smooth orange dome with a ponytail at the end. This is her casual hairstyle.

Best I could do

Don’t worry, there are dancing waiters in red tailcoats.

I wonder if Mock Turtle Soup struck people as funny in 1969 too, but I bet it did. Just the idea that turtle soup was so in demand but so rare that people had to fake it.

“If I tell you the truth, would you let me put my arm around your waist?” Weird bargain but OK.

“I’ve never touched a woman before.” YOU DON’T SAY, CORNELIUS.

Don’t Barnaby and Cornelius sound like what a hipster couple would name their sons?

Dolly is BACK wearing a very gold beaded dress and a feather headpiece, which is what prompts everyone to sing Hello Dolly.

LOUIS ARMSTRONG IS IN THIS. I know everyone else probably knows that but I didn’t. He’s absurdly charismatic.

I kind of feel like the first hour, hour fifteen were jam-packed and then we’ve been marking time in this restaurant ever since.

There is a whole turkey on Dolly and Horace’s two-top table. Is this how rich people eat?

Cornelius dances with a fan like an idiot. On one hand, Irene can do better. On the other, they’re both having fun and he doesn’t take himself too seriously like ol’ Horace.

Horace almost fires Cornelius and Barnaby for being in New York even though I’m fairly certain he doesn’t own them like he will the chore-wife he wants to buy.

Falling in love “only takes a moment” but the song about it lasts seven.

Back in Yonkers, Barnes and Cornes quit. Cornelius is becoming a new Horace, and Barnaby is becoming the new Cornelius. Dolly and Horace are getting married. ALL the people you thought would get married in the first ten minutes will get married, but my, wasn’t it a fun journey to get there?

I just wish these men would stop singing about how it takes a ‘fragile’ woman to do chores, is all.

Bottom line: I see what the fuss was about – not so much the songs themselves (not too many showstoppers) but the character of Dolly Levi and Barbra Streisand’s performance, plus the supporting cast and throwback sets and costumes. This was delightful and a break from real life, just like a musical should be.

 

 

 

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What ‘Cats’ Characters Are Probably Like, Based On Their Names

Can Jellicles? We’ll find out next week, when the Cats revival either winds Broadway up like a ball of yarn … or coughs up a big ‘ol hairball.

Cats is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1981 musical based on T.S. Eliot’s book about cat poems. Turn that sentence over in your head a bit. Theater-goers WENT IN FOR THIS. In the early 90s my mom took my three older siblings to Cats on Broadway and left me at home. The tales of the amazing theater experience convinced me that the stage was a place where anything can happen – I mean, Rum Tum Tugger himself stroked my brother (or something. I don’t exactly know because I wasn’t invited).  I exacted my revenge by making my siblings attend dozens of my plays and musicals over the following years, most of which were not good. The cast recording was a constant in our car and kitchen, and in first grade I could sing you verse after verse about the “heavyside layer,” which I don’t remember but was probably cat death? When I was 6 I finally saw the national touring company. In a bit of family lore, my father walked into the lobby during intermission with a bemused expression, shaking his head. “I don’t get it,” he said.

Now I’m a full-grown adult, and to be quite honest, I don’t get it either. My memories of actors Fosse-dancing while wearing giant carpet suits have faded into the mist just like the memories that one sad cat sang about. I remember snippets of songs and the feeling of something magical happening on stage, but I look at the list of characters and musical numbers and none of it makes sense to me. In the spirit of the new Cats production, here’s what the kitty characters are probably like, based on their weird names alone.

Mungojerrie

Okay, so this has to be a racist minstrel-y caricature from the 1930s,  yet also still a cat.

Rumpleteazer

You know how in really old movies they couldn’t say someone was gay so they’d use all these weird euphemisms instead? That.

Like, (and here you have to do a voice like you’re from an early talkie): “he’s a confirmed bachelor and a real rumpleteazer.”

Jennyanydots

Neighborhood snob thinks she’s cute.

Grizabella

Meth Gabriella.

Need further clarification? OK Take whatever Gabriella means to you:

Then make it meth:

Gus the Theatre Cat

This really old guy who hangs around a bar in the theater district and when people start talking about Hamilton, he chimes in with stories about, like, the original run of Company. Very into Sondheim. Sits with one foot propped up on his knee. Wears that one kind of hat. (I’m visualizing a cat Harold Prince.)

Mr. Mistoffelees

 

A pretentious college professor who wears jackets with suede patches on the elbows.

Rum Tum Tugger

Oh, goodness. Like a tubby booze uncle. And not the fun one, but the one where you’re just praying that no hot-button topics come up when he’s around because you know it’s going to be awful. Says stuff he knows you disagree with because he’s trying to start an argument, then keeps badgering you when you don’t react. A superfan of a failing NFL franchise, but all he does is complain about it.

Jellicle Cats

Sneaky assholes.

When I was a kid, my grandmother said she didn’t like cats because you could feel their bones squirming under their skin (which is also how I visualized myself as a scrawny, not-put-together child). That’s what jellicle cats are. You pick them up and their skin just slinks over their bones until they’ve wriggled out of your arms.

Bombalurina

That neighbor you had as a child who was Italian or Cuban, wore a housecoat, and her main things were obsessively sweeping her front steps and tending the marigolds around her Bathtub Madonna.

(Author’s note: describes roughly 10% of my childhood neighbors.)

Old Deuteronomy

The gruff, wizened old neighbor who was actually a cool writer in the 1960s and who teaches the protagonist, a teenaged white boy, about the world, the pen and himself.
Except the cat version of that.

Skimbleshanks

Eugene from Grease. Neville Longbottom. Samuel ‘Screech’ Powers. All those guys on Big Bang Theory. The geeks on Freaks and Geeks. Steve Urkel. Skimbleshanks.

Macavity

One of those lacrosse bros who has gone by his last name for so long that you can never remember what his first name was. (It’s Brent. Or Shane. Or Bryce.)

Quaxo

A third-tier sidekick who appears in one of the less-good chapters of Don Quixote or The Canterbury Tales or Pilgrim’s Progress, and then Jo March used it as a reference and you never understood it until you read the source book in college.

Bustopher

A cat rapper. Began his career as a kitten, when he was known as Lil Bustopher.

By the way, the characters’ full name in the musical is Bustopher Jones and his first album as an adult act was called The Bustopher Jones EP.

Jellylorum

False. This isn’t a name. It’s one of those weird, but non-fatal, things that can happen when a baby is brand new. “He’s mostly healthy, they just want to keep him in the hospital for the few days because he has jellylorum.”

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Meet Javilton

Next month the torch will be passed to a new Hamilton: Javier Munoz, AKA Javilton, will replace Lin-Manuel Miranda in Broadway’s Hamilton after LMM steps away from the production on July 9. We’re sad to see Lin go, but happy that the role is in such excellent hands. And as we’re seeing the show in October (#HamilTober? #Hamtober? We’re working on it) – Javier will be our Hamilton, so we’re very excited. This man’s about to take New York by storm, so let’s learn a little about him!

Grab A Friend, That’s Your Second

If musical theater were a duel, your understudy would be your second, right? The person ready to take up in your stead at a moment’s notice, somebody who can fill your shoes as well as you can. Javier has been Lin’s understudy twice: as Usnavi in In The Heights, and as Hamilton in Hamilton. Munoz took over the role of Usnavi, too –  and nobody would argue that the show suffered for it. If you’ve seen Hamilton on a Sunday, you’ve seen Javilton: he was on every week as a standing arrangement, not just in instances when LMM was ill or busy.

Reliable With The Ladies

In real life? Don’t know, don’t care. But it’s common theater knowledge that Javilton is “Sexy Hamilton” — it has been verified by the New York Times, which wrote that Hamilton is “sexy on Sundays” (like the rest of America, NYT is losing any/all of its chill over Hamilton, it goes without saying). As for Javier himself? He’s “aware of it.”

Planting Seeds In A Garden You’ll Never Get To See

An understudy has a bit of downtime, and Javier has filled those hours gardening at the Richard Rogers. If you garden, this is very exciting news and you’re probably dying to talk shop with Javier, as you would with any fellow gardener (my hydrangeas are standing around with their heads down like nobody loves them, anyone able to help?). If you don’t garden … I have a whole lot of tomatoes and squash I’d just love to foist upon you. In any case: what a fantastic hobby, what a happy-looking orchid.

Secretary Jefferson, You Have The Floor, Sir

Javier shares a dressing room with Daveed Diggs (Marquis de Lafayette/ Thomas Jefferson) and it’s a bit of a Felix/ Oscar situation. Take a close look – can you tell whose space is whose? Keep an eye out for the purple velvet.

The Revolution’s Happening In New York

Munoz’s Twitter bio brands him as an “artist/advocate.” His newest effort is J.Docs, an upcoming series of 5-minute documentaries. The twitter feed itself is chock full of positivity, encouragement, gratitude, and joy, the best attitude to put behind advocacy.

Teach Em How To Say Goodbye

He also played Hamilton for President Obama, and managed to crush the performance and end the evening with grace (read: not clutching Obama’s ankles begging him not to leave the theater/ elected office/ all of us, which must have been nearly impossible).

The Man Is Non-Stop

Munoz was diagnosed with cancer last fall. He took a few months off for surgery and radiation then jumped right back into the role of a lifetime. His understudy: Lin-Manuel Miranda – not too shabby – and Jon Rua, another Ham we’d love to see. Leslie Odom, Jr. organized a food drive with the rest of the cast, and while Javier’s resilience is impressive, so is the support from the rest of the theater community.

 

If you have Hamilton tickets for before July 9, enjoy! Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote the play, originated the role, and by all accounts puts on a heck of a show. But if you have to wait a little longer, that’s great news too. You’ll get to see Javilton, and he’s going to be phenomenal.

 

Saturday Spotlight: Broadway Babies

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  • Theater kid in the 90s? Then you’ll remember the Annie Casting Controversy of 97, when contest winner Joanna Pacitti was replaced by an understudy just weeks before the Broadway opening. No? Brush up on the (now totally moot) scandal here.
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  • Just assuming that if you’re reading this, you’re a current or former drama nerd.  If so, you should be listening to the Theater People Podcast, which has legit all of the best guests from the theater world. Former 90s theater kids will ESPECIALLY want to check out the episodes with OG Mary Lennox, Daisy Eagan, who is now a fun and quick-witted adult
  • Want to catch up on former Annie cast members today? There’s a great documentary about that – Life After Tomorrow – but here’s a 20/20 clip until you track it down:

  • Andrea McArdle and Aileen Quinn in one room… and they didn’t have a Tomorrow-off. Maybe next time:

  • Another sign you were a 90s theater kid: you knew of Lea Michele long before Spring Awakening, when she was just a Little Girl. This interview reminds me why so many people cannot stand stage kids, though.

Moo Point: Joanna Pacitti Was Robbed

Welcome to Moo Point, a series focusing on really old scandals, controversies and mysteries that are now so culturally irrelevant that our thoughts on them are moo. Like a cow’s opinion.


If you were a theater kid, you probably both loved and hated the kids in the Broadway cast of Annie. On one hand, those lucky kids were living their dream! On the other hand, those lucky kids were living YOUR dream. I was a hardcore child theater nerd – camps, acting classes, commercial auditions, headshots, even an educational video that I hope never surfaces – but I was nothing compared to the little pros in Annie. Although the Andrea McArdles, Aileen Quinns and Sarah Jessica Parkers get most of the Annie cred, if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool millennial you probably connect the most with the 1997 Broadway Revival. And leapin’ lizards, you’re probably still ready to serve a knuckle sandwich to whoever booted tiny, talented Joanna Pacitti.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s take it back … way back… to a show a surprising number of 10-year-olds were watching in 1997: Turning Point, a 20/20-type show on ABC. (In our defense, 20/20  did air right after TGIF, and how else were we supposed to learn that you can get scalped by a pool drain?) A Very Special Episode – advertised for what seemed like weeks – tracked the auditions and casting for the upcoming Broadway revival of Annie. You got to follow kids through open calls, callbacks, trying to act like they’re instantly bonded with Sandy, the crushing disappointment of rejection… and finally, the naming of a new Annie, Joanna Pacitti.  Even if you wanted to resent a kid whose acting career was going better than yours, you had to admit that Joanna was a great Annie. She had the tough kid act down, but could also play sweet. She looked like she was having fun. And her rendition of Tomorrow was note-perfect.

(Rewatching the above for the first time in 20 years, I remember how appalled I was at the kids’ acting ability as a child: most auditions I went out for required a more naturalistic approach, and the Annie auditions seemed to go more for girls who ACT like THIS, with some of their WORDS IN ALL CAPS!, like the spoken interlude in a Kidz Bop song. But the girls were just giving the producers what they were looking for, so hey, those gals could read a room.)

Before the show even went to the stage, Joanna became a national phenomenon.  She was on talk shows and was the talk of 5th grade classrooms everywhere. Her story became known across the country: just a regular Philly kid who got her start singing for tips at her father’s barber shop. As Annie took a roundabout route to Broadway via a national tour, Pacitti warmed hearts and gained positive reviews. In hindsight, the whole process of the 1997 Annie revival is weird: the laborious open call auditions, the reality TV-ification of casting (before “reality TV” existed as such), the national tour before the Broadway opening… it seemed almost like producers were trying to generate interest in the show that could have been accomplished by just, you know, opening a new production of Annie on Broadway. It was 1997. What were tourists going to take their 7-year-old daughters to, Rent?

Then, four weeks before the Broadway opening, the unthinkable happened. Well, unthinkable if you’re a girl who beat out thousands in a search for the new Annie: little Joanna got the ax. According to producers, the reason was concerns about Joanna’s acting ability and chemistry with Daddy Warbucks. In another statement, they said that after trying out understudies when Joanna got bronchitis, they just liked another kid better. The other kid, Brittny Kissinger, was the youngest Annie ever, a second grader carrying a Broadway show. Impressive stuff.

Still, I defer to my comment under the video – not a single one of those orphans were showing off their “acting ability.” They all did what my childhood acting teacher called “Barney acting,” shouting like an excited cheerleader hopped up on pixie sticks. Today’s viewers will know this acting style from countless Disney sitcoms. My point is, this production wasn’t going for realism in Annie’s performance, they were going for something between pep and moxie. It’s pretty hard to be bad at that, and I don’t think Joanna was. [Note: Joanna may have been a perfectly good, realistic actress in other contexts, but that doesn’t seem to be what the director wanted and that’s not what she gave him.]

What followed was a hubbub far greater than the initial casting announcement. Joanna was on Sally Jessy Raphael. She was an early guest on The Rosie O’Donnell Show, whose main platform was kids and musical theater (we both watched every day, yes). The story was in everything from Playbill to People. It even went back to Turning Point:

I mean, THIS is the girl that producers didn’t think was Annie enough to play Annie? She literally says “I’m not Annie no more.” What kid actually talks like that? Plucky orphans from the 1930s.

Then came the lawsuit. A flashy breach of contract case stirs my soul like musical theater auditions did when I was 10, so this part of the story is my jam. Joanna won a contest, and the prize of the contest was the role of Annie on Broadway. A lower court judge ruled that a Broadway role is “not comparable to other contest awards,” ergo specific performance can’t be ordered. But is there a breach? The third circuit court of appeals ruled that Pacitti had the right to have her case heard. Unfortunately for those of us who really want to know if this constitutes a breach, Macy’s settled.

As for Joanna? It’s all too tempting to say that the sun did come out. She starred in a regional production of Annie, which for a little kid is almost good enough. She still got to do what she loved. Joanna went on to pursue a pop career, and might have made a great American Idol contestant, except that the show’s legal team decided that she might have had too many ties in the entertainment industry – she was signed, at times, by both A&M and Geffen. According to her Twitter profile, these days Joanna is a singer and photographer. It comes as no surprise that the kid chosen to play resilient Annie is doing just fine after seeing the wrong side of show business – which, as they say, isn’t called show friends for a reason. My opinion may be moo by this point – the 1997 revival closed within months,  – but this 90s theater kid will always argue that Joanna Pacitti was robbed.

Saturday Spotlight: Everything Is Rent

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Every time we do a theme week, we say it’s one of our favorite ones yet. Everything Is Rent week is no exception – whether revisiting our age-inappropriate ideas about the musical when we were 9-10 years old, or recasting it with our dream ensemble, we hold a special place in our hearts for this 20-year-old Broadway phenomenon. That’s right, kids: Rent is now older than Mimi Marquez herself.

  • I Should Tell You… that when we watched Rent as tweens, we had almost no clue what was going on. Mimi’s a stripper? Angel and Collins go from “nice to meet you” to “I’ll cover you” in one evening? Minds blown.
  • No Shame Playing The Fame Game… so if we want to create our Rent dream cast, we’re looking to the greatest of the greats to inhabit these roles. We’re talking Aaron Tveit, Renee Elise Goldsberry, the whole 9. (Note: we mostly eschew the OBC, because there’s no arguing that they defined the roles.)
  • America, at the end of the millennium… was a lot different from America a decade and a half into the next millennium. When Rent premiered it was a modern show, so when, why, and how did it turn into a 90s period piece? The decline of answering machines is probably a piece in that puzzle.
  • We rewatched the 2005 movie, and we love all things Rent but still hold a few questions, comments and concerns. Such as : how rank was that performance space, probably? And does aging the actors into their 30s change how the characters come across?
  • Tiempos De Amor… is actually just as good as Seasons of Love. One of the amazing things about Rent is how a musical with such a specific setting has touched audiences around the globe. So let’s meet Korean Angel, German Maureen, and Brazilian Joanne!

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  • This tribute to yesterday’s ground-breaking musical (Rent) from today’s (Hamilton) has us a bit emotional.
  • Catch up with the original cast and relive their memories of their auditions, performances, and friendships. Cry, again.
  • Rent: eye-opener for suburban teens? Probably. But as I (Molly) remember growing up as an inner-city kid, Rent was important for a different reason: the drug pushers and grifters I saw in my everyday life were presented as real people with real stories.
  • Here’s a piece about Rent being “outdated” 20 years after its release. Looking at the same facts we did, they come to a very different conclusion: we saw Rent’s very dated nature as a victory for Larsen, who wanted to create a musical that encapsulated his time; they see it as a failure.

Playlist of the Month: Tiempos De Amor and More

Happy birthday, Rent! Jonathan Larson’s musical premiered 20 years ago today, and in that time Rent has transformed popular musical theater, changed lives, and traveled the world. It’s a testament to Jonathan Larson’s vision that this musical, set in the very specific time and place of Alphabet City in the late 80s-mid 90s, still resonates across the globe. Rent has now been performed on every continent except Antarctica (and maybe Antarctica too, if any of those research scientists are theater geeks). Today, rather than celebrating Rent’s 20th anniversary with the OBC renditions we’ve loved since we were way too young to understand them, we’re taking a look at how Rent has been adapted and translated to reach audiences worldwide.

Rent, Japan

After Rent debuted on Broadway, it quickly became a hit sensation. Producers decided to capitalize on its success by bring the musical to different cities around the world. A mere two years later, Rent opened in Japan, at the height of Rent-mania. Here we see truly contemporary scenes, including an Asian Joanne wearing fake dreads like her African-American counterpart, and it may or may not be cultural appropriation. I find it funny that Japanese words tend to be English words but just said differently, or when you just hear a rando English word like, “headline” news, “Trick-or-Treat” and of course “RENT!”

Fun fact: for a quick second at the beginning of the clip, you see an older gentleman with glasses – that is Al Larson, father of Jonathan Larson. To this day, he goes to as many Rent productions around the world as he can, acting as a representation for his late son and their family.

One Song Glory, Norway

I’d like to preface this by saying I’m still not sure if this is a high school production or not, but either way, this Roger isn’t exactly as strong as Adam Pascal. With all these international versions I find myself translating it into English and thinking I’m fluent in whatever language it’s in. Finna = Find in Norwegian!

Light My Candle, Greece

It’s clear that hundreds, maybe even thousands, of pretty women have gotten the chance to play Mimi Marquez, and in Greece, she was played by this gal, who I sincerely think is great and one of the better foreign singers I’ve heard so far. Words I understood: Papou (all thanks to Full House and the passing of Papouli).

Tango Maureen, Brasil

For the Tango Maureen, why would we look anyplace other than Latin America? (Okay, Argentina would have been ideal, but it sounds good in Portuguese). Language aside, Joanne seems so different in this production that it’s worth watching. Also, how is sunny, warm Brazil the only production to nail cold-weather clothing?

Out Tonight, Germany

*FYI the sound is really bad on this, so don’t put it on max vol!* Is it me or does Out Tonight just sound slightly aggressive in German?

I’ll Cover You, Korea

I don’t know what I was expecting, but it sure wasn’t Angel and Collins being exactly the same, but Korean. Remember in The Simpsons where there’s alternate universe Maggie with the unibrow? That’s what it feels like. Equally adorable, in any language or continent.

La Vie Boheme, Spain

Including a Spanish production was a no-brainer, since that was my major in college and I spent almost 5 months in Madrid. But here’s a little secret: this song is like 50% people’s names and foods and you could translate this into English with a year of junior high Spanish. It still really, really works in Spanish though.

Seasons of Love, Cuba

Seasons of Love is already a beautiful song, but when it’s sung in a literal romantic language, it just makes it that more beautiful. And emotional. I’m not crying, you’re crying.

Without You, Montreal

I don’t know about you all, but when I think heartbreak, I think French. You know how some songs sound just wrong in other languages – the meter or the generally feel is just off? Somehow, Rent sounds great in almost every language, but this one is especially nice in French.

America, At The End Of The Millennium: Rent As A 90s Period Piece

Jonathan Larson’s groundbreaking 1996 musical Rent takes place over approximately 525,600 minutes – but which 525, 600 minutes were they? The stage musical is silent on the year. The movie is set in 1989. But if you found a person who was reasonably well-versed in recent history and pop culture (except that they know nothing about Rent) and had them watch the musical, they’d probably come up with some year between 1993 and 1998.

Yes, Rent is a dated musical, and I mean that in only the most complimentary way. Jonathan Larson set out to make a contemporary musical – his generation’s Hair. He wrote, in 2016 musical theater terms, how Alexander Hamilton did, how Lin-Manuel Miranda does. Larson wrote like he was running out of time. He didn’t know it, but he was: Jonathan Larson died on January 25, 1996. It was the morning before Rent’s first Off Broadway preview. Alterations were made before the Broadway premiere on April 29, 1996, but only using Larson’s words. Therefore, we have a very clear stop-point in the chronology of Rent. Even if it is staged in the “present day,” Rent was written without knowledge of any events taking place after January 25, 1996.

Still, the amazing thing about Rent in the 90s was how modern it was – modern in a way no other musical was. Rent addressed technology, AIDS, trans* identity, sexual orientation, drug use and gentrification. In contrast, look at the other top-grossing Broadway shows of 1996: The Phantom Of The Opera, Beauty and the Beast, Show Boat, Les Miserables, Sunset Boulevard. Your grandma would have liked them – in fact, your grandma could have liked some of them in her youth. Cats was still in the midst of its epic run. The next-edgiest show was probably Bring In Da Noise, Bring In Da Funk, and it didn’t even bring in THAT much funk. (I kid, we love tap.)

So for the earlier part of Rent’s run, Rent was set in the present – even if Jonathan Larson’s present didn’t extend past early 1996. For example, costume designers constantly trawled hip neighborhoods to make sure their cool young characters looked up to date. For years, the libretto held up to a modern interpretation. Cyber cafes, check. Urban drug boom, check. End of the millennium, answering machines, pay phones: check, check and check.

Then, one by one, the references from Jonathan Larson’s book became dated. It’s a bit like when somebody you love dies. First you find yourself writing out checks using a year they never saw, then you’re singing along to songs they didn’t live to hear. One day you look at a photo of them and they don’t look like somebody from the present day anymore: their clothes and hair mark them as a member of the past. So it was with Rent. By 2000, the theme of “America at the end of the millennium” was obsolete (OK, 2001 if we’re being real pedantic about it). Nobody really used the word cyber anymore, and anyway, we didn’t have special Internet places like Benny’s cyber arts space. The answering machine – plot device of so many great 80s and 90s works – was a thing of the past. These people have a land line? What are they, millionaires? To that end, Joanne’s cell phone no longer marked her as an upwardly-mobile, always-connected lawyer. HIV and AIDS are still prevalent, and still more common in communities with a high rate of intravenous drug use, but mercifully, AIDS doesn’t wipe out whole friend groups in the way it did in the 80s and early 90s. And although we voted for a platform of hope in 2008, a lot of the unbounded, youthful optimism of Rent died, at least for a while, after 2001.

By the time Rent was adapted for film in 2005, it was very obviously not modern. Even if you cut out the end of the millennium spiel, you couldn’t slap low-rise jeans and trucker hats on everybody and call it 2005. Jonathan Larson succeeded; he created a musical that defined his time so well that only 5 to 10 years after its release, you could already pinpoint in which era it must have been written. The filmmakers had to choose when to set Rent, and they chose 1989. There’s plenty to recommend 1989. That’s the year Jonathan Larson came up with the early concept for Rent. The AIDS crisis was at its peak. The Tompkins Square Park riot was just the year before.

The movie works – 1989 works – but I still say there’s a little more evidence that the original musical was intended to take place in the 90s. Through years of revisions, Larson incorporated references that wouldn’t have existed in 1989. Cyberarts seems 90s – cyber as a prefix didn’t really take off until that decade. As far as millennia go, 1989 is pretty close to the end of one, but the “end of the millennium” talk gained more traction in the 90s (that’s when we weren’t self-referentially explaining “it’s the 90s.”) Even the relationship that served as Larson’s inspiration for Maureen and Mark didn’t occur until the 90s (although it could as well have happened in the 80s). Most stage productions seem to have taken the 90s concept and run with it. I looked up a few school productions, bright-eyed teenagers done up in 1996 cosplay, imagining a year before they were even born. It’s how we must have looked on 80s day during spirit week in high school in the early 2000s. The teachers must have hated us.

Whichever year you want to place Rent in, it seems pretty clear that it’s somewhere between 1989, when Jonathan Larson’s idea took root, and 1996, when he died. In a play that tells us that there is no future, and there is no past, Rent takes place right now: but it takes place in Jonathan Larson’s right now, and for the last 20 years, for a few hours, we get to live there, too.

No Shame Playing The Fame Game: A Rent Dream Cast

When Rent was originally developed off-Broadway in 1995, the cast was comprised of both newbies and veteran actors, but the one thing they all had in common was talent. Adam Pascal, much like Roger, was an aspiring rocker when he stumbled across the audition for Rent. He had never really done musical theater before – in fact, the blocking for One Song Glory in which he goes back and forth from a table was designed specifically so he could look at pages of the script to rememeber his lines. Meanwhile, his co-star Anthony Rapp had already made his Broadway debut 15 years prior to taking the Nederlander stage.

And over the past two decades, casting for Rent in productions around the world have followed the same formula. You get a handful of “Adams” (Lin-Manuel Miranda’s pals Karen Olivo and Leslie Odom Jr.) and “Anthonys” (Neil Patrick Harris, Mel B, Joey Fatone).

With all this talent floating around for the past 20 years, I got to thinking what a production would look like if I put the best of the best together in one dream cast. Let me tell you it’s harder than it seems, just because so many people have come and gone in these iconic roles over the past two decades. I will say that I tried to not use OBC members since they’re lit’rally on a different level (I mean, just look at these bbs at the ’96 Tony Awards), so here are some of my faves who have been to Alphabet City and were the best to tell the epic story of Rent.

Skyler Astin as Mark Cohen and Aaron Tveit as Roger Davis

Every year, the folks at the Hollywood Bowl pick a musical to present for one weekend in the summer, and it’s usually a star-studded affair. They’ve done Hairspray, Spamalot, and this year they’re doing A Chorus Line, but in 2010, Neil Patrick Harris (who played Mark in a ’97 national tour) was put in charge as the director of Rent. And he managed to get a super talented cast on board – Wayne Brady (Collins), Vanessa Hudgens (Mimi), Nicole Scherzinger (Maureen), and Gwen Stewart, who reprised her role from the OBC as the soloist in Seasons of Love. But the real highlight was a pre-Pitch Perfect and post-Next to Normal Aaron Tveit as Mark and Roger, respectively. This duo alone made me immediately purchase a ticket (again, one of the eight times I’ve seen Rent). Both Aaron and Skyler are amazing singers and Broadway vets, so commanding an audience of 17,000 in an outdoor amphitheater is no small feat, but both got the job done and done well. They were perfectly cast and also had good chemistry between themselves, which bodes well as the core of the Rent family. I think I passed out during What You Own.

Renee Elise Goldsberry as Mimi Márquez

Before she was looking for a mind at work, Renee Elise Goldsberry was looking for a light and her stash of heroin in Rent. The goddesss that we all know and love from Hamilton was the last person to play Mimi on Broadway when it closed in 2008. Renee played her version of Mimi as sexy, cool, and vulnerable all at the same time, and of course had the pipes to back it up. I also managed to see the final Broadway run (2 of 8, #humblebrag) and when I stage doored the cast, I legit have a picture that’s currently up on Facebook of a pic of Renee posing for a picture *with someone else that’s not me* and the caption reads, “renee … something or other. she played mimi. she was also on one life to live.” Oh 2008 Traci. Little did you know.

Jesse L. Martin as Tom Collins

Ok, here’s one of two exceptions I made with the OBC. It’s hard to imagine anyone doing as good a job as Jesse L. Martin did with Collins. Few have come close, but I don’t think anyone’s been able to capture the same heart and sorrow Jesse conveyed as Collins. And separately, Jesse is a fantastic actor, while also an astounding singer, and no where else does this come through the best than when he sings the I’ll Cover You reprise. There hasn’t been a time I’ve watched him sing this where I haven’t cried.

Justin Johnson as Angel Dumott Schunard

Justin was Renee’s co-star in the final Broadway cast, and akin to Jesse, it’s hard to live up to the OG cast, especially following Wilson Jermaine Heredia, who took home a Tony for playing Angel. But there was something about Justin in this role that *gave Angel new wings*. I remember thinking he made the role feel fresh, and exciting again. After 12 years, there have been Angels who copy Wilson, and Angels who take it too far, but Justin was jussttt right. He also had outstanding chemistry with his Collins, played by Michael McElroy, who might come up again later.

Annaleigh Ashford as Maureen Johnson

Honestly, if you don’t like Annaleigh Ashford don’t talk to me. This girl is amazing in everything she does, frankly it’s annoying. From Wicked to Kinky Boots to Masters of Sex, she manages to bring humor and heart to every role. If Idina can’t be Maureen, I want Annaleigh to be Maureen in everything. This role is so perfect for her, I almost can’t even watch it.

Tracie Thoms as Joanne Jefferson

Tracie had been auditioning for Rent for eight years before booking the role of Joanne in the movie – she was a legit Renthead that proved dreams could come true. And not only did she appear on the big screen as Maureen’s love interest, she reprised her role in the final Broadway cast in 2008 and in 2010 for the Hollywood Bowl. And with all due respect to Fredi Walker Browne, I always pictured Joanne more like Tracie, which is why I think she’s the perfect person to play opposite a young firecracker like Maureen. True story: I met Tracie Thoms after the Broadway show and told her we had the same name. She feigned amusement. I hung my head in shame and my friend took this super zoomed in pic of us:

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lolololol

Leslie Odom Jr. as Benjamin “Benny” Coffin III

Like his Hamilton co-star Renee, Leslie also had a role in Rent prior to heading off to duel A. Ham, in fact, Rent was his Broadway debut. He grew up singing in church and musicals weren’t even in vocabulary until Rent. He graduated from high school and had spent the summer auditioning when he got the called to play Paul in the ensemble. He was 17. Now at 34, I’m pretty sure he can pull off a pretty convincing “villain” in Benny. I think he’s had some practice.

Ensemble

  • Michael McElroy as Mr. Jefferson / Pastor

As previously mentioned, Michael was the last person to play Collins on Broadway and I was :thisclose: to choosing him for Collins, but bumped him in favor of my boy Jesse instead. Again, his chemistry with Justin was infectioous and his voice is so so dreamy.

  • Gwen Stewart as Mrs. Jefferson / Woman with bags / “Seasons of Love” soloist

Also as previously mentioned, Gwen was in the OBC, so why not ruin a good thing?

  • Wayne Wilcox as Gordon / The Man / Mr. Grey

Wayne played Gordon in the movie but you know why he looks familiar to you? Because he played Marty, Rory’s sometimes naked, unrequited love interested from Gilmore Girls.

  • Telly Leung as Paul

Telly was in the final Broadway cast in the ensemble and also played Angel in the Hollywood Bowl cast and he is just delightful.

  • Emma Hunton as Alexi Darling / Mrs. Davis

Emma played Maureen in the 2011 Off-Broadway revival, and you obviously have to have an impressive set of pipes for that role. She’s also been in Spring Awakening, Next to Normal and in the little role Elphaba in the Wicked tour.

  • Aaron Lohr Steve / Squeegee man / Waiter

Aaron played the same role, and in a seat next to Wayne Wilcox in the movie, and again, if he looks familiar to you, you’re a child of the ’90s because he was Mush in Newsies and in D2 and D3: The Mighty Ducks as Dean Portman.

  • Eden Espinosa as Mrs. Cohen

Eden took on the role of Maureen in the final Broadway cast with some others mentioned above. And it seems to be some kind of trend because like Emma and Idina – she also is best known for playing Elphie both on Broadway and on tour for Wicked.

Hamilton Explained: Guns and Ships

With only days to go before the release of Hamiltome (Hamilton: The Revolution if you’re not all up in LMM’s twitter), it feels like time to take a stab at explaining some more Hamilton lyrics before we have all of the answers right in front of us.

If you’re just joining us, you can catch up:

Since Guns and Ships has the fastest, hardest-to-catch raps in the whole show, we think it could use a little explicating. As always, please head over to Genius to check out the annotations there, too. We make an effort not to duplicate their comments but there’s obviously gonna be some overlap.

You know how it goes: lyrics are in italics. Our stuff’s in regular fonts. Ready? Everyone give it up for America’s favorite fighting Frenchman!

Guns And Ships

BURR:
How does a ragtag volunteer army in need of a shower

  • You don’t need us to explain that one: here, we are back to the cadence and rhyme pattern of Alexander Hamilton (How does a bastard, orphan son of a whore…). We even land on a similar rhyme (squalor/scholar vs shower/power).
  • But let’s go back to LMM’s explanation of the opening number: “the thing about Hamilton is he spoke in paragraphs. So the opening sentence of our show is this crazy, run-on sentence.” [Source] When we’re talking about the war, instead of Hamilton himself, the questions get more concise. After all, Burr didn’t mince words. Talk less, smile more.
  • “Ragtag volunteer army” sure does check out. Originally a collection of smaller militias, the Continental Army wasn’t established until a ways into the war. If you remember reading about another European helper, Baron Von Steuben, in high school, the army’s hit-or-miss training and discipline will ring a bell.
  • “In need of a shower”: we’ll let General Washington take this one — “Soap is another article in great demand–the Continental allowance is too small, and dear, as every necessary of life is now got, a soldier’s pay will not enable him to purchase, by which means his consequent dirtiness adds not a little to the disease of the Army.” — George Washington, Letter to the Committee of Congress, July 19, 1777 [source]

Somehow defeat a global superpower?

  • Global superpower: A fun anachronism (if you’re a history nerd, anyway.) “Superpower” describes nations that mastered the seven dimensions of state power (geography, population, economy, resources, military, diplomacy and national identity), and was first used in the WWII era to apply to the United Kingdom, the U.S. and the Soviet Union. [source] Through the lens of modern international relations, the British Empire was a major superpower during the 18th century – with thriving trade, an advantageous geopolitical position, and a lot of colonies. Some of whom hated them.

How do we emerge victorious from the quagmire?
Leave the battlefield waving Betsy Ross’ flag higher?

  • So, there’s quagmire – like a gross swamp – and quagmire, like a snafu. But quagmire is also used frequently to describe international conflicts that were caused by muddling where you shouldn’t. [See, e.g.] The “quagmire theory” explains how the U.S. unintentionally got involved in Vietnam, by a series of bad decisions that lead us further and further into the muck as we tried to negotiate several overlapping dilemmas. LMM’s probably using “quagmire” in the “big old mess” sense, but since we’re using other 20th century warfare terms, Burr could also be alluding to the fact that the US (or Britain??) shouldn’t have ended up in this position in the first place.
  • Ah, Betsy Ross, heroine of so many third grade history fair dioramas. She sewed, and possibly helped design, the American flag, and has a particularly adorable house in Philadelphia. [source]
  • Also also. This is fun:

Yo. Turns out we have a secret weapon!
An immigrant you know and love who’s unafraid to step in!

  • Both Hamilton and Lafayette are referred to as immigrants in Act I. Which, on one hand, of course they are. But it’s interesting because it feels almost like we don’t usually refer to anyone as an “immigrant” during the Colonial era. Yet, there were differences between colonists who were born in the (future) U.S.A. and those who came from abroad – even if only in familiarity with the country and its customs. LMM’s goal was to eliminate the distance between the audience and these historical figures, and a part of that is reminding us that then, as now, immigrants could be counted on to get the job done.

He’s constantly confusin’, confoundin’ the British henchmen

  • To name a few: Battle of Gloucester (thanks to excellent reconnaissance work, he helped uncover British positions and defeated Cornwallis – oh, and his leg was still busted from the Battle of Brandywine); Albany (he recruited the Oneida and dissuaded America from a poorly conceived attack on Quebec); Battle of Barren Hill (the outnumbered Continental Army had to retreat, so Lafayette had soldiers in the woods periodically fire on the British Army to make the colonists seem more prolific).

Ev’ryone give it up for America’s favorite fighting Frenchman!

  • This is true. Lafayette was SUPER POPULAR and beloved. Like, the precursor to the popularity of those French Women Don’t Get Fat and French Kids Eat Their Damn Dinner books that are so trendy now. There’s an entire Wikipedia entry about this time he came back to America to say hey. [source]

COMPANY:
Lafayette!

LAFAYETTE:
I’m takin this horse by the reins makin’
Redcoats redder with bloodstains

  • “Horse by the reins” is a popular expression, but maybe was included because artists LOVED to show Lafayette holding onto a pony:

To be fair, it was a popular pose with 18th century military guys. Like Georgian duck-lips.

  • “Redcoats” – the nickname of the British army, due to their snappy red coats.
  • During this line, I can’t help but think of Jay-Z (I know we’ve mentioned Empire State of Mind before, but whatever, it’s a modern classic): I make a Yankee hat more famous than a Yankee can. Lafayette makes a redcoat redder than his red coat can.

COMPANY:
Lafayette!

LAFAYETTE:
And I’m never gonna stop until I make ‘em
Drop and burn ‘em up and scatter their remains, I’m

  • Lin-Manuel Miranda has said that hip hop had to be the language of this musical because it allowed for more syllables per measure than any other genre. [source] This is the fastest verse, at 19 words in 3 seconds, which makes this the hardest one to sing along to but I’m trying; we’re all trying. [source]
  • Oh, look who’s better at English than all of those Englishman (an immigrant, of course!).

COMPANY:
Lafayette!

LAFAYETTE:
Watch me engagin’ em! Escapin’ em!
Enragin’ em! I’m—

  • We covered escapin’ em above (Battle of Barren Hill). How about engagin’ em and enragin’ em? The Yorktown campaign. Lafayette cut Cornwallis’ naval troops off, and again used his fun trick of random attacks by Continental troops to make their forces seem larger.

COMPANY:
Lafayette!

LAFAYETTE:
I go to France for more funds

COMPANY:
Lafayette!

  • Lafayette went to France in 1779, where he tried to persuade France and ally Spain to attack Britain. Also, his son was born that winter – named George Washington Lafayette.

LAFAYETTE:
I come back with more

LAFAYETTE AND ENSEMBLE:
Guns
And ships

  • Yes, but. France got very “the check’s in the mail” with the ships and the fleet took a while to arrive. Also included in the deal: General Rochambeau and 6,000 soldiers.

And so the balance shifts

  • The phrase “turning point of the American Revolution” was probably drilled into your head to describe the Battle of Saratoga at some point during AP US History. It was a pivotal victory, sure. But gaining a tactical ally in France helped tip the balance from “global Superpower” England and the “ragtag volunteer army in need of a shower.” Hundreds of years later, we still debate whether the U.S. could have won the revolution without French aid.

WASHINGTON:
We rendezvous with Rochambeau, consolidate their gifts

  • Rochambeau shows up in the colonies, hangs back for a long time because there aren’t enough forces to really do anything, kind of pulls an Emma Watson and chills at Brown for a while. He marches his guys over to rendezvous with Washington in Mount Kisco NY, home of the Ragtime house which is ALSO Samantha Parkington’s house, who knew. It did not exist in 1781. From there, they marched together to Yorktown. It was quite a trip.

LAFAYETTE:
We can end this war at Yorktown, cut them off at sea, but

  • Lafayette trapped the British by land at Malvern Hill while the French fleet blockaded the British. Yorktown didn’t stand a chance.

For this to succeed, there is someone else we need:

WASHINGTON:
I know

WASHINGTON AND COMPANY:
Hamilton!

  • Also Baron Von Steuben, whose forces Lafayette joined with, but who is not relevant to this musical production.

LAFAYETTE:
Sir, he knows what to do in a trench

 

  • Which maybe doesn’t seem like a Revolutionary War thing, but it is – the scrappy Americans and French dug a trench to help with the cutoff of Cornwallis’ troops. [source]

Ingenuitive and fluent in French, I mean—

  • Before there was spellcheck, there was A.Ham, who proofed Lafayette’s petitions for more supplies. [source]

WASHINGTON AND COMPANY:
Hamilton!

LAFAYETTE:
Sir, you’re gonna have to use him eventually
What’s he gonna do on the bench? I mean—

  • Hamilton was “manning George’s journal” and had to drop some major hints before he was handed a command of Lafayette’s light infantry battalion. [source]

WASHINGTON AND COMPANY:
Hamilton!

LAFAYETTE:
No one has more resilience
Or matches my practical tactical brilliance—

  • Or, as George says in the letter they’re singing about, “I am convinced that no officer can with justice dispute your merit and abilities.” [source]

WASHINGTON AND COMPANY:
Hamilton!

LAFAYETTE:
You wanna fight for your land back?

COMPANY:
Hamilton!

WASHINGTON:
I need my right hand man back!

  • This was a push-and-pull between Washington and Hamilton throughout the war: Washington wanted Hamilton as his “right hand man” while Hamilton wanted field experience.

WOMEN:
Hamilton!

LAFAYETTE:                                                        MEN:
Ah! Uh, get ya right hand man back                        Get your right hand man back!
You know you gotta get ya right hand man back      Your right hand man back!

I mean you gotta put                                           Hamilton!
some thought into the letter                                 Ha—
but the sooner the better                                     Ha—
To get your right hand man back!

  • There was a lot of letter drama in the 1780s. Hamilton delivered one of George’s letters for him, stopped to chit-chat with Lafayette, and Washington got pissy about it. So Hamilton flounced off and quit for like a handful of months until he got the Yorktown commission. [source]
  • “The letter, the sooner the better” – reference either to Please Mister Postman by the Marvelettes, or to the children’s rhyme (deliver the letter, the sooner the better, the later the letter the madder I getter… I think there’s more, I’m so old that I sent letters as a child so you’ll have to bear with me.)

WOMEN, MEN:
Hamilton, Hamilton!
Ha— ha—!

WASHINGTON:
Alexander Hamilton
Troops are waiting in the field for you
If you join us right now, together we can turn the tide
Oh, Alexander Hamilton
I have soldiers that will yield for you
If we manage to get this right
They’ll surrender by early light
The world will never be the same, Alexander…

  • Once again, we return to the style of Alexander Hamilton.
  • Solders that will yield for you – Washington’s hesitation about appointing Hamilton to a command wasn’t that he thought Hamilton wasn’t up to it. It’s that there were other, longer-serving officers who would take it as a slight. Appointing Hamilton required not only regular soldiers to yield, but also an officer to yield his expected promotion. [source]
  • “The world will never be the same” is a motif throughout the show, alluding not just to Hamilton’s desire to make a difference but to be KNOWN for making a difference. After their little falling out, real-life Washington also appealed to Hamilton’s ego.
  • The Battle of Yorktown was an important strategic victory, so the world really was never the same.