This weekend I got to be in “The Room Where It Happens”. For those of you who don’t immediately get that reference, let me clarify. I saw the Grammy, Pulitzer Prize, Drama Desk and inevitably Tony award winning musical, Hamilton. This hip-hop opera written by and starring actual genius Lin-Manuel Miranda has swept the nation with its innovation, heart and sheer brillance, breathing new life into the story of one of our nation’s lesser known Founding Fathers. To be truthful, my obsession is somewhat recent, having only listened to the soundtrack from start-to-finish a few months ago. But after I had absorbed every single one of the thousands of words rapped, recited and rhymed, I was taken aback. Art is intended to move and inspire, and I was shaken to my core post-Hamilton-immersion, made legendary in my memory through seeing it up close and personal. But is this phenomenon really all its cracked-up to be? The short answer is yes, and let me explain why.
As soon as I was hooked, my immediate reaction was, “Now what?” I was already planning on visiting New York this summer, so I started weighing my options….Do I try my luck at the lottery? Or wait outside overnight for the chance at a standby ticket? Should I bite the bullet and pay an exorbitant amount for a resale seat (tickets from the venue at base price are sold out through winter of 2017)? I concluded that I would regret for the rest of my life not seizing this opportunity, so I stopped thinking about how illogical it was to spend so much money and just went for it, even treating myself to a good seat up front (row C to be exact).
Friday night walking into the theatre, I could hardly contain myself. Joe Posnanski wrote a lovely column recently explaining the energy of Hamilton, and he’s spot-on. Everyone is fully aware of how special this is. And everyone is 100% ecstatic to be there. I made friends with the kid sitting next to me (we compared notes over which Schuyler sister we’re most like: both Angelica’s) as we waited for the show to begin. When the lights dimmed, the entire room erupted in cheers and applause.
At the start of the opening line, uttered by none other than Hamilton’s antagonist, Aaron Burr, the crowd continued to clap and squeal. You would’ve thought a rockstar had come onstage, but no, it was George Washington who was received like a celebrity. And as soon as Alexander Hamilton himself emerged, everyone (myself included) lost it. The whole show was marked with this level of enthusiasm and elation, never faltering in excitement.
I know that Hamilton may seem over-hyped, but hear me out. Being right there felt like I was watching the actual Founding Fathers form our nation. You could feel in your core that you will forever be a part of something special. Yet this invigorating story is so much more than an epic tale: it’s a call to action. Alexander Hamilton overcame unprecedented adversity to help establish so many fundamentals on which our nation still relies. He is an American hero that is finally receiving the recognition he deserves.
Perhaps even more than Alexander Hamilton the man, though, it’s our own United States that’s finally earned a much-needed ego boost. At a time when we are at odds over everything, Hamilton has highlighted the American experiment in all its triumphs and faults, showcasing the maddening beauty that comes with governing ourselves. The entire country has rallied behind this show, overreaching political, socioeconomic, professional, etc. divisions. At risk of sounding impudent, the last time I remember patriotism being this popular, our country was in a state of shock post-9/11. While terrorism and inexplicable horrors still plague society, how reassuring is it that we have taken such pride in a non other than a musical about US history? Because it’s all ours, this heritage. My family traces back to the Mayflower, however my connection is no more worthy than say, a first-generation New Yorker whose parents immigrated from Puerto Rico. No, unfortunately we can’t all be Lin-Manuel Miranda, but we can all honor the United States’s colorful genesis with how we live our lives. That’s why Hamilton is so important. It reminds us that, despite our turbulent evolution, the principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness remain steadfast in the hearts of those who hold this country so dear.
My night at the Richard Rogers Theatre is one I shall never forget; it was filled with joy, tears (many) and most prominently, pride. To end right where began, America sings for you, Hamilton. Thank you for telling our story.