What can I say that hasn’t been said so many times before? The raves for Hamilton have been universal since it took the world by storm in 2015. Words like incredible, amazing, fantastic, have flown around, and I certainly can’t find any better ones to express what seeing Hamilton meant to me. However, I did see Hamilton yesterday, and before the feelings of joy and wonder fade in the daily grind of normal life, I’ll try somehow to tell about my experience.
I’ve been a subscriber to the Denver Theater company for the past three years. So, when it came time to renew last year, for the 2017-2018 season, I did so, though I still didn’t know what shows would be in the season. And then, I got the list, and I was thrilled and blown away to discover that Hamilton was coming here! Even if I didn’t get down to any other show in the season, the cost of my subscription would be well worth the price, just to get Hamilton. So, I’ve had my tickets, or at least my place for tickets for over a year. We didn’t actually get the physical tickets until about a month before the show.
So, yesterday was my day, March 10, 2018. For about two months, I’d been gradually counting down the days, putting out on twitter, sixty days, fifty-two days, forty-five days, twenty-nine, fifteen, and suddenly, it was less than ten days, less than a week, and I was down to counting hours! And then, yesterday dawned, and the day was upon me, at last!
I’d heard that the show was loud, and I’d heard the gunfire and cannons were loud, so I decided to leave my guide dog, Petunia, with a friend. As things turned out, I didn’t need to leave her. The cannons and guns weren’t very loud. I’d had her in the movie theater for the Last Jedi back in December, and if she could handle that, the sound effects in Hamilton wouldn’t have bothered her. But she had a fun day with my friend’s daughter, who just happens to be one of the people who raised her as a puppy, and she got to play with their dog, another golden retriever. And by leaving her with them, I didn’t have to worry and could just relax. Hmmm, well, relax is not exactly one of the many words I’d use to describe my reactions and attitude during the show!
My friend Sandie picked me up in the morning a little after 10:00. I’d gone out the day before and bought a new dress and shoes. I’d really wanted to find something to wear comparable to what women of the period might have worn, but that ended up being impossible, so I decided to forego my usual casual attire and dress up a bit. We stopped first at the vet office where Sandie works and had Petunia’s annual physical. We left her there with Sandie’s daughter for the day and started our drive down to the theater.
We arrived and got parked in plenty of time. We got an elevator up to the theater level right away and joined the throngs of people lining up to get in the theater lobby. The theater recently installed metal detectors, so we all had to go through that. Thankfully, when someone from the theater saw my white cane, they took us to the “accessibility entrance” where we were hand-wanded. My cane and my artificial joints would set off a normal metal detector. Once that was done, we handed in our tickets, and the attendant taking tickets verified them and promptly returned them to us, to keep as souvenirs. Not a stub, the whole ticket. We hurried over to the customer service counter to pick up my braille program and then headed for the elevator to go up to our seats.
The doors weren’t open yet, so we hung out with the rest. I got a glass of wine, and then Sandie happened to mention that they were selling official Hamilton Merchandise up there too! I nearly squealed with delight and we hurried over to pick things out. I’m not normally the type to get merch, except the album in a case like a musical, and of course, I already had it! But they had cool t-shirts and I wish I could have purchased them all! I settled for a shirt in red saying, “I’m just like my country, young, scrappy and hungry” and I got a mug that says wait for it and says Hamilton on the handle. Why isn’t it t-shirt weather yet?
At last they opened the doors, and Sandie and I, wine, totes with merch, white cane, braille program and all the rest in hand, made our way to our seats. Was this really happening? Was I truly, at last, just thirty minutes away from hearing those first notes? After so very long of waiting, was I finally in an audience about to see Hamilton? I almost couldn’t believe it! I spent the final minutes reading my program, learning about our cast, and wishing the show would start! And right on time, finally, the moment arrived.
From the first notes of that familiar opening, From Aaron Burr’s first lines, I was captivated, utterly spellbound. And really, that feeling hasn’t faded even today. I hadn’t avoided listening to the cast album as others had suggested. I knew the dynamics of the show would be different, different actors and singers, different styles, different ways of interpreting the material. Unless one has had the opportunity to see a show on Broadway with the original cast, seeing even the national touring cast is not the same thing as what we hear on the albums. So, I wasn’t worried about that. And yet, it did catch me off guard a bit, until the performances flowed around me and swept me away. In fact, the whole thing grabbed hold of me and my emotions and didn’t let go.
I had an intensely emotional reaction even in the first song. The ensemble is singing, “In New York you can be a new man,” and Hamilton is singing, “just you wait”. And then the ensemble sang, “Alexander Hamilton, we are waiting in the wings for you”. And I burst into tears. I had waited so long, I had been waiting in the wings of life, of days and days of work, days and days of waiting, days and days of normality, going by, sometimes rushing by, sometimes dreary and bland. And suddenly, I was really here, I was in this audience, and this cast was singing and performing, and it was real. No more counting days and hours. I’d been waiting in the wings for so long, and now, this wasn’t another listen to the cast album, this was it! Hamilton was happening all around me, and I was there, a part of it!
Every minute of the show from then on was magical. I laughed; I cried: I cheered and screamed and clapped until my hands tingled and my throat was parched. Sometimes, I’d start out thinking, Hmm, I’m not sure about this person’s voice or how that person is interpreting that role. But those thoughts lasted about two seconds, before I was again mesmerized by that same actor I’d just been almost questioning. Each actor made their part their own and brought new life to it for me. I’m saying actor, because though this is a sung-through musical, it’s an intense and emotional story, and the performers needed to sing it and act it. They went beyond my hopes and expectations, breathing new life into parts that already flogged my emotions and making me feel and love parts I hadn’t liked so much before. At the end, I wished I could find the whole cast, hug them all at once and thank them for making this one of the greatest events of my life! I never wanted it to end.
When it was over, we made our way back down, out to the car and back to Sandie’s house to pick up her daughter and my dog. We had dinner out at an Italian restaurant where I had the best lasagna I’ve had in years. And then we came home. I don’t really remember much of the rest of the night! The adrenaline and emotion seem to rush out of me the minute I shut the door behind my friends, and I was emotionally and physically exhausted! And every bit of the exhaustion was worth it.
Wonderful, superb, magnificent, inspiring, emotional, touching, moving, marvelous, incredible, amazing, terrific, stunning, maybe all these words have been used in the past to describe Hamilton. Maybe I can’t find any better ones. But all those words perfectly describe my experience yesterday. Every word of praise is deserved. I experienced every emotion throughout the show, but the greatest of those feelings for me, the things I’ll most remember feeling are the joy and wonder of finally being there, and of the fact that there was not one minute when the show, the music the words and the performances left me feeling an ounce less joy and wonder.
Thanks with my whole heart, to the staff at the Buell Theatre in Denver, for their professionalism and their commitment to complete accessibility. Thanks with all my heart to the cast, those who performed the show originally and recorded the cast album that has been an obsession for nearly two years. Thanks with my whole heart to the cast who performed so brilliantly for us all yesterday. And thanks, most of all, to Lin-Manuel Miranda for created this piece of art in the first place! If anyone reading this hasn’t had the chance to see Hamilton yet, if you get the chance, don’t throw away your shot! As for me, I’ll be telling the story of yesterday for a long time to come.