I saw Hamilton at the Wharton Center for Performing Arts the first week it came out. It was my first time seeing the show, hearing any of the music and knowing what the true story of Hamilton is about. I’m not talking about the historical figure of Alexander Hamilton when I say the true story, I’m talking his motivational story as told through the musical. Before seeing the show, I had some preconceived notions about it and what to expect which were fairly limited and mainly that it is a historical story about a time in American history told in modern day times through rap. Very narrow which I like when seeing a new show. I personally enjoy the reveal moments in a performance I’ve never seen before.
Going and seeing the show in person is a whole different story from what I knew and the preview I gave. You can only understand the excitement of seeing a show in person.
Before I get to my review, I want to say that I know sometimes it is hard to want to go out and do something, be it financial, be it having a hard day at work or being just too tired. I’ve heard lots of people say they don’t want to spend the money to do something or leave their home to experience something; that they can just stay home and experience life through someone else’s eyes or through videos online. I want to encourage you to go out and experience life in person. If it hadn’t been for my mom wanting to see this show so badly, I honestly may not have gone to see it. That would have been a BIG mistake.
Like most things in life, Hamilton is not something you can experience through online videos. You have to see the story come alive before your eyes in person. I tried to encourage my son to go to the show with me by showing him a couple of videos online and he was not impressed. He can’t be. What you see online is not what you experience in life. I love the digital world but it is not the same as living and experiencing lifes moments in the real world. That far outweighs anything I can get from a video. If you are able, try and capture moments when you can.
Hamilton experiences this in the performance through his writing and his ‘never satisfied’, lust for ‘making it’ and not throwing away his shot at being somebody. This storyline is interwoven throughout the performance as he does the opposite of the advice he is given to talk less, smile more and state no opinion.
While it was hard for me to hear all of the words being rapped throughout the performance because they do rap fast and I’m not really used to that, there are key lyrics that stood out to which were brilliantly written into the screenplay. This, I’ve never seen done before. Normally, as musicals go, a song is performed and those lyrics in the song are not part of the other songs. Those songs stand alone for that moment of the musical. This is not so in Hamilton and I loved how the repetition of key lyrics were interwoven within the storyline. To me, this much more mirrors real life as we experience music and listen to some of the same lyrics throughout our entire life that have meaning to what we are going through. I thought this was brilliantly done.
Without giving away the story, here are my top 9 takeaways from my entire experience from start to finish at the Wharton Center seeing Hamilton:
1. Arrive early. There are metal detectors you will have to go through and a bag check. There are 3 lines that form leading up to the check point. The line was backed up to the elevators in the parking lot when we arrived around 6:45 pm. The line does move quicker then airport security.
2. Just because it is Hamilton and a highly anticipated HOT show, doesn’t mean you have to get all fancied up but you still can! In today’s world, we just don’t dress up all the time for stage performances like we used to and that is ok. We saw jeans, cargo pants, tennis shoes, sweatshirts and fancy dresses. My favorite though was a man wearing a Star Wars Mr. Rogers type sweater asking you to Join the Rebellion. This was a perfect nod to a show about the revolution. Genius I thought and made me feel kind of ashamed of my boring all black attire. I did say no to heels and wore my Allbirds instead!
3. My favorite lines that basically can tell a story inside all of us and that really hit home for me:
“Not throwing away my shot” “Look around at how happy you are to be alive right now” “I’d rather be decisive than indecisive” “Burning the memories” Write like your running out of time” “When my time is up, have I done enough” “We push away the unimaginable” “Rise up” “Back in the narrative”
4. Two surprising funny moments in the show for me that stood out was what I call the ‘Burger King man” and Madonna go slumming scene’; which I belive she did do in New York. If you don’t know what I mean, go see the show. There are laughing relief moments that were well written in the story.
5. This is a large portion of history told in 2 hours and 45 minutes. It goes fast. I’ve attended performances where it takes a long time to tell the story where I felt the show was slow. Not Hamilton. It’s told quickly. It’s rapped quickly and moves quickly in the storyline. You have to keep up.
6. No set change. But you don’t need it. Some shows we’ve seen and we’ve asked ourselves’ why would they do that? Not Hamilton. It’s fitting and there are enough prop changes to go with the backdrop that you don’t need it.
7. Rap off. I’ve never seen this on stage before. I wish there were more rap battles in meetings. That would be kind of cool. It sure would make meetings way more interesting. Loved this and may need to go to a rap battle. Is that what it’s called? Correct me if I’m wrong.
8. Men have style. The petticoats and attire the men wore on stage is really lost on us today. We don’t dress up like we used to and I sort of miss that. Super daper and handsome. While I could do away with the ruffled shirts, the rest of their attire…. tigers’ growl.
Lastly, #9. Remember Leonardo DiCaprio in the 1986 film Romeo + Juliet? If not, let me refresh your memory, it is a modern take on a classic story told from the perspective of two feuding families basically in gang warfare style. I loved that movie because it made sense of a Shakespeare story that I never liked and never really understood. It made me fall in love with Shakespeare and subsequently I went on to buy his poetry and still read it to this day. The fresh, new perspective opened my eyes and for that, I love that film and Hamilton, to me, gives that sort of nod. I did not really understand the history or the story or care about how the Declaration of Independence came about until this modern day take on it. HUGE props for that.
I’m a regular person, experiencing life, providing regular reviews for the average eveyday person. I really enjoyed this experience and can’t wait until my next experience. There is still time to see the show. Hamilton ends June 2 at the Wharton.