-By, Julia Mastandrea
Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?
This is the question at the center of Hamilton, the cultural phenomenon that you’ve probably heard of even if you aren’t a fan. Last month, I was lucky enough to be in the room where it happens (I apologize in advance for my terrible puns) and let me tell you, the show did not disappoint. Although the three original leads Lin-Manuel Miranda, Phillipa Soo, and Leslie Odom Jr. are no longer in the show, original cast members Anthony Ramos (John Laurens/Phillip Hamilton), Chris Jackson (George Washington), and Jasmine Cephas Jones (Peggy Schuyler/Maria Reynolds) were on for that performance. The new cast members are all amazing, but Brandon Victor Dixon’s performance as Aaron Burr really stood out. He portrayed Burr’s character arc from Hamilton’s friend to his enemy in such a nuanced way, while also making Burr actually likeable– well, at least until he shoots Hamilton. After the show, I went to the stage door to get my Playbill signed and to meet any cast members who came out. Brandon Victor Dixon, Seth Stewart, Chris Jackson, and Javier Muñoz all came to chat with the crowd of fans. They took selfies, chatted with people, and signed all the things.
After listening to the cast album obsessively for a year (y’all, I literally bought my ticket in November of last year), my favorite part of finally seeing the show was watching the songs I knew by heart come to life onstage. There are so many little moments and details that you can’t know by only listening to the music. For example, there are lines in some of the songs that are said to specific characters, which you can’t tell from the cast recording. In addition, the balcony that goes around the perimeter of the stage adds another dimension to the show. There is often action happening in the balcony in addition to on the main stage, such as foreshadowing the next scene or hinting at past scenes. Lastly, the dancing in Hamilton is so intricate. Andy Blankenbuehler’s choreography blew my mind, especially in “The Room Where it Happens.” In addition, just as there are musical motifs that run throughout the songs, there are choreographic motifs that reappear (often when a lyric or idea is repeated in multiple songs) that tie together the musical and visual aspects of the show.
Getting to see Hamilton was honestly one of the best moments of my life (no joke). One of the main reasons that Hamilton received so much initial attention was because of its diverse, non-traditional cast. I knew that virtually no one in the cast (except Rory O’Malley) was white, but seeing these incredible black, Latino, and Asian actors portraying our Founding Fathers (who were all white and owned slaves) made such a huge impact on me. This show is so important because a cast who looks like America today (i.e., many different races) is telling the story of America at a time when pretty much everyone in the country, except slaves, was white.
Hamilton is the most incredible show I’ve ever seen, and if you ever manage to get tickets don’t throw away your shot!