Thoughts on Hamilton: An American Musical

Two years ago, when life in Denver was still a twinkle in my eye, I saw a Denver Post article stating Hamilton: An American Musical would come to Denver in 2018. I looked for tickets to the Broadway performance and the best tickets I could get were six months out at about $400 a piece. Although we weren’t Coloradans yet, I knew Denver would be our best shot at seeing the show.

Flash forward to Tuesday, February 27, 2018, where Fury and I sat in our subscriber seats at the Buell Theatre. We were finally seeing Hamilton on opening night at that!

The first 10 minutes of the show were exhilarating and I was practically rocking in my seat with giddiness and anticipation. But wait… was this going to be a letdown? (No.) Had I just seen the best 10 minutes of the show? (Not even close.) Could the next two and a half hours possibly be that good? (Yes!) Would this be the best musical I have ever seen? (Yes!) Could this be the best Broadway show ever? (By my standards, yes!) Let me explain.

I have a long-standing relationship with musicals. In my family, The Sound of Music is a holiday staple. I didn’t see It’s A Wonderful Life or A Christmas Story well into my adulthood but I grew up knowing the words “governess,” “Fraulein,” and “Edelweiss” more than most black children in the 80s. My affection for The Sound of Music expanded to an appreciation of the collection of Rodger’s and Hammerstein classics. In college, I had the opportunity to see The King and I at the Shubert Theatre and realized that I was missing out having only seen film adaptations. Still, it was only in my last job where my role included planning cultural activities for college students, where I began to pursue my love of theatre.

In the past few years, Fury and I have seen some of the greats, Book of Mormon, Wicked, and The Lion King to name a few. When we moved to Denver, I followed up on that Denver Post article and learned the only surefire way to get Hamilton tickets was to become a subscriber to the Denver Center for Performing Arts. Due to the popularity of Hamilton on the season’s docket, we had to sign up to be notified of the availability of subscriber tickets. Once notified, we had just a limited number of days to secure a season pass and for $800 we would get 2 tickets to 8 shows. The math came out to about $50/ticket, by comparison, we paid over $100 per ticket to see Wicked in New York; the Denver tickets were a steal.

If everyone is being honest with themselves, we bought the subscriber pack just to get tickets to Hamilton. The $800 price tag was the equivalent of buying two tickets to the Broadway performance without the ridiculousness of paying $800 to see one show, plus we would get other subscriber perks. Despite the low(ish) costs, the tickets were still an investment. I was leaving my job in a few months and spending $800 on theatre did not seem like a financially conservative decision.  But we love theatre and by becoming subscribers we would support the arts in Denver while having a fun date night downtown every few months. We had no idea we were sent tickets to opening night of Hamilton.

We tried not to talk about or research the show prior to attending. We didn’t want to be let it down. After years of hype, sold-out performances, outrageous ticket prices, could it really be that good?

It was better.

I’ll keep it simple and give you my 10 reasons why Hamilton is worth all the hype and then some…

1. The Story: Hamilton is the story of Alexander Hamilton who let’s be honest, the history books (well at least mine) kind of glossed over. Prior to the performance, all I knew about Alexander Hamilton was that he got shot in duel with Aaron Burr. Spoiler alert: he did a lot more than that.
2. The Cast: Hamilton tells the story of our country’s founding with a mostly Black and Latino cast. Say what?!?

via GIPHY

Imagine watching a performance for 2 ½ hours and seeing George Washington portrayed as a dark-skinned black man? It will forever change how you think about our founding fathers.
3. The Creator: Lin-Manuel Miranda created and starred in Hamilton. He was born the same year I was and created a brilliant and influential piece of work. He is my contemporary and it gives hope to all of us writers out there. Plus, he’s Latino. Shout out to #latinoexcellence!
4. The Music: Rodgers and Hammerstein this is not. Hamilton features rap, reggae, R&B, and spoken word poetry. The album spent 10 weeks atop Billboard’s Top Rap Albums in 2015. That’s more time than Jay-Z’s Blueprint album.  Oh… and the soundtrack was produced by Questlove and Black Thought from the musical group The Roots.  So basically, it’s hot.  That’s all you need to know.
5. The 90s: If you are a child of the 90s, you will appreciate EVERYTHING about Hamilton. The music. The dancing. The cultural relevance. In one of the opening scenes three of the main characters sit around a table rapping about the pending revolution. This was reminiscent of my high school where guys would “drop a beat” with their fists on the cafeteria tables and freestyle rap at lunchtime.  BTW,  Hercules Mulligan definitely busted out the butterfly dance move during the reprise of The Story of Tonight.
6. 90s Hip Hop: If you checked my Amazon Echo, you’ll see that I’ve been known to ask Alexa to play 90s hip hop every now and then.  This play throws all kinds of homage to 90s hip hop. Check out this compilation by genius.com for just a taste of the brilliance.

7. This One Line: “Immigrants! We get the job done.” In a world where we are fighting for DREAMers, rallying against Muslim bans, and a wall between us and Mexico, it’s a good reminder of the importance of immigrants in our country’s past and present. (After all, aren’t all Americans Immigrants?)
8. The Hamilton lottery: #Ham4Ham.  Get it? A Hamilton ($10 bill) to see Hamilton?!? I love how cheeky (hammy even?) that campaign is but mostly I love the attempt to make the show accessible to everyone. Even if it’s only 40 tickets a day, that’s still something.
9. Female Representation: The late 1700s were a tumultuous time in our nation’s history: the birth of a nation, revolution, slavery – there was a lot going on. In the history I was taught (keep in mind, Pluto was still a planet when I was in school) the women’s rights movement wasn’t really talked about until the late 1800s however, Hamilton depicts the women of that era as dare I say, “woke” and acknowledge their influence during that time.
10. The final song: Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story is beautifully written and even more wonderfully performed. In the final scene of the play, the entire cast sings an amazing and thoughtful tribute to the life of Alexander Hamilton. The narration of the play is taken over by Hamilton’s wife, Eliza, where she sings about the years after his death. It’s gripping, moving, and touching. The lyrics tell a story that most people don’t know and leaves you questioning what we know about history and wondering who tells what story. Then the whole casts collectively holds hands and takes a bow. The end. I had goosebumps.

In the car ride home, we were shook. The phrase, “That was so good!” still seems like an understatement. We considered seeing the play again while it is still in town but then we realized we weren’t ballers and decided that we would try to get in the #Ham4Ham lottery instead.  In the meantime, we will settle for “Alexa, play the Hamilton Soundtrack.”

One of the best things about seeing Hamilton is the subsequent effect it has had on our lives. We became DCPA subscribers for Hamilton but will stay subscribers to enjoy more shows and support the arts. We ended up seeing an array of incredible shows that we would not have otherwise gone to.  We plan to continue as subscribers for as long as we can afford to, and we have Alexander Hamilton and Lin-Manuel to thank for it.



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