I clearly recall the day last spring-ish when Liz mentioned the fact that someone had made a hip-hop musical about Alexander Hamilton and asked if I wanted to hear some of it. we had crafts in our laps and the soundtrack on her phone, hooked up to bluetooth speakers.
it's intense, this music. relentless, rushing, and deep. and smashed-full of intricate lyrics. if you haven't listened, you must. go listen.
Patti and I binged on Hamilton the whole drive to and from New York last summer. I remember being so excited to see the two-disc album in her sack of CDs. reading the liner notes while she drove gave me such headaches, but it was worth it as the price to pay for familiarizing myself with all the layers and nuance of Lin-Manuel Miranda's wordsmithery.
some months ago, on our trip back from the beaches of northern Michigan, I forced dear Jeremiah to listen to the whole soundtrack. he had been skeptical, and as a human who is often quite skeptical of the celebrated and the hyped, I cannot blame him for that.
luckily, once he heard the masterpiece he was in love with it too.
we decided to get tickets to see the show in Chicago. they were not cheap, but life is short, right?
there was quite the countdown from the moment of that decision to the night of the show. in the meantime I spent too much time reading through annotated lyrics. I discovered this ridiculously amazing tribute of a podcast series all about Hamilton (thanks friend Beth for that tip). and Liz and I got together to watch the Tony awards, to see the cast and crew and producers of Hamilton win lots of prizes.
and then there was also a PBS documentary about the making of the show, and about Hamilton himself, and about America. it was beautiful, and you can watch it online up til November 18th.
last weekend, the day arrived at last. we took the train into the city, dined at the oldest Italian restaurant in Chicago, took selfies in front of the marquee, and climbed a lot of stairs up to the balcony of the theatre.
there were of course piles of merchandise for sale: totes, hoodies, program books.
what will I put in this tote bag? maybe it will be the tote bag I take to the library, for books and audiobooks and such.
right now all it has in it is the fancy program book and the less-fancy playbill. fancy glossy perfect-bound program book has excellent photo arrangements of the original Broadway cast. it's gorgeous.
the Chicago show was also gorgeous. being so familiar with the soundtrack already made for a very interesting and layered entertainment experience. the Chicago actors are not the Broadway actors, so they all put their own little garnishes on their parts. there was so much motion and energy in the performance--a visual-kinetic counterpart to the rhythms and dynamics of the recorded music by itself. I found myself drinking in all the lighting decisions, the ambiance of the whole stage. at almost any time, no matter where the spotlights fell or who was monologuing, we could see silent actors at the corners of the action, in the background, walking past or sitting patiently. they didn't always have parts to sing or back-up vocals to add, but they were very there, as watchers.
I could probably write a lot about each scene, each song. but I'll spare you too much gushing and touch on my favourite bits from each half. the favourite moment from Act I came in a trios of songs: "Guns and Ships," "History Has its Eyes On You," and "Yorktown." this is how the Revolutionary War was won. this is where we establish the theme of history watching from an unreachably far, high place. that theme haunts the rest of the show, touching each character in very different ways. the whole sequence was simply masterfully orchestrated-- bodies, music, voices, lines, colors, contrast, tension-- and then the Brits surrender and it all dissipates into relief, crystalizes into jubilation.
it's harder to pick favourites in Act II. the whole character of Jefferson is delightful in his unflinching high-mindedness. I loved the stark, tenuous feeling of Hamilton's impending mistakes in "Say No to This." and I trembled and cried a bit at the very end of "It's Quiet Uptown."
I feel very lucky to have been in that theatre, with the beautiful, pathos-infused results of so many fellow-humans' creative work. how lucky we all are, to be alive to see such stories crafted and told so marvelously.