Cornfield Meet

Things collide here.

That Time We Saw Hamilton

I first visited New York City as a freshman in high school and loved it. Whenever I’ve returned, I still have a moment or two of quiet thrill that taps into the memory of that first trip, triggering those “I could totally live here” feelings. Anyway, part of that trip included seeing a musical on Broadway. I hadn’t yet developed an interest in theatre, so I really didn’t know what to expect. (I mean, it was the ’80s, so I had some vague awareness of shows like Cats and Phantom of the Opera, but that’s it.)

We saw 42nd Street – which I’d never heard of. And I was bored to sleep. I hated it. (In a somewhat lame defense: I was a high school freshman who’d stayed up late horsing around with my friends, had been up since early morning riding a tour bus and walking around the city, and we were in the top row of the house, so it was all too easy to put my jacket up behind my chair like a pillow.) For years, that was my sole exposure to musical theatre.

I enjoyed plays when I was in high school and college – even did a few – but never musicals.

My wife Jenn has had a passion for theatre (both plays and musicals) since before I knew her. When we were dating, we went to see her alma mater’s production of You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown, because she had friends in it. On drives between Ohio and Florida, she introduced me to the Les Misérables soundtrack when she was behind the wheel. (After we’d moved up here, we saw the show at E.J. Thomas hall in Akron.)

Our daughter Kelsey developed a passion for theatre in high school, and is studying it in college. She was into Hamilton before it was a thing, and her own story of what it means to her is wonderful – but it’s not mine to share. What’s important here is that a few years back, she and her friend Amanda learned of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s upcoming project and thought, “History and hip-hop? This will be amazing or terrible, and either way, we are all in.”

She introduced me to the soundtrack during one of our many drives to Michigan, and to my complete shock – since I’ve never been a huge fan of Broadway shows or hip-hop music – I was utterly hooked, pulled into the story and the characters from the start. The music grew on me quickly.

So last summer, Kelsey’s early Hamilton enthusiasm paid off in the form of a block of available face-value tickets to the first group of newsletter subscribers. (Or something like that.) We picked up three nosebleed seats for a then-distant Thursday night show.

Ham1.jpg

It’s been a couple weeks, and I still find myself processing and revisiting the experience.

I was a little surprised to find that almost as soon as my butt hit the seat and I was able to take in the set and the stage below, I felt a brief lump in my throat and my eyes got hot. We’re here. That’s the stage I’ve seen in brief clips and pictures. Hamilton is going to happen right. Down. There.

I had actually stopped listening to the soundtrack about eight weeks prior, because I didn’t want watching the show in person to become a mental checklist, and I also wanted to be in the mindset of experiencing the live cast put its own unique flavor into the songs, and not so conscious of “Oh, that line was delivered a little differently,” or whatever.

The show itself? An even more stunning experience than I’d expected.

Being so familiar with the songs makes it easy to forget that they’re just part of the full production – a huge, important part, to be sure, but there’s still so much more happening on stage that adds to the emotion and story and characters. Choreography, the use of the set and props, the lighting, the subtle timing choices based on audience response. (Yes, it’s all painfully obvious, I know: There’s more to a musical than music. Duh.) And I know there are even more things I missed because I couldn’t put my eyeballs on every corner of the stage at once.

The entire cast was magnificent: Our show included Javier Muñoz as Alexander Hamilton, Lexi Lawson as Eliza, Brandon Victor Dixon as Burr, Mandy Gonzales as Angelica, and James Monroe Iglehart (who won a Tony as the Genie in Aladdin) as Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson. Oh – and Brian d’Arcy James as King George III, a role he originated before Hamilton hit Broadway.

Afterward, we exited the theatre and walked past the stage door, where they had set up railings to prevent mobbing, and there were a few people there, but nothing crazy. (Hamilton fans – at least on this night – seemed particularly polite and orderly.) We weren’t planning to hang around, but we ran into a knot of people at the theatre next door: They were all massed around Josh Groban:

Ham2.jpg

So we stopped and leaned back against a railing to wait for things to clear. And then some of the Hamilton cast came through the stage door, and we realized we were near the exit formed by the railings, so we just stayed where we were.

Do I think it’s fun to get pictures and autographs? Sure. But the older I’ve gotten, the more I believe that when you have a chance to thank someone who has made art that affects you deeply, you take it. So that’s what we did. Mandy and Brandon and James and Lauren Boyd, an actress from the ensemble, all stopped and chatted with everyone along the way, and they were all a delight.

Here’s a not-great picture of me with James Monroe Iglehart and Mandy Gonzalez:

Ham3.jpg

And Kelsey with Lauren:

Ham4.jpg

And Kelsey and Jenn with Brandon Victor Dixon:

Ham5.jpg

Over the past year, I’ve said more than once that Kelsey introducing me to Hamilton seemed a fair trade for introducing her to Star Wars. (And I’ve thanked her for that.) We love our stories, and our fandoms run deep, and these are things that we share and that matter.

Thanks again, Hamilton cast, crew, and creators, for making something incredible and sharing it with us. (Even if I still don’t think I want to see 42nd Street again.)

Advertisements

June 1, 2017 Posted by | Current Affairs, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

   

%d bloggers like this: