Thursday, May 3, 2018

Hamilton - I Was There Last Night

At last. Last night I saw/heard/felt Hamilton from a theater seat. An aisle seat. In the orchestra. Hamilton had all the power and denseness I expected. It might have had even more punch, if I'd had a seat in the first ten rows because then I'd have seen faces. (I do need my cataracts tended.)

The most wonderful part of seeing Hamilton with hundreds of Houstonians is the happiness I saw on faces in the crowd. These days, I see too few people with smiles. There is a certain everyday grimness imprinted on so many in these dark political times when democracy is caving and bought politicians no longer represent 'we, the people'. A sidebar thought: After seeing Hamilton, will its devotees believe our democracy is still alive and well? Or do they overlook the daily news?

For now, I'll savor the sight of so many Americans gathering together across the country with joy and exuding auras of excitement. At the Hobby Center, there were people of all ages and colors, so many young women, and so many moms or dads with a single child. And always, that child in hand was bursting with happiness and visibly thrilled. I heard several say they knew every song by heart. Hurray!

My three daughters and all four of my grandchildren love Hamilton. Caroline has seen the three show three times, and it was she who sang its songs in her kitchen two years ago. Last summer, her family flew to Chicago to see friends and yes, she and Lulu had tickets to Hamilton. She was beside herself.  When Hamilton arrived in Seattle, Caroline saw again with a friend, and yet again with Charlie Bean. All four McGrady's took in Hamilton, and when the show moved to Portland, Mary B bought herself a ticket. How could I not log on to TicketMaster when the show arrived in Houston from Salt Lake City? My seat? HH1. The cost? Priceless.
Caroline and Lulu in Chicago.

Caroline and Charlie in Seattle.

The McGradys in Seattle.

Mary B in Portland. OR.

Two Christmas's ago, I gifted Caroline with a copy of "Hamilton, The Revolution" by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter. Subtitled "Being the complete libretto of the Broadway musical with the true account of its creation and concise remarks on hip-hop, the power of stories and the new America."
David Diggs as Thomas Jefferson and Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton.
A beautiful account of the making of this transformative Broadway musical. Three weeks ago, I bought myself a copy and read it on the plane ride to LA. And when I returned home, I thumbed its pages a second time as I listened to the original cast soundtrack, courtesy of YouTube.
I arrived at Hobby Center very early, whether fueled by high expectations or simply, the newness of timing a METRO rail ride and a six-block hike westward to the theater. As a pedestrian, I am certainly gaining a different perspective on downtown. Distances are much shorter than they seem from the inside a car.
Sadly, each theater goer entered Hobby Center through metal detectors, and had purses and pockets searched. Is this procedure just for Hamilton? In the lower lobby, I met two young women who'd made the drive from New Orleans and confided they knew the all the songs by heart and had waited 'forever' to see Hamilton. They'd brought tissues, because they knew they'd cry.

Theater doors actually opened at 7:00 and again, my early arrival put me among the first to enter the theater. Had just settled into my seat when a mom with her very happy middle-school age daughter took the two seats beside me. I heard the refrain of the evening, "She knows all the songs by heart," and she appeared to be overcome with expectation.
I was mesmerized by the production. Hamilton is extraordinary in so many ways. Its story is America's story, so can all claim it. The cast is multi-racial, which confirms that we are a nation of diversity and furthermore, we are all in this together. The story moves like ocean tides on a short timer. Years pass in several minutes of song; the ensemble and dancers create and move both time and space. The songs are sung like no others in musical theater. Hip hop is fast and facile with words. Hip hop serves as a metaphor for Hamilton himself, he, the quick-witted author of The Federalist Papers and scribe for General/President George Washington.  And without the beat and speed of hip hop, our 2/ 1/2 hours in the theater would extend to 6+. Lighting moves us through battles into defeat and victory, through love and horrible sorrows. Costumes reflect the dress of the time, and yet feel timeless. There are no light-weight characters. The men founding our nation are smart, crafty, judgmental, competitive. The women strong and passionate. The King of England is a wondrous scene stealer.

In short, I'd see Hamilton again. And again. Have the feeling it'll be traveling the land for years. Find where it's playing and buy your ticket. And listen to the songs before you see it. Read the libretto. And read Ron Chernow's biography of our first Secretary of the Treasury.
Hamilton belongs to us all.