I don’t really have much to add to the discourse regarding Hamilton. It’s every bit as brilliant as you’ve heard, and if you have or haven’t seen it, do you really need to read another review? So instead of that, I’m going to tell you about the people sitting next to and behind Scott and me during our performance, and why those neighbors made it that much better.
The first people whose conversation I overheard were two men about my age seated behind us. If I saw these guys on the street and paid them any mind, I’d categorize them as bros, probably Business Bros with their clean-cut appearances and charming, practiced cadences of speech. But that (somewhat unfair) impression fell away when they started talking before the show. The careful cadence was gone as they went over how long they’d been waiting to see it and which cast members they were most psyched for. It got even better as the show progressed; they’d giggle moments before a favorite song or character appeared. As soon as Samuel Seabury (Thayne Jasperson) showed up, they began anticipating King George’s (Jonathan Groff) arrival, and they were not disappointed, laughing gleefully through his entire song. And his next song. And the one after that. Emotional outbursts aren’t something I see a lot of when it comes to high finance guys in Manhattan, and it was so refreshing to know we all loved this same thing so much. They were just a bit more expressive than I was (although my tears during Act II were the stuff of legend).
As delighted as I was by the dudes, though, the woman sitting next to Scott was just as great, if not better. About 70 years old, she’d bought tickets for her grown children, and when her daughter was unable to make it, she attended in her place. The woman’s first comment to us was how much she loved that, in the back of the program, there was a list of the songs that inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda while writing the show. She referred to him as “Lin,” the way my friends and I do when we discuss him, as though he’s someone we’ve met at a party, not a MacArthur recipient, a Tony winner, and the co-star of hundreds of celebrity selfies. She cited the Notorious B.I.G.’s “Ten Crack Commandments” as the inspiration for “Ten Duel Commandments” — a reference that wasn’t even listed in the program — and even called the rapper “Biggie.” And she recommended we watch the video of Lin’s wedding reception, in which he and his friends performed a song for Vanessa, “Lin’s wife.” This, my friends, was a 70-year-old fangirl. And she’d hit her knee in time with the catchiest songs, and she was up before we were for the standing ovation, and she was every bit as thrilled to be part of it as we were.
I’ve never felt kinship with an audience the way I did with my fellow Hamilton attendees. I know it sounds over the top, but at Hamilton, you really feel like you’re a part of something huge. This is a cultural touchstone, a show that illuminates American history and redefines what musical theater can be, and to see it in its original run is unforgettable. The dudes knew it. The lady knew it. Everyone — the girl behind me who shouted “Showtime!” when Laurens (Anthony Ramos), Lafayette (Daveed Diggs), and Hercules Mulligan (Okierete Onaodowan) did and had her mother shush her; the couple beside me who pulled out tissues during “It’s Quiet Uptown”; the myriad men and women who whooped over Lafayette’s staggeringly fast rap in “Guns and Ships” — knew it. And that’s something I haven’t really felt before at a show. I’ll try to see it again, sure, but this one experience was so valuable, so memorable, that even if I never get that sense over a live performance again, this will have been enough.