After over two years of falling in love with this musical through the Original Broadcast Cast Recording, Bethany and I were lucky enough to be able to see Hamilton on their traveling tour through Denver.
The fact that we were seeing Hamilton didn’t really set in until we were sitting in the theater and seeing the set. I was really anxious to see whether the live performances would invoke the same emotional responses that I got from listening to the album (and I’ll freely admit that I cried the first time I heard Dear Theodosia and still get emotional when I hear Yorktown). I was also curious just how much my internal rhythm would be thrown off with the traveling cast, after being conditioned with the rhythm of the original cast performing the musical in a recording studio.
It’s important to note that the Soundtrack is basically the entire musical. You can count on 1 hand the lines of dialog that aren’t on the recording (minus a song that was intentionally left off as an Easter Egg for those who attend the show – but trust me, that song doesn’t take away from the musical experience.
I’m happy to say that the performance was everything I had hoped for. It delivered every bit the passion, enthusiasm, and character that was present in the recordings. The visual elements, however, added a whole other perspective that couldn’t be conveyed in the over 200 times I’ve listened to the soundtrack. There are some amazing comedic elements that are portrayed through body language and choreography. The other thing that took me by surprise was the transitions between songs, which helped give a sense of just how much time and emotion carried over to the events in the next song. For example, the Cabinet battles seemed to come out of nowhere and really drove home the fact that Hamilton and Jefferson were constantly at odds with each other. Also, the way Say No To This drove straight into The Room Where It Happens clearly depicted the tension Hamilton was feeling as the pressure was building.
Before the show, Bethany and I set an over/under on the number of times we’d cry during the show. I set my number to at least 4 times and blew that out of the water with getting teary-eyed at virtually every other song. The performances that were emotional for me included:
- My Shot (caught me by surprise, probably tears of joy)
- Wait For It
- That Would Be Enough
- History Has Its Eyes on You
- Dear Theodosia (this one pretty much always cues waterworks)
- Take a Break (depicting just how badly turning down the Schuyler Sisters weighed on Hamilton)
- One Last Time
- Stay Alive – Reprise into It’s Quiet Uptown = Bawling like a baby
- Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story
One other thing that caught me off guard was just how many people weren’t really aware of Hamilton, the story, or the soundtrack. Granted, the Denver Center of Performing Arts wanted to reward season ticket holders with first offering of the tickets (which is why we got to go, through the generosity of Bethany’s parents), but the flip side of that were a lot of theatre fans that really knew nothing about Hamilton except for the hype around it. During intermission, I overheard one guy saying “I didn’t expect to be this much hip-hop”. I think there were other people there who knew it was culturally significant, but again probably didn’t take away as much as they could.
If you are lucky enough to get to see Hamilton: please, please, please listen to the soundtrack a few times through, especially if you’re not accustomed to rap. There is so much depth and richness, as well as historical references depicted in the songs, making it easy for it to fly in and out of unaccustomed ears. There is so much information packed into each song that it makes it very hard to take it in. In fact, after listening to the soundtrack, check out a great Podcast breaks down all of the backstory and historical references in each song: The Hamilton Podcast on Graphomania
Lastly, if you’re a Hamilton fan and have not had the opportunity to see it live, please don’t fret. I know it’s easy for me to say, but I sincere that while seeing it live offered new insights and enhancements, it wasn’t world-changing in my appreciation of Hamilton. The theatre that’s playing in your mind while listening to the songs does a great job of telling the story.