On Valentine’s Day, Feb 14th, 2018, I was amongst a few thousand people to see the much acclaimed Hamilton: An American Musical. The hit Broadway musical created by Lin-Manuel Miranda has been on tour recently and is currently here in Arizona, dubbed as the Angelica Tour, as each tour location is dubbed with a different character name. The tour official opened in Tempe at Arizona State University’s Gammage Theater on January 30th and will run through February 25. All days are close to being sold out and any remaining seats will cost you a pretty penny, anywhere from $200-$500 per ticket. This is not surprising when you consider how difficult it is to see this show on Broadway in New York City, how much of a phenomenon the show has become since debuting in 2015, and how much the rest of the country has been waiting for a chance to have the show come anywhere near them.
Now, as with any story, it is best to start at the beginning. So before I get into the incredible show I experienced, let’s dive into my history with Hamilton. I didn’t become acquainted with the show until late in 2016, when I was introduced to the cast recording by a friend over a year after it’s release. I have always been a fan of musicals(well, most musicals), of hip hop music, and history. So when this album, that combined all three, was recommended I searched for it on Amazon Prime Music and began to listen to it. And that was it…I was immediately hooked. It was unlike any other musical I had ever heard and it was the coolest way possible to learn about one of America’s founding fathers; Alexander Hamilton.
From that point on, I dove into songs about Hamilton, George Washington, Aaron Burr, the American Revolution, and so much more. I found myself affected and moved by these songs in a way I hadn’t been since I first heard Phantom of the Opera, which had been my favorite musical up until this point. I can’t recall any other piece of art that I have fallen in love with as quickly, as I did with Hamilton. To quote Angelica Schuyler from Act One’s “The Schuyler Sisters” (which I have quoted on more than one occasion) “…so men say that I’m intense or I’m insane…,” because I am unabashedly obsessed with this show. And I am not the only one, I know many who feel the exact same.For me, my love of Hamilton did not just stop at the cast recording. I began following news about the show and it’s creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, and even started listening to a podcast. Shout out to Gillian Pensavalle from The Hamilcast! Gillian started out as a fan who created the podcast in 2016, about this thing she loved and hadn’t even seen. Since then, she has had members of the cast on including Miranda and, of course, seen the show in her native New York City. So, please do go and check out Gillian’s awesome podcast!
I can completely relate to Gillian, in the earlier days of her podcast, since I was in a similar position. I loved Hamilton and yet had not seen it yet. I was limited by my location to photos and related videos online. The closest exposure to actual parts of the stage show was through the PBS special. Until now that is, now I can be counted amongst the members of the “I Saw Hamilton” club.
So how did it come to this for me? I have my friend Jaimee to thank. She was one of the lucky folks to get a season ticket to ASU Gammage, which guaranteed her two tickets to Hamilton but also the opportunity at first dibs to buy four additional tickets. The season tickets sold out in record time, within minutes of going on sale, months away from general admission going on sale. It was then a waiting game for season ticket holders, to find out when they would get the chance to purchase the additional tickets. I remember the excitement when I received a notification for a group message through Facebook sent by Jaimee in October of last year. She wanted to know who of our little group was interested in her four additional tickets. I immediately jumped at the opportunity, as did three others, and Jaimee worked magic to get two pairs of tickets for two different dates but with seats together each night. We were paired off and told how much we owed Jaimee, who was awesome enough to upfront the cost for the tickets until we sent her the money. That was it.
The only thing left was to wait yet again for our tickets and for the show to arrive in three months. And arrive it did, with some added flourish from our Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) who marked the opening night of Hamilton: An American Musical with references to the show on our freeway signs. This isn’t a new thing with our freeway signs either. ADOT will link messages of safe driving to superhero movies, sporting events, and holidays. Now, when it came to the tickets, my friend Jaimee went to the show the week before and picked up our tickets (my friend Laurel and I), and dropped them off with a mutual friend where I picked them up.
This brings us of course to the 14th, the big day, and what a day it was. I took a half day from work to allow myself plenty of time to make my way home to prepare for attending the show that evening, and had time to add in a quick appointment. The appointment took only an hour, after grabbing some lunch beforehand, and at three in the afternoon it was time to head home. The plan was to be at Gammage at around six o’clock by way of a Lyft from my friend Laurel’s house. All I had to do was get home, get ready, and go to Laurel’s. I had plenty of time, or so I thought.
You would think that three hours was enough time to get home and then back across town. And it would have been, had it not been for the weather. Yes, the weather. It was raining that day and when it rains in Phoenix, all hell breaks loose. There were accidents and road blocks, horrible traffic, on all the freeways and roads. It took two hours, TWO HOURS, for me to get home. In a panic, I threw together my things and rushed back out into the chaos. An hour and forty-five minutes later I arrived at Laurel’s house. She had already ordered the Lyft that would take us to the theater as I ran into her house and proceeded to put on my costume. There wasn’t much to the costume, not to mine at least. I ordered it off Amazon, and Laurel helped tailor it to fit me, as it was a Men’s medium. She shortened the sleeves and sewed the coat to the vest so that it fit tighter overall. I was thankful to have her help, as sewing is not a skill I possess, at least not very well.
Now, Laurel’s costume on the other hand, required a lot more work. She made the entire costume by hand, from the long satin coat and white frilly-sleeved blouse, to the velvet vest and pants. She did an amazing job.As for how we came up with the idea for our costumes, it was quite easy really. In our group chat, I jokingly suggested that we all go in costume. After most of the group politely declined, Laurel chimed in and said she would definitely be up for going in costume. She went on to say her favorite character was Thomas Jefferson and she would be going for one of his costumes. So that made it an easy decision for me, as I was already thinking about trying to dress as Hamilton and it would be a fun idea for the two of us to go as Jefferson and Hamilton. The two characters and real life historical figures are well known for being at odds with each other.
But enough about that, let’s get back to the main event.At a quarter after seven, we arrived at Gammage. We hopped out of the Lyft on the main street, there was no getting in through the backup, and rushed through the parking lot towards the building. We went through security, and then had our tickets scanned at the inner entrance, all the while receiving compliments for our costumes as we hurried to our seats. We were in the balcony, so it wasn’t a short trek. We went around to the other side of the building, up a ramp, up a set of stairs, around a corner and up another set of stairs. Then, we shuffled our way along the second row, to the middle, past everyone already in their seats. Again, we heard comments about our costumes as we went by and the couple beside us offered to take our picture once we had gotten to our seats.
It wasn’t until we were finally settled into our seats, that I could finally relax completely and let go of any remaining stress. From there on out, everything was amazing and not only what I had expected but better than expected. The cast was fantastic and so talented. It was really something else to sit there and watch these actors perform all of these songs that I had become so familiar with. But despite knowing the cast recording so well, it was a whole new experience to hear these same lyrics and music but with different takes. I was experiencing the musical I had come to love, in a whole new way, and loving it even more.
At intermission, we ventured out into the crowds, receiving more compliments as we moved about. I ventured downstairs and stood in line for one of the Hamilton-themed drinks, settling on the Martini De Lafayette, and Laurel ordered a glass of the Federalist wine served at the bar upstairs. We came back to our seats with our drinks in hand to enjoy the second half of the show. The show continued and we had finished our drinks by the time we got to the most emotional part of the musical.I had been warned by friends who had already seen the show, that I should be prepared to cry. I’m not one to cry easily, so I wondered if I would, or if I would just get close to the verge of tears. But happen it did. Two times, actually, once out of reaction to the sadness displayed on stage and again at the very end as I was overwhelmed by the brilliance of everything that I had just seen.
Now, I am not going to go into detail about any of the songs or the performances(as those are unique to each show), as I do not want to influence anyone’s experience with my own opinions. I would rather let those that are still going to go see it, experience everything fresh and for themselves. But I will say this, there was more humor in it than I expected and I loved it. And as I mentioned before, watching and listening to different actors than on the cast recording did nothing to diminish my enjoyment of the show. In fact, I now have an even greater appreciation for the songs that I know so well. I also have a visual representation to go along with those songs, a better understanding of what is going on in every scene. It was a great experience to listen to the entire cast recording again the next day and let my mind drift back to the performances.
So let me finish things off then, with some information about the particular show that I saw. In our playbill, when we received a copy entering the theater, there was a white piece of paper detailing the changes of actors for that night’s performance. Most of the roles were the same, the official cast for this tour, but a few characters had been switched out with other actors, swings or members of the ensemble.
The cast for the 14th was as follows:
Alexander Hamilton played by Austin Scott
Eliza Hamilton played by Julia K. Harriman
Aaron Burr played by Nicholas Christopher
Angelica Schuyler played by Sabrina Sloan
George Washington played by Isaiah Johnson
Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson played by Chris Lee
Hercules Mulligan/James Madison played by Desmond Newson*
John Laurens/Philip Hamilton played by Rubén J. Carbajal
Peggy Schuyler/Maria Reynolds played by Amber Iman
King George played by Peter Matthew Smith
Philip Schuyler/James Reynolds/Doctor played by Keenan D. Washington*
Samuel Seabury played by Desmond Nunn*
Charles Lee played by Daniel Ching
George Eacker played by Alex Larson*
*denotes a change from the original playbill
The only thing left for me to discuss now is what happened after the show ended. We were all crying, at least I was, as the cast took their bows on the stage. The entire audience rose to their feet to give a standing ovation, until the actors left the stage. Everyone then filed out of the room. My friend and I stopped at the merchandise booth and bought some things to remember the night, she a mug and I a mug and a shot glass. Then, we took our photo in front of the big sign for the musical hanging on the outer wall by the main entrance. The rain had started up again, but it was only a drizzle, as we waited our turn and then a nice young lady took our photo for us.
We called for our Lyft home (pun intended), and stood waiting around the corner where the line of cars was slowly filing through. As we stood waiting, we noticed a line of people standing along a railing and a security guard. I guessed it was the stage door and the actors would be coming out to make their way home. Sure enough, no sooner had we turned around to see where the Lyft was on the map, Laurel tapped my shoulder and gestured back towards the line of people where Nicholas Christopher(who played Aaron Burr) was standing and signing autographs. We walked back over and as soon as we did he noticed our costumes. He was impressed and said something along the lines of, “Man! You both went all out, you look great. Did you make those?” We proceeded to explain that Laurel had made hers and she helped to fit mine. We asked for a photo with him and he asked the same, taking a selfie with us.
We headed back over to the line of cars and, once again, checked on the status of our Lyft driver. When we had confirmed that she was still enroute, we turned back around and noticed that yet another actor had appeared outside. None other than Austin Scott, Alexander Hamilton himself. He too was complimentary of our costumes and was nice enough to take a photo with us. Then, it was back to the line of cars, while we fangirled a bit over meeting not one but two actors and having our pictures with them.
Our Lyft driver showed up as the rain began to pick up, just in time considering the silk and velvet that Laurel’s costume was made of. And that was the night. We were deposited back at Laurel’s house and I changed out of my costume, hopped back into my car for the drive home and arrived just after midnight. I’m not going to lie, I was tired the next morning, but it was definitely worth it. Hamilton had been worth it all, even the stress leading up to it. There are still tickets left for the remaining shows, but I doubt I will be able to see it again while it’s still here. However, I am entering the lotteries as often as I can anyway, just for the chance of again being a lucky chosen one. I know, I’m already a lucky one and I definitely appreciate that fact. A lot of people will not get the chance to even see it once and here I am attempting to see it a second time. But the show is really that good. I hope that many more people still get the opportunity to see it for the first time and appreciate this great work of art, history and music.