Saturday, August 6, 2016

Hamilton the Musical: A Personal Story

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By Sabrina Y.

It was December 25, 2015. I was home from boarding school for the holidays, and I was feeling especially happy that day because I was able to spend a nice, relaxing morning with my family around the Christmas tree. We had finished opening our presents and we got up to go to the kitchen to make our traditional Christmas brunch, but then my dad called to me and my sister, "Wait, I think you two are forgetting to open a present." My mom and dad disappeared in a closet and then came back out with two large, decorative boxes. We sat down in the living room, and my dad told us to wait as he set up his camera, I thought he was taking a picture. When he told us to open the box, I took off the top and had to go through lots of tissue paper before I saw my present. I held it in my hand and then saw something else in the box. I stared back and forth at the two items, in disbelief. In fact, the two words that came out of my mouth were "Wait, What?" I could see what they were, but I needed someone to actually confirm this for me. 
"It's a playbill from the opening night and a ticket to go see Hamilton on Broadway in New York." Said my mom excitedly.
Tears streamed down my face. I was excited to finally be seeing my first show on Broadway. I was happy that my family would be taking a trip to New York for fun, and not just for Boarding School or College visits. But most of all, I was grateful for my two incredible parents. I knew tickets were not easy to get, and it meant a lot to me knowing that they cared about my passion for theatre. 
"Thank you," I said through tears as I went to go hug my parents. I found out later that my dad captured the moment on video, and yes, even though the video is extremely embarrassing of me, he shows it to everyone we know.
I patiently awaited Spring Break, and before I knew it, the day finally came. My family and I were able to spend three days together in New York, and on the second day, my sister and I walked into the Richards and Rodgers theatre. It was a surreal experience to be sitting in the sixth row, being able to share this moment with my older sister who also appreciates the art of musical theatre. 
After returning from Spring Break, many of my friends asked questions about my experience and about Hamilton the musical in general. Below you will find my answers:

What is Hamilton about: Hamilton is a musical about the life of one of America's Founding Fathers from when Alexander Hamilton first arrives in America to seek an education to when he gets killed in a duel with Aaron Burr. The creator of this show actually based this musical off of a biography on Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow.

What was your favorite scene:  I don't think I can really pick a favorite, but I will say that one of the most memorable and uniquely crafted scenes was the Helpless and Satisfied scene. For those of you who don't know, the song Helpless is sung by Eliza Schuyler, and talks about how she first met her husband-to-be, Alexander Hamilton, during a 1780's Winter Ball. It is a witty and romantic song, and it amazes me how much time passes over the duration of one song. And then, the next song within that scene is Satisfied, sung by Eliza's older sister, Angelica Schuyler. This song starts off in the "present" as Angelica is giving a speech as the maid of honor at her sister's wedding. Then, it "rewinds" and goes back to the night of the Winters Ball, and the night is told from her perspective and how she secretly loved Alexander, but through a series of realizations, she ultimately introduces him to Eliza because they can never be. It was just absolutely incredible to witness the scene literally rewind as the song takes you back in time. Also, these two actresses are absolutely outstanding vocalists who created a powerful moment in the show.

What was the dancing like: In one word, the dancing was necessary. It wasn't there just for show. The hip-hop movements not only added to the feel of the show itself, but it helped tell the story. Perhaps my favorite scene that involved dancing was Battle of Yorktown because through movement, these hip-hop dancers helped visualize the battle. They made me believe that they were soldiers.

Did you get to meet some of the actors: Yes! I was very excited for the opportunity to meet several of the actors.  I met Javier Muñoz, the man who understudied for Lin-Manuel Miranda, the original Alexander Hamilton. I also got the chance to meet Daveed Diggs (Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson), Jonathon Groff (King George III), and Leslie Odom Jr. (Aaron Burr). Confession: Because I was struggling to turn around and properly position the camera since there were so many people around me, Daveed Diggs actually had to help me take a selfie. What a time!

Why do you like Hamilton so much: It is such an inventive piece of art, and It's so historically accurate. Also, I truly believe it is changing musical theatre because it's bringing in a more diverse audience, and it's getting younger people more interested in theatre. To summarize, it's a revolutionary piece of work about a revolutionary man told through hip-hop and rap, a revolutionary style of music.

Who is Lin-Manuel Miranda: Lin-Manuel Miranda is a genius. But in all seriousness, he is the lyricist and creator of the show Hamilton, and he also is the actor who plays Alexander Hamilton. Some may know him from his previous Tony Award Winning show In The Heights. I personally know about Lin-Manuel Miranda because he created a 10-minute musical called 21 Chump Street for a This American Life live event, which I watched, online as a part of an English assignment.

Did you get to see Lin-Manuel Miranda perform: Unfortunately, no I didn’t see him perform.  I did get tickets to go see Hamilton on a day when he was supposed to be performing, and I still don't know why he wasn't able to perform, but his understudy, Javier Muñoz, had to take his place. I will admit I was disappointed to find out that I wasn't going to see Lin-Manuel, but only for about one minute because Javier Muñoz is a star in his own right. I was so grateful to be able to see him as Hamilton. He has an incredible singing voice, and there were some moments when he sounded just like Lin-Manuel did in the soundtrack recording.

If you met Lin-Manuel, what would you say to him: Too much. I would say too much. Here are only a few of the things I would like to tell him: how his first Broadway show, In the Heights, has made me think a lot about who I am, how I've become braver and more confident in myself because during an open mic night at my school I decided to spontaneously rap the opening number to Hamilton, how he helped me see that I can combine my passions of writing and theatre and turn that into a career and it doesn't matter that I'm Hispanic or a young woman because diversity is something that theatre needs. How every time someone would say "What the heck," my friend and I would start singing What the Heck I Gotta Do from 21 Chump Street the musical, how whenever things get hard or stressful, I would play I am Not Throwing Away My Shot, from Hamilton to be motivated again, and how I would always silently thank him for whenever a song from In the Heights would remind my mom about Puerto Rico or my dad about Mexico and they would share stories with me that I have never heard before. 

How did you find out about Hamilton: It was before the soundtrack of the musical was available, and I remember my dad showed me a video of Lin-Manuel Miranda performing the Opening number of Hamilton at the White House.  After watching it literally 25 times within that day, I knew all the words to the song.

Do you have a favorite actor: No, that is an impossible question to answer because they each brought their character to life in their own, unique way. I greatly appreciate all of their work, so they are all my favorite! Hooray for talented actors!

Who was your favorite character: This is an incredibly hard question. . . But I'   m going to have to say that Angelica Schuyler is my favorite. I appreciate how she is a caring, loving, and protecting sister, and on top of that amazing feature, she is a feminist. I love the song the Schuyler Sisters because of the line sung by Angelica, "I've been reading Common Sense by Thomas Paine. Some men say that I'm intense or I'm insane. You want a revolution, I want a revelation so listen to my declaration: 'We hold these truths to be self- evident that all men are created equal' and when I meet Thomas Jefferson, I'm a compel him to include women in the sequel. Work!" 

What was one of the most powerful moments of the show:  I would say there were two especially powerful and moving moments. The first was during the Stay Alive Reprise during Act II where Phillip, Hamilton and Eliza's son, gets shot in a duel. The scene was beautifully crafted, but what made it so powerful and intense was Ms. Phillipa Soo's performance as Eliza because when Phillip died, there was a brief moment of silence. I assumed the scene would move along to the next one, as all the others had once the song was finished, but then, Eliza Schuyler let out one of the most painful and agonizing screams as she held her now dead son in her arms. That moment filled me with such emotion, that I almost began to cry with her.

The second powerful and moving scene was the moments that followed after Hamilton died in the dual with Aaron Burr. After he shot Hamilton, and realized his mistake, he came front and center stage and sang as actual tears slowly rolled down his cheeks, "Death doesn't discriminate between the sinners and the saints, it takes and it takes and it takes. History obliterates. In every picture it paints, it paints me and all my mistakes. When Alexander aimed at the sky, he may have been the first one to die, but I'm the one who paid for it. I survived, but I paid for it. Now I'm the villain in your History. I was too young and blind to see. I should've known. I should've known. The world was wide enough for both Hamilton and me."

Hamilton has won one Grammy award, the Pulitzer Prize for drama, and was nominated for a record-breaking 16 Tony awards. It won 11. It will begin touring in certain cities in 2017. I highly recommend it for anyone to go see! 
  

Thank you for reading this article, and if you have any questions about my Hamilton experience, please feel free to ask them in the comment section below!

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