After two years of waiting, it finally happened. I got to be in the room where it happened.
I vividly remember the first time I listened to Hamilton. My sister, a broadway fanatic, kept insisting that I listen to it and when it started streaming on Spotify, I gave in. During my walk that day I put my headphones in and started from song one. It was good. Definitely an interesting concept. Then I got to song three and heard Lin-Manuel Miranda rap I’m just like my country, I’m young, scrappy, and hungry and my jaw dropped. I say this without hyperbole: it was one of the best lyrics I’d ever heard. Catchy, vivid, and unforgettable. It set the scene for what promised to be a completely unique perspective on the founding of our country.
Look, there’s nothing I can say about Hamilton that hasn’t already been said. It’s a cultural touchstone. It’s been the subject of probably hundreds of thinkpieces and podcasts and even research studies. But I will say that even after all the hype, after listening to the cast recording forward and backward and sideways and shuffled until I knew it by heart, seeing it performed in person still exceeded my expectations.
It is a marvel of set, lighting, and sound design. In spite of the 2.5+ hour run time, the pacing didn’t once slow down. It fixated the audience from first note to last. The cast infused emotion into the story that surprised and moved me even though I thought I was prepared for all the tearjerking moments. I didn’t just cry — I sobbed.
I want to sing the praises of the LA cast for a moment.
Emmy Raver-Lampman as Angelica took my breath away. As much as I loved the cast recording, her performance broke my heart in ways that listening to the show never managed to. She was everything Angelica should have been: smart and sassy but deeply emotional. To me, hers was the standout performance of the evening.
Joshua Henry, who played Aaron Burr, deftly pulled off the vocal acrobatics the part demanded and even threw in a couple extra tricks that had me wanting to jump out of my seat. His take of The Room Where It Happened brought the house down. I thought for a minute a standing ovation would break out then and there. They had to push on in spite of the audience’s enthusiastic cheering, otherwise we might have clapped all night. His Aaron Burr’s journey from restraint to ruthless ambition was compelling and sympathetic.
Jordan Donica delivered as Lafayette/Jefferson. He stole every scene he was in with great physical energy and perfect comedic timing. Not only that, but his rapping and singing were both flawless. I was wishing for more of him by the end.
Finally, Michael Luwoye in the titular role was an intense and forceful Hamilton. On the cast recording, Miranda’s Hamilton is a little more manic — over-caffeinated, almost. Luwoye’s Hamilton was angry and determined, his ambition practically a visible aura around him. He didn’t miss a single note, and his energy never faded. It was a beautiful performance.
I could go on, because every cast member owned their parts and made for an incredible show. The only other thing I will note is that the ensemble made a dynamic character all its own. The choreography was so smooth and in sync, and the vocal support they provided was subtle but very powerful. The ensemble manages to be a star all on its own merit.
All I can really say is, if you’re in the area go see the show. Download the Hamilton app and enter the lottery. Find a way in. You need to be in the room where it happens. This is a once in a lifetime chance to see history being made, both figuratively and literally. There has never been a show like this. Anything that tries to be like it will be derivative. In twenty years, you’ll want to say you were there.
I want to emphasize that twice if you’re a creator of any kind. You cannot walk out of that theater feeling inspired to create. Hamilton challenges you to consider your legacy — to consider what you’re here to do and how you’re going to approach it. Lin-Manuel Miranda is a creative genius, and there’s nothing more inspiring as a creator of any kind than to be exposed to that greatness.
Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote Hamilton. Hamilton wrote the other 51. What are you going to write?