Warning: This post contains Hamilton spoilers.
My Christmas gift from my husband was a trip to NYC to see Hamilton on Broadway. I type out that sentence still hardly believing that is in fact what I was given and that was, in fact, what happened just a month ago.
When I first started listening to Hamilton back in August, I was immediately hooked. As I said in my previous post, Lin Manuel-Miranda has my undying respect & adoration. I love In The Heights. The episode of House he was in: the only truly good episode of House. Lin loves his fans and peers and is humble despite the daunting amount of acclaim and fame he has received since In The Heights and, more recently, from Hamilton, the musical most often described as "a hip-hop musical about the Founding Fathers, but mostly about Alexander Hamilton, and is narrated by the man who shot him, Aaron Burr." Like Teyve says, "Sounds crazy, no?" But it works. No more ink need be spilled on its success and all the famous folk that see it each and every day; instead, the bulk of this post is to share my experience at the theater and divulge some of what happened on stage in those three hours.
Like so many others, I have memorized the lyrics of Hamilton and staged the musical in my head, wondering how each scene played out and how it would look on that beautiful set, designed by David Korins. I've made my own share of fan art for Hamilton and there are so many other beautiful pieces of art dedicated to this new show. And I would say the majority of them come straight from the artists' imagination, having not seen the musical, only working from reference photos from the actors' Instagrams and from Google searches. I love that. I love that we all have a version of Hamilton in our heads once we listen to the soundtrack.
I would like to warn you, before you read further, about the content of this post. On my flight back home, I took nine pages of notes that I stored in my head while watching Hamilton. I did this because I didn't want to forget anything I may have retained as I sat entranced in my theater seat in the balcony. I also did it because I wanted to share all the beautiful, wonderful details of the production with my husband, who loves the musical as much as I do. The reason I am posting my notes here is solely if you're curious about it, too. If you'd like to know how King George is lit on stage and how he acts in You'll Be Back, and if you want to know how Satisfied is staged, and if you'd like to know if Daveed Diggs really is that wonderful or if it's all a hoax (spoiler: he is that wonderful & I love him.) I'm not posting this to spoil the show for you or to steal the magic of live theater. I'm the kind of person who loves to read all I can before I see a musical. I do that so I can create art and talk about it with others and imagine it in my head as I listen. If you don't like to do that, please don't read this. Another warning, I took no notes during the production, I simply enjoyed it. This means I do not have clear recollections of every moment. There were certain things that stood out that I was able to recall clearly.
DECEMBER 13, 2015: HAMILTON AT THE RICHARD RODGERS THEATRE
I enjoyed NYC in the company of my friends Kristie & Teddi, and we three arrived at the Richard Rodgers theatre about 30 minutes before showtime, tickets in hand. We were surprised by how long the line was just to get into the theatre and that there were officers outside and a security checkpoint just inside the door. I wasn't certain if this was common practice in all NYC theatres, only necessary for Hamilton because of its popularity, or because someone important was in the audience that night. It turns out that the last option was the reason for heightened security; the president of Israel was in the audience that afternoon and his attendance resulted in Lin-Manuel himself stepping in to play Alexander Hamilton for this Sunday matinee. Javier Muñoz was scheduled to be Hamilton and, as a musical-loving woman totally floored to even be in that theatre, I was happy to see Javier's Hamilton. I'm sure he's awesome. I will never know though because I got to see Manuel's Hamilton, which was a dream come true.
I sat next to a lovely older woman named Elisabeth up in the balcony. She has seen Hamilton when it was in previews at the Public Theatre in Boston, and she was eager to see how Hamilton had evolved since then. I tell you, she was so wonderful to sit next to. Cute as a button and just as excited to be there as I was. She also shushed the people around us during the musical, which I totally appreciate because I lack the nerve to do it myself. When I first sat down next to Elisabeth, we started chatting and I told her I was from St. Louis and just how ecstatic I was to be there. We talked about how long it took us to get through security downstairs. I'm settling in and have not yet cracked open my Playbill when Elisabeth says, "Yes, well I believe the president of Israel is in the audience tonight... I'm not sure what his name is but I definitely heard he was here. And the young man who made this play is going to be in it tonight." I froze. "Elisabeth, you are kidding me right now. You are lying to me." It slipped from my mouth, but Elisabeth nodded and smiled, "Yes, he'll be in it tonight." I tore open my Playbill and right on the insert, there it was. Lin's name. My heart soared. Rainbows came out my ears. I immediately texted my husband to tell him my good fortune and unbelievable luck and he texted back his excitement for me.
My hands were shaking fifteen minutes before the musical even started. I had anticipated this moment, dreamt about it, imagined it every day since I learned I was going. Ever since August, I fell asleep with Hamilton songs in my head, and woke up to a different one playing in my head (I think this is a common occurrence among those whom love this musical.) And then it began.
For purposes of imaginging these numbers as you read, I am including this diagram of the stage and will use the following abbreviations to explain some of the staging. DSL (downstage left), DSC (downstage center), DSR (downstage right), SL (stage left), SC (center stage), SR (stage right), USL (upstage left), USC (upstage center), USR (upstage right), all action on the Platforms will be written like this: PDSR (platform downstage right), PUSC (platform upstage center), etc.
Alexander Hamilton: All actors begin the musical in their white chorus costumes. If I'm not mistaken, I believe all characters/members wear this under any other costuming, such as Elizabeth's blue dress, Hamilton's green overcoat, Jefferson's velvety red overcoat, etc. DSL, there is a something akin to a boat cleat, where you would tie the rope connecting the boat to the dock. This alludes to Hamilton's time spent in St. Croix, where the exposition to the musical is explained. This leaves the stage after Hamilton arrives in America. It should be noted that the choreography throughout this entire musical is extraordinary. There is action happening on the platforms and all over the stage; beautiful, expressive movements that deserve every award imaginable for its part in telling the story. There is absolutely no way I could describe all of the ensemble movement during each song. Memorable parts: "moved in with a cousin, the cousin committed suicide", an ensemble member stands on a chair CS, circles their hand around their neck indicating the placement of a rope then thrusts their fist up and hangs their head to mimic the suicide. During this song, at "bow of a ship, headed for a new land", many ensemble members are mimicking tying up satchels and slinging them onto their backs as they prepare to depart for America, all in unison.
Aaron Burr, Sir: Street lamps are wheeled onto the stage around the perimeter of the turntable and Burr is reading a book when Hamilton walks determinedly up to him for their introduction. These lamps move as the scene changes to a pub scene, with Hercules Mulligan sitting on a bench at a wooden table, thumping out the beats to their own introductions with his fist. Lafayette has one leg up on the bench and leans on his knee while he bounces to the beat. Diggs' hair is tied back when he plays Lafayette (as opposed to free & flowing majestically as Thomas Jefferson in Act II) and he is usually grinning or smirking good-naturedly. Hercules wears a large gray beanie and a long, sweeping dark blue overcoat.
My Shot: One of my absolute favorite songs and I was so entranced by it, I memorized basically nothing. When Hamilton tells Mulligan "I think your pants look hot!" I remember that he kinda flashes his leg at the audience and grins. For Lafayette's solo, he's standing on the bench with a leg up on the table and screws up his face as he debates on how to pronounce "anarchy." After his declaration, you can see him still mulling over the word, debating if he actually pronounced it correctly and then he shrugs his shoulders and pays attention to Mulligan.
There is a transitional song between My Shot and The Story of Tonight, it's a reprise of My Shot but sung drunkenly by the men as the ensemble leaves and the stage turns blue to indicate moonlight.
The Story of Tonight: The men lean on each other, slouched and struggling to stay standing straight but Laurens composes himself to sing out "raise a glass to freedom" and the men realize the sobriety of the moment and the importance of this group forming.
The Schuyler Sisters: The turntable begins to rotate as Burr struts across the stage and the street lamps may enter again (not sure). The Schuyler sisters enter from the doorway USL; Angelica (Renee Elise Goldsberry) and Eliza (played that evening by understudy, Alysha Deslorieux) are buzzing and excited to be in the city, while Peggy begrudgingly joins in for their excursion. Jasmine Jones plays Peggy so well and during this song, I found Peggy was more timid and anxious than how she sounds on the cast album, like Phillip Schuyler is around every corner; on the album she sounds brattier and petty. By the end of the song, Peggy seems to forget the trouble they could get in and joyfully joins her sisters in the moment. When Burr reenters in the song for his conversation with Angelica, Angelica is walking on the center track of the turntable while the outer track spins the opposite way with Burr walking on it. He glides by her but stops when he says "Oooooh, there's nothing like summer in the city..." and begins to backtrack to "catch up" to Angelica who is stopping for no one. The tracks come to a stop so the "I'm a trust fund, baby, you can trust me" line is delivered standing still and way too close to Angelica for her to condone. He sisters flank her as she tells Burr off with the words of Thomas Paine. When the sisters sing in a round, they are in the middle of the turntable, rotating while the turntable spins around them as ensemble members dance, creating the busy, bustling feel of the greatest city in the world. I didn't want this number to end.
Farmer Refuted: Samuel Seabury emerges DSL and stands on a wooden box with scroll to scold the revolutionaries. Burr, Hamilton, Mulligan, Laurens and Lafayette listen DSR until Alexander can no longer help himself and explodes towards Seabury, even standing on the block with him looking over Seabury's shoulder at the scroll while he mercilessly tears apart the refute, trying to inch Seabury off the block but Seabury stands his ground. Seabury reacts nervously, unsure just how volatile Hamilton is feeling. Two redcoats enter, one from each side of the stage to announce that the King has something to tell the colonists.
You'll Be Back: I cannot fully describe just how brilliantly Jonathan Groff takes advantage of his stage time. The King's mannerisms change from song to song, becoming a little less dignified each time. But for You'll Be Back, George is dead center, illuminated in red, with a projected pattern of a rose window framing him in a scarlet circle. He hardly moves in the song. It is solely his voice that conveys his cold, pitiless disposition towards the rebellion. This was so surprising to me as the song sounds like he should be skipping across the stage, his robes bundled in his hands as he plots America's demise. No. He is completely in control of every movement he makes. They are calculated movements, so slow that they seem threatening. At one point, it takes him about 15 seconds to lower his scepter from resting on both palms to the bottom resting on the floor directly in front of him. He then raises his other hand, it slowly forms a fist and then comes to a rest on top of his other hand. That sounds like really simple movements. But it is the pace at which he does it that conveys this collected rage at being defied, combined with cool disbelief that America has any chance against his power. The couple in front of me travelled from London to see Hamilton and they were just losing their minds at this song, they were laughing the entire time.
Right Hand Man: YES. GEORGE WASHINGTON. CHRIS JACKSON. Washington enters from USL, he is not lit and he comes to USC, he turns his back to the audience and awaits his introduction from Burr, with a wide stance. As soon as Burr says "Geoooooorge Washington," he unsheathes his sword and forcefully turns around to address his troops and tell them the bare truth. Chills. Memorable part: He crosses to DSR for "Can I be real a second?" and is lit in blue. When he sings "men are all linin' up", about six or seven ensemble members line up to his left, stretching to DSL, mimicking the writing of letters. Leading up to Washington's "But! the elephant is in the room" the members pass a mimicked letter from the far left, rapidly approaching Washington but as soon as it reaches him he says "But!" and puts up his hand to stop it in its tracks. When Washington offers the position to Hamilton, he is extending a white quill to him and Alexander gazes intensely at it while the ensemble whispers "I am not throwing away my shot." He snatches the quill after he echoes "I am not throwing away my shot."
A Winter's Ball: DSR, Burr and Hamilton are "reliable with the LADIES!!" and gesture, flirt with a ensemble member; Hamilton breaks the fourth wall to tell the audience "that's true" and grins. Hamilton and Burr scoot on their heels to DSL, saying "hey, hey, hey, hey" to the audience members; I would presume to women but, who knows.
Helpless: Is it just me or do you make some sort of chest movement when Eliza sings, "then you walked in and my heart went BOOM." Maybe it's just me. Eliza doesn't make any sort of movement with that word, she's just sort of swaying to the side while she sings. Line: "grind to the rhythm as we wine and dine", couples in the ballroom grind on each other (as would happen in 1780, right? Haha!) and Angelica comes to Eliza DSC, Eliza motions to Hamilton who is on the staircase SR. Angelica saunters over to Hamilton and lays her hand on his arm and then slowly points back to Eliza whose whole stature shifts from tense to relieved once Hamilton's eyes meet hers. They have their first conversation DSR and then at "one week later", the Schuyler sisters are grouped DSC, excitedly looking at Ham's letters, both Peggy & Eliza holding a letter and bouncing up and down girlishly. Angelica stands between the two of them and playfully snatches both the letters from their hands as she says "I'm just saying if you really loved me you would share 'im." At "two weeks later", the sisters sit on a bench SR, gazing USL toward Phillip and Hamilton. Phillip is sitting in a chair and Hamilton stands in front of him, mouthing his desire to propose and both glide slowly on the outer track of the turntable to USC. Once they shake hands, Hamilton does this goofy little victory dance then runs over to Eliza to take her hands. At the end of the song, the scenery changes and couples emerge from the sides for the wedding ceremony. A veil is placed on Eliza's head and platforms with candles on them are wheeled in from SR, lanterns are lowered from the ceiling to imitate some sort of banquet hall. Mulligan is indeed the flower girl and tosses rose petals over his head with a deadpan stare toward the audience. Helpless ends with Hamilton and Eliza kissing at the end of their marriage ceremony.
Satisfied: By far, one of the BEST numbers. After the kiss, glasses are brought to lips for the toast and mannerisms are less formal, more relaxed as they prepare to party. Angelica hits center stage and freezes as "rewind, rewind" plays on a track. She does not sing this; at least it did not appear she did from my spot in the balcony. Everyone else is on the turntable and they begin to turn counter-clockwise as "rewind" repeats, set pieces are sent back into the wings and the women are twirled and lifted up in the air to bring you back to the choreography for A Winter's Ball, Eliza's veil comes off, all the action is sucked off to the sides of the stage as Angelica begins to sing and the stage is reset for the ball where they first met. Renee has the most clean, pure voice. If you think she sounds flawless on the album, she exceeds perfection when it is live. Alexander meets her CS, takes her hand and kisses it. As they converse, Hamilton is very forward and flirtatious, as close to her as Burr was in her opening number, except this time she does not stop the advances. They are very close to one another, it's a very intimate meeting and despite the impropriety, Angelica returns the flirtation. Eliza is DSR to sing "helpless", the same place she was during her song. By the time we get to "number one", we are at the same staging of the introduction of Hamilton to Eliza in Helpless. Angelica leads Hamilton from staircase up to Eliza. A light hits Angelica for "number one" and she begins. Hamilton and Eliza stay frozen, facing away from Angelica but the ensemble is dancing in the background. I think during "I know my sister like I know my own mind", we are back at the spot where Eliza and Peggy and giggling over Ham's letters, and this time when Angelica snatches the letters, it feels like a jealous action rather than playful. This return to that action was brilliant because she may have taken the letters the exact same way, but this time you realize her desire to possess the letters, to possess Hamilton. The scene quickly returns to the wedding reception during the short piano interlude and Angelica returns to her toast. One of the most beautiful scenes I have ever seen.
The Story of Tonight Reprise: I don't remember anything remarkable about this transitional song to Wait For It, but there was roaring laughter after Hamilton's mumbled "oh shit" about Burr's "special someone on the side" being married. Honestly, that's everyone's favorite part.
Wait For It: I was once again surprised at the lack of movement in this song. But I was most pleasantly surprised, as the magnetism of Leslie's voice is all you need for this song. There is some ensemble dancing at the end but it's very controlled and individual rather than the group numbers full of interactions and crossing. Leslie Odom, Jr. has the most heavenly voice. Much like the King, Burr's movements are calculated and purposeful, as well. He is the one thing in life he can control, and you can see that in the way he carries himself.
Stay Alive: I was still marveling over Wait For It and missed some action that occurred DSR, but the gunshot sound at the beginning of the sound is, in fact, someone being shot DSR but I couldn't tell you if it was a rebel or a Redcoat. Judging by the way the war was going at that point, I would assume it was an American. Alexander is sitting in a chair with his lap desk, writing the letter to Congress but rises after "we have resorted to eating our horses." He meets Washington USC. Mulligan, Lafayette and Laurens cross paths on stage and a map is produced USC by an ensemble member, Hamilton sings "cut supply lines, we steal contraband" as they review the map. Washington promotes Charles Lee DSR and Lee puts his hands on his hips and exclaims "Wheeeeee!", which is one of the silliest parts of the musical and I just love that it's in one of the most serious songs. Is it a reference to Leisl in The Sound of Music? I feel that's something Lin would do. Anyway, the choreography for the attack is very dynamic, all the ensemble members are in diagonal lines from USL to DSC, advancing on Lee who is panicking at the sight of him. Washington and Hamilton are USR watching the action and Hamilton cuts through the lines to run for Lafayette. Charles Lee spits his venom PUSC down at the revolutionaries.
Ten Duel Commandments: Almost every commandment has a light cue coordinated with the beat. Do you understand just how complex and difficult that is? I was floored. Whenever the Doctor's "deniability" is mentioned in the musical, the Doctor turns his face away and puts his hand up toward the duelers. When they sing about adrenaline, all the members on stage make jagged motions over their hearts, like their heartbeat is interrupting their breathing. Alexander directs his "inexperienced and ruinous" line directly at Lee who bristles and sneers and then focuses on Laurens.
Meet Me Inside: Beginning from "Lee, do you yield?", the lines following up to Washington's controlled rage of "Meet me inside" are all shouted which seems more natural than the conversational/panicked tone on the album. When Washington comes on stage and sees what has taken place, he takes off his hat and gives a slight bow as he apologizes to Lee on behalf of his men. Washington & Hamilton speak DSL. Washington's tone is pleading, he's almost begging Hamilton to understand the weight of his decisions and the importance of his role. Once Washington sends him home, Hamilton's mannerisms and tone become so bashful and apologetic. He drags his feet, head hanging, to USL to Eliza and a bench.
That Would Be Enough: Eliza has a small pregnant belly and Alexander slumps down onto the bench for the majority of the song. Eliza sits next to him and sings to him. Hamilton looks completely whipped, with the weight of the world on his shoulders, and you can see him ease into the arms of Eliza as her words act like a balm. Alexander hangs his head as he listens to Eliza, his eyes don't leave her and you can't see them, as he is looking slightly upstage toward her. There is not a lot of staging in this number and it's a deserved break for Lin who has not stopped moving since Wait For It.
Guns and Ships: Awwwww yisssss. Everyone's favorite song. Burr singing PDSL and jumps up on the lowest railing and leans over toward the audience to shout down "Everyone give it up for America's FAVORITE fightin' FRENCHMANNNNN!" Diggs jumps up on the table and at some point LEAPS off and lands on stage while he continues that ungodly fast rapping (I'm sure you've seen the picture of Diggs jumping if you have googled Diggs... I mean, I totally haven't.)
History Has Its Eyes On You: Washington extends a sword to Hamilton at the end of this commissioning, in the same manner he extended the quill to him in Right Hand Man.
Yorktown: Hamilton and Lafayette are DSR and share that immigrant high-five. Eliza passes behind them on the PUSL to PUSR at the mention of her, her belly significantly larger. Right before Mulligan's entrance, the ensemble members are dancing with their revolutionary blue coats and they sling them toward USC where Mulligan is crouching and then fling them back toward DSC and Mulligan jumps out from behind them to reveal "HERCULES MULLIGAN!!!!". You can watch most of the scene here.
What Comes Next?: The King's tone and mannerisms are a little less controlled because he is simply indignant that the colonies have slipped away from him. He is standing DSL in red light. When he says "I'm so blue!" he stamps his scepter on the ground and the light immediately changes from red to blue. I don't know why this was so funny, I think it just caught us all off-guard. I did look around in the audience and absolutely no one was looking at anything except Jonathan Groff. I'm telling you, he had everyone's rapt attention because he is that magnetic as King George. After he sings "You're on your own...." there is usually that Menken-esque note to conclude the song but instead there was a long pause which Groff held until he saw fit, glaring out into the audience. Everyone waited. He then gave a nonchalant shrug, the ending note was played, and he quickly skulked offstage. Brilliant.
Dear Theodosia: Burr enters with a chair and places it in between DSC and DSR, facing the audience and singing right to the audience, standing behind the chair. It's like the chair is being used as the side of a crib and we are Theodosia, so we get to see all the adoration and wonder in his eyes. He sits down on the chair eventually, but I'm not sure when. Alexander does this same staging in between DSC and DSL. Both men look completely smitten with their firstborns.
There is a transitional piece not included on the cast album after Dear Theodosia, entitled Tomorrow There'll Be More of Us. You can read the entire scene here; Lin furnished it to us way back when. Laurens sings US in his white chorus costume and exits in the USL door, which I have labeled The Exit Door. Usually when a character makes their final exit, they exit through this door.
Non-Stop: When Alexander says "Burr worked next door" it is extremely dry and directed right at the audience so we can see just how unenthused he is. Stage is transformed into a courtroom on the turntable. Burr has his feet up on the desk, singing at Ham. Desk is moved USC and Hamilton stands on it to sing "Corruption's such an old song...". When he says "I was chosen for the Constitutional Convention!" he steps gingerly down from the desk, onto a chair, and to CS with his fists up by his shoulders in glee. Chairs form around him CS as he explains his financial plan and two ensemble members deliver the "Bright young man! Yo, who the eff is this?" lines DS of Alex on the outer track of the turntable. The conversation between Burr and Alexander occurs USR; the stage is lit blue and golden light pours from the doorway USR that Burr comes from to greet Alexander "outside." Hamilton doesn't stay at the end of the conversation to hear Burr's rebuttal of "I'll keep all my plans close to my chest", he is barreling to exit SL, frustrated that Burr won't help him. Hamilton reenters from the USL door with Angelica on his arm. They cross to DSC and Eliza joins them from USR. Angelica says "don't forget to write" as the outer track of the turntable carries her away back to USL and the track comes to a rest. Eliza sings to Alexander as they cross back to USR. Three chairs are placed on stage, backs to the audience, one SR, one USC, and one SL as Burr explains The Federalist Papers. Lights shine down on each chair and Alexander sits in the USC chair, back to the audience. The song swells for "the other 51!" and Alexander rises and crosses to SR chair while the ensemble brings Alexander a writing surface to hold up over his lap as he continues to write. Washington appears PUSL, singing down to Hamilton, "Treasury or State?". Hamilton looks up and speaks up to him from CS and cracks a grin when he replies, "Lez go." Eliza sings from PUSR and during the round of singing at the end of Non-Stop, the SL platform that Washington is on is the top of the staircase that is wheeled to CS and connected to the platform there (the rail at PUSC flips over so the stairs can connect seamlessly). Washington descends the staircase and Alexander runs up to replace him at the top, PUSC. Washington stands at the bottom and Burr is downstage from Washington by the time Alexanders shouts out, "I am not throwing away my shot!"
I take my hands from my face and my cheeks hurt from smiling. Time has never flown this quickly. And I have to pee SO BAD. A little quick fact about the Richard Rodgers Theatre: the only bathrooms are in the lobby and when you are sitting in the balcony the line will be very, very long by the time you get down all the flights of stairs. Use the bathroom beforehand. I just turned on my heel and went right back up those stairs.
Elisabeth and I geeked out over just how good this was. I asked her if she noticed any differences between the Hamilton she saw at The Public Theatre and what it is now. She said the biggest difference was how King George was played. She said the King used to be played rather idiotically and overtly funny; she said the former method was funny in itself but this new direction was so, so much better.
The guy to my left added his two cents in that he didn't like rap and that some parts were indiscernible. He also added he was a semi-professional drummer and the mix in the room was poor. Here is my two cents about that kind of attitude. Don't share it. Hamilton is the most coveted ticket on Broadway. I would say 98% of the people in the audience whole-heartedly want to be there, to experience every bit of it and savor it. Read the room. If the room is buzzing with excitement and smiling faces and emphatic hand gestures implying just how much they love this show, don't poop on everyone's happiness. I may have been sitting next to the only person in that theatre that didn't really want to be there. Jog on!
What'd I Miss: Enter the beautiful cinnamon roll, Daveed Diggs. Jefferson debuts at the top of the staircase where Alexander last appeared. The staircase is wheeled so it is diagonal across the stage, and the majority of the number can be watched here. Jefferson is the definition of swagger. Diggs is always on the balls of his feet, bouncing around the stage but not in the fun, airy manner of Lafayette. Jefferson moves with extreme confidence and assuredness of his place in society, in politics, in his Monticello. He blows kisses out into the audience. Madison enters DSR, coughing into a handkerchief. I am not this far into the Alexander Hamilton biography to know why Madison is ill - but he is often coughing into his handkerchief throughout the show. Madison's mannerisms are tense and his movements and gait are stiff and stuffy. I love how Oak gets to play the boundless powerhouse of Mulligan and then he seamlessly shifts gears into Madison.
Washington enters DSL to greet Jefferson. Alexander shoots by to get the first handshake. Washington is amused by this and chuckles, waiting his turn.
Cabinet Battle #1: Jefferson, Washington and Hamilton come to the edge of the stage and hype up the audience by pumping their arms and encouraging whoops and hollers (I did both.) Handheld microphones are brought out from a wooden box and handed to both Jeff and Ham. Jefferson begins his argument and Hamilton does not react to his disses until it's time for his side of the argument and then he musters up the most wonderfully patronizing tone to put Jefferson back into his place. When Hamilton says "while you were off gettin' HIGH with the FRENCH!" Jefferson shakes his head and shrugs him off, but not very convincingly. When Alexander says, "Madison, you mad as a hatter so take your medicine! Damn, you in worse shape than the national debt is in!" Madison is having another coughing fit. Once the battle wraps up, Washington crosses DSL while Madison & Jefferson gloat DSR. Alexander bears the mocking of Mad & Jeff and then crosses over to Washington and is verbally kicked there.
Take A Break: Eliza and Philip are at the piano on the outer circle of the turntable. Philip is half-heartedly doing his lesson, he is slouched over the keys with Eliza sitting next to him, patiently pointing to the keys he should be playing. I don't know if this is an obvious thing to note but young Philip is played by Anthony Ramos, who plays older Philip, as well. Ramos changes his mannerisms to be more childlike but you need to suspend your imagination a little bit for this one. On the opposite side of the turntable, Alexander is writing to Angelica and she is reading the letter on the US platform and crosses to the SR staircase. Eliza insists that Alexander join them at the piano and she stands behind the piano, Alexander stands SR to the piano while Philip stands in front. Eliza begins to beatbox and nods at Philip encouragingly. He bashfully begins his rap for his dad and as soon as Alexander reacts with that "WHAT!!", Philip's demeanor goes from embarrassed to emphatic as he bounces on his heels and delivers "Un deux trois QUATRE CINQ!!" leaning so far back you think he'll fall, shouting towards the heavens. Hilarious delivery, I never would have imagined it. Angelica's reply is read as she descends the staircase, twirling a parasol slowly on her shoulder. I believe she closes the parasol when she reaches the bottom and Eliza sings, "Angelica's arriving to todayyyy". The sisters' reunion is adorable, they run to each other and embrace center stage with high-pitched giggling that, truthfully, sounded much more genuine than what is recorded on the cast album. Eliza returns to Alex's arm as they speak with Eliza about John Adams. Once they learn Alexander will not be joining them at their father's house, Eliza flies from his arm to Angelica's as they begin to plead good-naturedly. They eventually separate to flank Alexander on each side so the pleading surrounds him. Angelica crosses US of him while delivering the "screw your courage to the sticking place" line, which is such a clever, sneaky way to allude to their private correspondence. He leaves them and crosses USR, back to his desk.
Say No To This: The stage darkens and the street lamps are brought back out. The desk remains still while the outer track of the turntable begins to spin counter-clockwise and Maria steps onto it with a steady, determined gait. She continues to walk, but against the movement of the turntable so that she remains in front, just DSL of Alexander and his desk.
When I imagined this scene, I suspected it would be a lot more tawdry than it actually was. The lyrics are certainly suggestive enough. I was so pleased that the lyrics conveyed the implied actions and we did not have to witness Hamilton completely ruin his life. At "let her legs spread and said", Maria is crossing SR, Alexander following, when she quickly turns around and grabs fistfuls of her dress and barely lifts up her dress. If she exposes anything, it's her ankles. SCANDAL. They draw towards each other DSC and kiss and she walks off SL. James Reynolds then appears to read off his letter to Hamilton. When he finishes, Hamilton crosses sharply USR where Maria drops to her knees and begs Hamilton not to leave her. Hamilton sits down on a chair CS and she sit down on his lap and places his hands, one around her waist and one around her chest.
"So?" There is a long, silent pause. Hamilton rises and crosses SL to give Reynolds an envelope. "Nobody needs to know." Maria rises and slowly walks past Hamilton, her gaze lingering on Alexander.
The Room Where It Happens: The song begins DSL with the wry conversation between Burr and Hamilton the general. Alexander exits US for the interaction with Thomas. I wish I could recollect more but I was entranced by Leslie, I'll admit it. I don't remember a lot. I do know that the lighting was especially memorable. Burr is illuminated by a square beam of light whenever he mentions the room where it happens. Sure, this could just allude to the title of the song but it's more than that, it represents just how singular Burr has become and just how consumed he is with desire. Whenever he is isolated by this light, it is when Burr is at the peak of his desire to have power, influence, and connection. "I've no one else to turn to" is delivered straight to the audience with a deadpan stare, quite the opposite of "begged me to join the fray". Line: "Madison is grapplin' with the fact that not every issue can be settled by committee": Madison walks up to a group of three ensemble members CSR, palms up, ready to assert a point when they deny him with their own palms and walk away; he is defeated. The "room" is a table in the middle that Hamilton, Jefferson and Madison congregate around throughout the song. Burr is constantly walking around this scene, on the outskirts of action and never influencing the outcome. When Burr is desperately questioning Hamilton as to why he gave up the capitol, he is shouting the questions around this table and Hamilton rises and crosses DS. Burr follows him to hear his answer and Hamilton mocks him by throwing "wait for it, wait for it, wait!" back at him, waving his hands sarcastically. Can you wave sarcastically? Well, Lin did. Leslie then breaks out these awesome dance moves and only he is illuminated and pointing at the sky for the "Click, BOOM", then the lights go out.
Schuyler Defeated: Philip & Eliza are up on PDSL reading the newspaper. Burr and Hamilton meet center stage, Burr kind of saunters on the stage while Hamilton is worked up into a state. While they fight, the ensemble prepares the stage for the the second Cabinet Battle.
Cabinet Battle #2: Hamilton looks wearier than ever. He once again does not react to any of Jefferson's venomous remarks. When it comes to the part about King Louis' head: "whose head is now in a basket" Hamilton gestures down towards his feet towards the invisible basket, he bends down and picks "it" up during "would you like to take it out and ask it?" Lin extends his fist out like he's holding the head by the hair for the question, "Should we honor our treaty King Louis' head?" He puts the fist over his own head to act as the severed head of King Louis for that beautiful line we all love so much: "Uh, do whatever you want, I'M SUPER DEAD."
When Washington shuts down the battle and orders Hamilton to "draft a statement of neutrality", a hush came over the audience followed by really quiet "oooh"s because it was like watching Jefferson get slapped in the face... verbally. The exchange between Jefferson and Hamilton has literally no pauses, the sharply spoken repartee is so well-paced and the start of one line is right on the heels of another, even the exchange of "What?" "You're nothing without Washington behind you." "Hamilton." "Daddy's calling." It seemed faster than the cast album, or just differently paced.
Washington On Your Side: Not gonna lie, Burr almost acts like the devil in this - at least that's what his mannerisms and suggestions reminded me of; it's like Thomas is on the brink of this decision and Burr's tempting comments push him over the edge. He seems to incite Jefferson, goading him towards what Burr really wants, which is the dethroning of Hamilton for certain Aaron Burrs to rise up. Madison enters rather abruptly at "which I wrote!" which made me laugh. It's like he walked in just to hear that something was being stirred up and he's like, "Lemme get in on this action."
One Last Time: Washington is at his desk CSR, on the outskirts of the turntable. Alexander is SL of the desk for the song. When he tells Hamilton "Thomas Jefferson resigned this morning", he hands over the letter of resignation which Hamilton snatches and starts to read over hungrily, proposing the next course of action. Washington fills two goblets and hands one to Hamilton during the "relax, have a drink with me" bit. For Washington's resignation letter, Hamilton crosses DSL to read off Washington's final goodbye, they slowly switch places as Washington has his last moment in the spotlight, DSC, belting those perfect notes that only Chris Jackson can hit.
I Know Him: At the end of the song, Washington slowly walks US toward the Exit Door and King George enters SL, dragging his scepter, slack-jawed, hip slightly jutted out as he witnesses Washington's regal exit. George is just so confused and frustrated by these Americans who can't seem to get their government together and settle on a leader. Groff sings until an ensemble member enters from SR to whisper in his ear about Washington's replacement: John Adams. He swats her away. Finally, when it sinks in just how unfortunate this choice of leader is, a bright grin sneaks across his face for "that poor man, they're going to eat him alive". He crosses DSR and the same ensemble member brings in a stool for him to sit on and places it in front of him. King George continues to sing but refuses to move two steps further to sit down at the designated stool and makes a motion that he is about to sit down precisely where he is standing and if she doesn't get the stool to his butt in time, heads will roll. She scrambles to move the stool and she places it just in time for him to sit and she is swatted away again. His singing does not miss a beat. For the final "lah di dah dah dah, diiie dah duh duh da da da"s, Groff is doing a silly little happy dance on the stool which he continues on for the beginning of...
The Adams Administration: Burr enters to frame the next era of Hamilton's life and Leslie breaks character for just a moment at the sight of Groff's goofy stool dance. Alexander is PUSC with a stack of newspapers, glaring at the front page and then delivers his "Sit DOWN John, you fat motherBEEEEP" and drops the stack of newspapers from the platform onto the stage; the set flashes red exactly when the newspapers hit the stage and the expletive is shouted. A desk is put out as Jefferson, Burr and Madison cross to confront Alexander.
We Know: Alexander is writing at his desk CSL when the three men saunter in. They accuse him of embezzling and Alexander writes them off until it dawns on him how he can prove his innocence. He crosses SL to a narrow set of drawers, where he retrieves the letter from James Reynolds and passes it to Burr. Thomas' eyes grow wide and he rushes over to Burr to snatch the letter and read the juicy details himself. Hamilton returns to his desk and challenges the men to check his records. Burr settles into a chair SR of the desk, facing US and slightly turned from Hamilton. "How do I know you won't use this against me the next time we go toe to toe?" Burr rises and crosses SR to exit. He turns back to Hamilton, facing US toward him, "Alexander, rumors only grow. And we both know what we know." Hamilton is left alone on stage, defeated.
Hurricane: Alex is CS, illuminated by blue light that is cast in a circular pattern that resembles a hurricane and echoes the shape of the turntable, Alexander in the center of both. The desk is brought in front of him and ensemble members form a semi-circle behind him and the desk as he raises his quill at "I'll write my way out" and slowly lowers it "wait for it, wait for it, wait for it, wait!". When the quill touches the paper we hear....
The Reynolds Pamphlet: Alexander remains standing behind his desk and Jefferson and Madison cross in front of it and dance; Jefferson does this bouncing scoot across the desk as he sings "Well he never gonna be president now!". I was a little distracted during this number because I was watching Jonathan Groff who was PUSR, reacting to the pamphlet. I could not help myself, Groff is just so funny. He descends the SR staircase and tosses pamphlets around Hamilton with the rest of the ensemble, doing little shoulder shimmies and celebratory dances across the stage and exits SL. I realize now I have missed most of the best part of this song because I was just watching Groff. I regret nothing.
Angelica enters USC and crosses to Hamilton CS, with luggage in tow. The desk has been removed so it is just the two of them. Hamilton seeks the comfort of Angelica and she shuts him down. They are in the same place where they had their intimate first meeting in Satisfied, but this time there is no flirtation or heat, just fury. She is as close to him in proximity as that first meeting and she gets close to his face to spit "God, I hope you're satisfied." Everyone exits, picking up the dozens of pamphlets that had been tossed around Hamilton.
Burn: The stage goes dark and is relit blue, a bench is placed DSR. Eliza enters with a lantern, letters and a pail. She sits down on the bench, the lantern next to her and the pail on the floor in front of her.
I cried, ughhhh. Her pain was palpable. It is just such a sad song. The first verse was so sadly sweet and her voice gave way to anguish by verse two. At "your sentences border on senseless", she rises and stands behind the bench and to DSR with the pamphlet and the letters. She suddenly has her resolve, to erase herself from the narrative, but her body and face look numb. She kneels next to the bench and the pail and shoves the letters into the lantern at "I'm watching it burn"; she brings her hand back out and holds the letters in her hand as they burn and then she drops them in the pail and the flames climb a bit over the pail then subside. She sings out to the audience the whole time, Hamilton is not even on stage. My favorite lines are "the world as no right to my heart, the world has no place in my bed, they don't get to know what I said" and they are directed right at the audience so you can see her eyes and it just breaks your heart. My heart. It broke.
Blow Us All Away: Philip enters from USC and is followed by a line of ensemble members who echo the pep in his step and his cocky gait. Philip has graduated college and is obviously the coolest kid around. He crosses to DSR to two ensemble women and he finds out where George Eacker is. A pseudo-play is set up CS with the actors facing DSL and some ensemble members are sitting in chairs, facing USR, watching the play. George Eacker and his buddy are PDSL, watching the play when Philip runs across and shouts up toward them from the stage. The play going on CS comes to a halt and the "actors" look taken aback and then they react with everyone else to the drama going down. The whistling after "piss off, I'm watching a show now" is when the stage is cleared and Hamilton enters with Philip. Alexander is now dressed in a black coat and he wears glasses; age and stress has a taken a toll on his body. He removes his pistols from a post SL and hands both to Philip for the duel, then exits. Philip holds both guns gingerly; the fire in his belly has been snuffed out and it's finally sinking in that he is about to risk his life. He is noticeably nervous. The ensemble forms the same rotating line formation that occurred during Ten Duel Commandments and Philip is shot DSC. He freezes, his pistol held weakly over his head. He falls slowly back into the arms of ensemble members who lift him up and place him on a table on the outer track of the turntable.
Stay Alive (Reprise): Hamilton runs to Philip and the table stops DSC. Eliza enters USC and rushes down to the table, grasping Philip in her arms. When Philip's heart stops, the beat stops and Eliza lets out a horrible, chilling scream. Since this isn't on the cast album, I don't think any of us were expecting it. And now when I listen to the soundtrack, I can hear that scream. It was haunting. Eliza collapses onto Philip, her head resting on his hip, and Hamilton stands limply next to her. Angelica enters DSL to sing and the turntable begins to move clockwise, bring the Hamiltons to USC.
It's Quiet Uptown: The streetlamps return to the stage and Ramos rises from table and leaves through The Exit Door. Hamilton sings CS and ensemble members are scattered around him, their backs to the audience. Lin sang this song like he was on the brink of tears throughout all of it. Eliza joins him CS and keeps an arm's length away. He reaches over to take her hand and she pulls her arm away. Our hearts break further. He sings to her and she softens slightly. Angelica's second verse is sung DSR. Eliza stands next to Hamilton and tentatively reaches for his hand, then steps over to his side and slips her arm through his. They walk away US, arm in arm. The audience finally relaxes. I attempt to stop crying.
The Election of 1800: Jefferson saunters in, breaking up the beautiful moment of forgiveness that we all just witnessed, but it's totally welcomed because the more we get to see Diggs, the better our lives are as a whole. Burr BURSTS onto the stage for his campaign with a huge grin and animated handshakes. When Hamilton meets up with him he throws his hands out to the side when he says "I'm going door to door!" and his arms slacken for "honestly, it's kinda draining". He drops this politician persona to solemnly tell Hamilton that he's not "waiting for it" anymore. The ensemble circles Hamilton with the campaign flyers of Jefferson and Burr, asking him to weigh on who is the best candidate. As the music heightens, Alexanders climbs the staircase and hit PUSC for his "YO! The people are asking to hear my voice". Burr is DSR and Jefferson & Madison are DSL, gazing out at the audience as they hear Hamilton's choice. When he declares it, Jefferson and Madison are startled but then begin celebrating. Burr barely moves but you can see the disappointment and disbelief on his face. He puts on a brave face and heads over to J & M. He extends his hand to congratulate them and Jefferson looks at it, looks him up and down, and laughs him off. Burr still has his hand extended, probably hoping this is a joke, the election was a bad dream and he'll wake up at any moment. When Jefferson tells him to thank Hamilton for him, it is so nasty it cuts through us all. Burr is left alone on stage and his disbelief and hurt dissolve into a resolve to take out the frustration of all his failures on Alexander Hamilton.
Your Obedient Servant: Burr crosses US to a desk and starts to write his first letter to Hamilton. He signs it with a flourish and passes it to an ensemble member behind his shoulder who delivers it to Ham and he starts his letter at the desk while Burr crosses DSR to listen to Ham. Line: "Here's an itemized list of thirty years of disagreements", Hamilton scribbles frantically and an ensemble member passes page by page by page over to Burr. Hamilton crosses DSL. Both men are facing out in the audience for the final correspondence and the duel declaration. The final letters are delivered to their prospective recipients on the lines "A. Ham... A. Burr".
Best of Wives and Best of Women: Hamilton sits on a chair DSL with his lap desk, penning his "note for his next of kin". Eliza comes to him with a shawl around her shoulders and wraps her arms around him. She says she's going back to bed and Hamilton catches her hand to tell her she is the "best of wives and best of women".
The World Was Wide Enough: Both men are in black cloaks, Hamilton is SR prepping for the duel. Burr is charging around the stage, explaining each duel commandment, lunging toward Hamilton, turning away as his emotions conflict with what he's already committed to do. The ensemble forms the line again for the countdown to the duel and the men aim at each other and the bullet leaves the gun. The bullet is personified by a female ensemble member who slowly makes her way toward Hamilton as he voices his inner monologue, her fingers pinched like she's holding the fatal blow in her hand. With each whir in the music, the bullet moves closer and more ensemble members enter, gathering around the bullet, moving en masse toward Hamilton. Alexander paces and distractedly even charges toward the bullet and then turns away a second before it touches him. The bullet is carried across the stage by ensemble members; she keeps the bullet at the same height as it inches toward him. The group finally dissipates when Hamilton cries out "Eliza!" and Eliza comes out and stands CS between Burr and Hamilton. Hamilton gazes at her. "Eliza, take your time. I'll see you on the other side." Eliza exits USR behind Burr and Hamilton takes a long pause. He lifts his pistol toward the sky slowly and gives his toast.
He is shot and he doubles over. He freezes, just like Philip. "They row him back across the Hudson", an ensemble members flank each side of him, mimicking rowing; they are all on the turntable and are being carried to USC, next to Angelica and Eliza. They stand on each side of him. Hamilton slowly crosses to the staircase USL and climbs it to the platform and exits behind the post PUSC.
Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story: Everyone is back to their white chorus costumes and scattered throughout the platform and stage. Eliza enters from USR. As she mentions the soldiers who fought with Hamilton, Washington, Angelica, they join her CS momentarily. Alexander finally enters from USR, gazing at Eliza as she sings and joins her by her side. Everyone stands behind Eliza as she hits her final mark DSC, "Oh, I can't wait to see you again. It's only a matter of time." She gazes up and out over the audience and as the ensemble finishes singing, she smiles.
AFTER THE SHOW
Everyone immediately stands for an ovation. There's no looking around wondering, "Hey, when do we stand up?" because this was unquestionably one of the best pieces of live theatre we have ever seen. I shake Elisabeth's hand, thank her for being a wonderful seat neighbor, and rush towards the stairs because there's another thing that's been on my mind all night. During Inktober, I did a drawing of Leslie Odom, Jr. as Aaron Burr. In November, he reposted it and said he liked it. That's enough for me to want to give it to him and since I was THERE and had the capability, I needed to get to that stage door.
I met my friends at the stage door and freaked out with them about what we'd just experienced. I was giddy. We all had our Playbills and Sharpies in hand as we eagerly awaited anyone who would come out the stage door. Since it was Lin's day off, I didn't expect him to make an appearance and he did not. I was fortunate enough to see him on stage, I was not holding my breath that he would spend time at the stage door on his day off.
The first talent to come out to see us was Eliza, Alysha Deslorieux. Followed by Chris Jackson, who immediately rendered me starstruck. That's BENNY. That's GEORGE WASHINGTON. We also got autographs from Betsy Struxness and Renee Elise Goldsberry - both very sweet and humble. And finally, Leslie came out and my stomach leapt up to my ears. I immediately regretted bringing my drawing. This was stupid. And creepy. I was a stupid, creepy person and I shouldn't give a stranger my drawing. And then I was like, pfft. Whatever. I can live with being creepy and stupid.
He was very kind and very appreciative. I tried to take a selfie with him but my hands were shaking too badly. A young lady next to me offered to take it and that's the perfect picture I have now. Thank goodness for her. And the two people smiling behind me are the friends I travelled with to see Hamilton. It's really the most perfect picture. I will not ever forget that night.
Hamilton was definitely the main event of our trip, but we had a great time checking out NYC at Christmastime. Stating the obvious: there are a LOT of extra people in New York City at Christmastime. A LOT.
If you made it to the end of this post, you are a warrior, scholar, gentleman, and a saint. Thanks for reading. If you saw Hamilton and can fill in the cracks on my memory with your own recollections, please leave a comment. If you wanna spit on me for spoiling something in Hamilton for you, please don't leave a comment but rather refer to the warning I gave at the top of the post. And if you don't know, now you know.