I’ve had the music from Hamilton stuck in my head since last Tuesday, March 20, 2018, when I finally saw the production live on stage. The rhymes, melodies, harmonies (omg the harmonies), and the brilliant lyrics, all written by the great Lin-Manuel Miranda have consumed my brain for the better part of a year and a half.
The original production opened on Broadway in 2015, and I was working as a case manager in a law firm at the time. One of the attorneys was a huge fan of musical theater, which is funny because he’s certainly not your stereotypical theater buff. He is a straight-laced, stoic man who is over 65 years old and occasionally likes to discuss the rankings on the current season of Dancing with the Stars (after asking me why any of them are famous). He asked me multiple times if I had heard of this new show, Hamilton, or if I had listened to the soundtrack yet. He then made fun of me for wanting to see the musical first before listening to the music. “If I waited for everything to come to Oregon, I wouldn’t get to hear anything!” Fair point, sir.
After resisting listening to the music for years, I finally caved last year when a coworker suggested our whole team listen to it as a mood boost while we were in the middle of our team’s biggest campaign. I’ll never forget how he pitched it to us either: “Guys, have you heard Hamilton? I haven’t listened to any of it yet, but we should all listen to it while we work and it’ll be like we’re at the show. The whole thing was written by this lady named Lynn Miranda. Supposed to be great!” He was so sincere I didn’t want to correct him (I did though obviously) and in that moment I gave up ever seeing the show in the next decade.
“Okay, let’s all press play at the same time. Aaaaaaaand, now!”
While every day was focused 100 percent on our company rebrand, it was great to bond over something that wasn’t work. We listened to it so much, I started using lyrics in my pitches as a sort of inside joke with my coworkers in meetings. Luckily, our boss had never heard the music and she thought all of my Hamilton-inspired ideas were amazing.
We were still completely obsessed. If one of us was having an off day, the first suggestion was to get some coffee, and second was to put your big headphones on and listen to Hamilton one more time. It worked (almost) every time!
A few months had passed when I received the email. Hamilton was finally coming to Portland. The best way to secure seats was to purchase season tickets for the next year. I took a screenshot and sent it to my coworker:
“It’s coming here! Is it crazy that I want to get season tickets??”
“What?! Um. No, not crazy. I think I might do it…”
As I’ve gotten older, I really value people who are constantly on my level. This was one of those occasions. We each bought two tickets for the 2017-18 Broadway Across America series and I’ve never been happier to recklessly spend so much money (my record player is a close second).
We were absolutely giddy at work the next day. Now, when we had bad days we would remind each other we would be seeing Hamilton in less than a year! And to get a cup of coffee and put your big headphones on. Even after I moved on from that job, we still would text each other monthly reminders that we had tickets. “Hope you’re having a good day! We only have six more months until we see Hamilton!”
The week leading up to opening night was filled with so much anticipation. March 20 was dubbed “Hamilton Day” in our calendars and we were counting down the hours until showtime.
On the day of the show, I did pretty much nothing other than take my sweet time to get ready for what would surely be one of the greatest nights of my life. I invited my younger brother to go with me, and instead of eating dinner beforehand, I made him stop at Starbucks so I could be fully caffeinated in order to take in every single moment of the night. I don’t know if my body could handle all the triple grande iced mocha I downed in less than 5 minutes, but I couldn’t take any chances! (The theater also didn’t let me bring it in and I wasn’t about to toss it.)
We met up with my friend and exchanged one last exhilarated “I-can’t-believe-we’re-here” squeal and took a picture to commemorate.
My brother and I hustled back to our seats and waited for the lights to dim. I don’t know if I could properly describe the energy that filled the theater that night. As soon as the lights go down, the audience erupts in applause and “wooooooo!”
It could have been the perfect combination of anticipation, too many espresso shots, and a rough year, but I started crying as soon as the music started and didn’t stop until the end of “The Schuyler Sisters” number. Miranda’s “My Shot” has become my anthem whenever I am feeling like life and work are too much to handle. Just like Rocky’s theme song “Eye of the Tiger,” it serves as an important reminder that you can pull yourself out of any rut, no matter how deep.
I am not throwing away my shot!
I am not throwing away my shot!
Hey yo, I’m just like my country
I’m young, scrappy and hungry
And I’m not throwing away my shot!
I’m ‘a get a scholarship to King’s College
I prob’ly shouldn’t brag, but dag, I amaze and astonish
The problem is I got a lot of brains but no polish
I gotta holler just to be heard
With every word, I drop knowledge!
I’m a diamond in the rough, a shiny piece of coal
Tryin’ to reach my goal.
Overall, the show lived up to and surpassed every expectation I could possibly have. It was interesting to see how the story changed from what I understood from just listening to the music to what was actually on stage. It added another level of admiration for Miranda’s genius. And King George was hysterical! The audience’s enthusiasm never dwindled and I was happy to be in a sold-out theater filled with people who were all on the same level 🙂
Along with listening to the soundtrack again 24/7, I’ve found myself working in Hamilton lyrics into normal conversation whenever possible. Apologies to all my friends and family because I’m not throwing away my shot (espresso or otherwise).
I feel so happy and lucky to be in the room where it happened.