By our calculations, my family has listened to the original cast recording of the musical Hamilton a minimum of 250 times in the past four years. This is not an exaggeration, and for my daughter, who had it on REPEAT as she went to bed, probably a vast undercount.
She knew/knows all the actors in the original cast and which roles they played. She has books, pictures, calendars about that production. For her part, my wife has finished the lengthy Ron Chernow book that Lin-Manuel Miranda read which eventually led to the musical.
We’ve watched Lin-Manuel Miranda’s performance at the White House Poetry Jam Writer on May 12, 2009, accompanied by Alex Lacamoire. This was Six Years Before the Play Hit the Broadway Stage.
We’ve seen, more than once, Hamilton’s America which debuted on October 21, 2016 as part of PBS’s “Great Performances”. We viewed the Tonys when the pop culture Broadway phenomenon won 11 of the 16 Tony Awards® for which it was nominated.
And around Albany, NY, in particular, there’s the Hamilton Effect, with several sites of significance to him and especially the Schuylers, the family he married into. The Albany Institute of History and Art has an exhibit The Schuyler Sisters and Their Circle right now.
By coincidence, the Park Playhouse in Albany staged a production of In the Heights in July, Miranda’s FIRST Tony-winning musical. My wife and I enjoyed the show, puzzled by a local critic’s dis of the lead’s performance.
When we knew that Hamilton was coming to Proctor’s Theatre in Schenectady, we bought three tickets each for the six shows in the package, back in May of 2018. (We had purchased two season ticket the year before, so it wasn’t that much of a stretch.) We weren’t going to throw away our shot at seeing the show. The wait seemed interminable.
Finally, it’s H-day, August 18. My wife switches out her purse because large, non-clear ones are banned.
For a piece I already know so well, will it be as enjoyable as I anticipated? The answer is an enthusiastic YES. This in spite of the fact that they used a standby, Wonza Johnson, usually played by Edred Utomi, for the title role.
My buddy Amy Biancolli wrote on Facebook: “It’s more than a musical. It’s an opera and a ballet and a discourse on grief and a thrilling, epic poem on the arc and nature of history. And it’s hilarious. And mesmerizing. And infectious. And moving.”
I did learn there are a few spoken-word bits in the story. My wife picked up on some plot points. I don’t think I cried more than three or four times. I’m convinced that understanding the libretto beforehand enhances the appreciation of the story. Even before the performance, Hamilton has been firmly lodged in my Top Five favorite musicals, along with West Side Story and Fiddler on the Roof.