I saw Hamilton last week. After two years of singing along with the soundtrack, imagining the set design, and creating my own choreography, I sat in seat 218 of row C at the CIBC Theatre in Chicago as one of my dreams came true.
I first learned of the Broadway hit on a weekend trip to Charlottesville to surprise my childhood best friend for her 25th birthday. Her roommate gathered up 7 of her best friends from around the surrounding states, and we spent the day doing all of her favorite things. We piled up in one of her friend’s SUVs as we traveled from vineyard to vineyard with the Hamilton soundtrack playing in the background.
Sarah and her college friends have a deep-rooted love for Thomas Jefferson – or TJ as they refer to him – because they all went to the University of Virginia. Unbeknownst to me (and probably to them) at the time, Thomas Jefferson was a bad guy in the show they couldn’t stop talking about.
After saying goodbye to Sarah, I queued up the Hamilton soundtrack on my three-hour drive home to see what all the fuss was about. With no expectations, I gasped at the first lines – “how does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman…” – and put both hands on the steering wheel so I could pay attention to the fiery, fast lyrics.
The show details the professional and personal life of forgotten founding father Alexander Hamilton. The definition of an underdog, he immigrates to America in time for the Revolutionary War and quickly wins the trust of George Washington and the Continental Army. After helping win the war, he serves as our nation’s first Secretary of Treasury, establishes the nation’s first bank, and makes enemies with Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr (the latter being the fool that shot him).
Since then, I’ve talked at length to everyone I know about Hamilton. Some conversations were nonstarters – Kevin asked if it was like Schoolhouse Rock when I described it as a history lesson set to rap music. (Yeah, if “How A Bill Becomes a Law” dropped the f-bomb). Some were met with equal enthusiasm.
So when Leigh asked me if I wanted to tag along with her and her daughter on a whirlwind trip to Chicago last week, I didn’t think twice about buying my ticket. We left North Carolina early Wednesday morning, spent the day walking around the Shedd Aquarium then walked down from our hotel room to the lobby of the CIBC Theatre right before showtime. I must say, I will always book a room at a theater if it has a hotel attached to it. Talk about convenience.
As we sat down, I was hesitant that the show wouldn’t live up to my expectations. It wasn’t the original cast. We weren’t in New York City. I wondered if I had just built it up in my head. But as the lights went down and the music started, I quickly forgot those worries because this cast made the show their own.
The reason I love this show is that it was inspired by one book (much like my one of my other dear loves, Harry Potter). One book inspired a movement and made history an exciting, living thing in reimagined packaging. It’s thought-provoking, entertaining, and relevant. The issues on the table then mirror some of the same issues we face today just with fewer dueling grounds and more cell phones.
If you have an opportunity to see Hamilton, or if you haven’t listened to the soundtrack, go see it or turn it on. You don’t want to throw away your shot.