I WON THE #HAM4HAM LOTTERY. I freaking WON. I’m still doing my interpretive dance of joy.
In case you don’t understand what the heck I’m talking about, in recent years, Broadway shows have offered a lottery, by which those of us that are poor/broke/financially strapped have the opportunity to enter a lottery, where we are randomly selected to purchase HEAVILY discounted tickets to shows. In the case of our dear Alexander Hamilton, the “$10-Founding-Father,” the selected lottery winners can purchase tickets for an unbelievable $10/each, with a maximum of 2. Odds of winning? Well, there are 40 tickets at the Fox Theatre in each lottery, with around, I believe per the Post-Dispatch, like, 10,000 entries per performance. AND I WON.
I received the notification from the app the evening before the performance (the show was last night, the 2nd night of the show’s run in St. Louis), and promptly LOST MY MIND. I ran through my house (it’s a good thing our house is tiny, because I do NOT run), screamed, waved my arms, got speechless, got my voice back, screamed some more, ran some more, and basically closely mimicked a very fat version of one of these:
Yep. That’s me….just imagine that thing way plumper and WAY happier. 🙂
Honestly, my first thought was, “Oh, no, you can’t do that! It’s a weeknight event! You’re going to be ZAPPED for work the next day, and you can’t take off of work! You can’t get childcare! This will be impossible!!! THERE WILL BE PEOPLE, CASSIDY.” Anxiety, SHUT UP. You can just SHUT UP. This is HAMILTON, AND I AM NOT THROWING AWAY MY SHOT (insert cymbal clash)!!!!!!!!. Getting out of my routine and doing something new, especially during the week, seems like an insurmountable hurdle sometimes. That’s anxiety. Anxiety robs me of more than I let on, but IT’S NOT GETTING HAMILTON. Period.
So, I commenced screaming, tried to incoherently explain to David exactly what had just happened to us, told him it was happening, and frantically called for childcare. MOM TO THE RESCUE! You guys, my mom is amazing. She’d just worked that whole day at the election, and she drove up the next day and stayed overnight, just to watch Jericho so that David & I could have this amazing opportunity. Mom gets my love of musical theatre. Fun fact: I still have the ticket stubs from my very first show. She took me to see the Phantom of the Opera at the Fox when I was 16…and off I was going again, to my favorite place in St. Louis…that we can honestly just never afford…UNLESS WE WIN A TICKET LOTTERY, WHICH WE DID. WE. FREAKING WON (still in shock, 2 days later).
Yesterday, I floated through my work day, carefully timing my caffeine and my Nawgan (literally the only energy drink I can handle, with my heart. It’s great–B vitamins, no jitters, just an all-around clarity of thought and a gentle, subtle increase of energy with no crash and no weirdness), and drove home to get ready. I got Jericho ready for Grammy, and she arrived in plenty of time for me to figure out what I was going to wear (which I already had picked out, because I am ME. I wore a LuLaRoe Carly from their elegant collection, FYI, that I had purchased from a GOOB sale, because #Deals). Mom brought pizza (again, she’s THE BEST), and we left as soon as David got home.
Honestly, that’s not highlighter. I’m glowing. David is humoring me. He had no idea what he was in for. 🙂
We got down to the theatre (I pre-paid for parking in the new garage on North Grand. You should try it. $15, and it’s secure, well-lit, and right off of the Fox. You can pre-pay, at MetroTix.com), and I went into the Box Office to present my receipt and my ID, and found out we’d lucked into THIRD ROW SEATS, Y’ALL!! I almost hugged the ticket vendor. Keep in mind, through some kind of a glitch in the app, I didn’t automatically get my receipt. I had to e-mail, call, and eventually send a message to LuckySeat via Facebook messenger; once they responded, they were so nice, and very quick to help me out. The customer service with the Fox and with LuckySeat was AMAZING, and I couldn’t be happier. So, when I found out they were 3rd-row seats, I kinda-sorta yelled in the Box Office, and may have outed myself as too-poor-to-be-in-present-company, LOL. Those tickets at full-price are super-expensive (but I have to say, after watching the 60+ cast members dance, sing, and play for almost 3 hours, they’re definitely worth it!)! Once we had our tickets, we went across the street for some grub at The Best Steakhouse (meh. It’s an experience), where I definitely enjoyed the company more than the food. The people were great to watch & listen to!
Finally, it was time…We were ready to go into the theatre.
(I am not going to comment on how enormous I look in this picture. It is what it is. I’m not as fat as I’ve been. I’m not as thin as I’ve been. I’m me. I have to accept it. Also, that’s a big coat:) ).
People crammed into the theatre like sardines. Rare moments of rudeness were overshadowed by the general atmosphere of excitement to just be in the presence of the Hamilton Juggernaut. The merchandise was displayed; I was mentally prepared for the expense, thanks to the Hamilton app ($40 for a T-shirt, $15 for a keychain, etc.) so I knew we wouldn’t be purchasing anything. I already have the electronic libretto from Amazon, and I took as many pictures as possible (they won’t let you take a picture of the stage, so DON’T EVEN TRY. The ushers are trained in Krav-Maga and Jujitsu, and will chop you. I’m kidding…or am I?), so I’m happy with my takeaway. I MEAN, I GOT TO SEE IT FOR $10/TICKET.
The show STARTED ON TIME. No introductions, no flashing of the theatre lights, no warning: Aaron Burr (Nicholas Christopher) took the stage with a fury, stating his lyrics with a clarity and intensity that caught me off guard. He was HERE FOR IT, and he possessed the role. You can’t help but compare each cast member with the original Broadway cast; if there was anyone who took the role in a new direction, it was Nicholas Christopher. Leslie Odom, Jr.’s, Aaron Burr was passionate, and evoked compassion to a point, in the recorded performance. Nicholas Christopher charged in and grabbed your attention, and showed more of a character development than I realized in the original cast recording.
And that leads me to a huge point–All I’ve had to go on, are some video recordings, and the original Broadway cast recording. I consider myself to be pretty imaginative, and I’ve read so much about the production that I feel like I know these characters; however, seeing them played in-person brought so much more to the roles, and the interpretations with the touring actors was so different. It really was incredible, to see my imaginations come to life and then change from my presupposed concepts. Leslie Odom, Jr.’s Aaron Burr was competitive, passionate, and focused from the first line. Nicholas Christopher played him as searching in the beginning, to getting a handle on his destiny and finally, during the Senate Race where he defeats Schuyler, seeing a clear direction and method to achieve success. His ambition is complete, and then he goes off the rails & lets his ego and paranoia make him a perpetual villain. I really loved the way Nicholas Christopher portrayed such a heavy character with such vulnerability, comedy, and eventually, as the bad guy you just want to misfire. You feel sort of sorry for him at the end, but you’re really mostly facepalming his victim mentality. He was performing his last soliloquy, and I leaned over to David, “Oh, shut up, already, no one feels sorry for you. You did this to yourself.” I was invested, y’all!!!!! I kept wishing for an alternate ending, just like I do, every time I listen to the soundtrack. Darn irrefutable facts.
Austin Scott played the titular character, and I felt like he exhibited such a gentle nature. It played well to the emotional flaws of Alexander Hamilton. Comparatively, Lin-Manuel Miranda played the role with greater intensity in regards to the passion Hamilton had for his legacy, but lacking the genteel dignity that Scott brings to the role. I can’t say that I prefer one to the other; I love the differences. Vocally, he was stunning. He flowed back-and-forth from rap to singing without any hesitation; he walked across the stage like he was born there, and he seemed to seamlessly take on this very high-pressure role with grace. Yes, “grace”–that’s the perfect word for his entire performance. Graceful. He really was beautiful to watch and to listen to, and the cameraderie he displayed in the first act felt genuine. You really think these guys get along off of the stage? It sure seems like it!! He had a different spin on Alexander, of course, but he truly embraced the softer side, even in his moments of fury. He played the role of a gentleman, and he played it extremely well.
I’m not going to break down the entire cast, but one person in particular took the entire show, wrapped it up, and made it a gift to us all: Chris De’Sean Lee. Taking on the roles of Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson, Mr. Lee needs his own show, and he needs it YESTERDAY. He had my theatre-hating husband eating out of the palm of his hand.
He made us laugh, he tore up the stage during “Guns & Ships,” and he made me want to throw my shoes on stage. I’m a huge admirer of Daveed Diggs, and I was very curious as to how anyone could take on that role as less than a copycat. Mr. Lee did so much with it; he made it his own. He didn’t need a spotlight; he IS a light, and he is a joy to watch. I have to wonder what he’s like in-person, because if he illuminates half of what he puts out on stage, he must be a world-changer. I’m officially a fan, and I want to hug that guy. That’s not weird at all, BTW.
Finally, the roles of Angelica Schuyler and John Laurens/Phillip Schuyler were played by Sabrina Sloan & Ruben J. Carbajal, respectively. Vocally, Ms. Sloan is probably the best singer in the entire cast, and that is saying SOMETHING, because they’re all A-list. She was amazing to listen to; she never oversang, she hit notes that were strong without being screechy, she sang over the top of complicated musical pieces and never shouted. She was intense, strong (I keep saying that word), and her reactions after “Hurricane” were played with FORCE. She’s the kind of actress that can emote across a stage with a raise of an eyebrow, and watching her from the third row was a masterclass. As a “singer,” I know the notes she was hitting, and I know the difficulty in the runs she did. I sure as heck can’t do that. I don’t know anyone that can do that. She’s an eye-opening wonder.
Ruben Carbajal came out with gorgeous bravado in his role as John Laurens, and brought so much maturity & power to the role by the end of the first act. His death was the first time I cried in the production; the true dream that John Laurens had for equality in history rang especially poignant yesterday, on the anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Ruben seemed to preach that message like an evangelist on fire. You wouldn’t think that his character didn’t have time to really grow in the first act, but he did–Ruben pulled so much more out of John Laurens than I ever knew, and I’m grateful. When he died again in the second half, as Phillip Schuyler, I was officially ugly-crying, so Ruben, thanks for that. Good thing I’m good with primer, because otherwise, I’d have been full-Alice-Coopering my ride home.
Okay, so I knew Phillip Schuyler dies in the production, of course. I knew it would be a difficult moment for me, as a mom who has lost a child. I knew I was probably going to cry. I did. OF COURSE I DID! Julia Harriman shone in her role during this time, and played Eliza with sensitivity. Her interactions with Alexander during this, and the aftermath of his affair with the “whore wife,” Ms. Mariah Reynolds (grr), were excellent. When Phillip dies, Alexander reaches for her hand; she shoves his hand off with all of the passion of the spurned wife, and it’s glorious. She had my full “you go, girl” with that tiny little gesture, even in the midst of the sadness. 🙂 (Also, makeup team, her highlighter? Shut UP, with your awesomeness. I need some of that in my life!!!!).
I ALMOST FORGOT: KING GEORGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Peter Matthew Smith played our archenemy, and just owned the crown. I hope he gets to keep it when his tour finishes (if he ever stops), because he’s Theatre Royalty. He was a show-stopper, and even though I’ve watched Jonathan Groff on video perform those pieces a few times, as well as Thayne Jasperson, I have to say that his take is actually my favorite! Maybe it’s a certain level of maturity? Can I say that? He just seemed really, really believable, and likeable-but-hateable. 🙂 Every time he came on stage, every single person in the theatre was smiling. It’s a pretty great skillset, to play someone everyone hates, but to also be able to make all of them grin back at you. I’m not sure how you do that, but Mr. Smith certainly knows. He was an unexpected delight. 🙂
So, that’s a lot–that’s a really, really long description of a shut-up-this-is-really-happening night at an amazing musical. I just don’t have the time or the space to break down all of the actors, but please know that each of them performed at a level of excellence that I can’t even begin to describe. Carvens Lissaint as Washington was so powerful & strong; you never question his ability to portray a Commander-in-Chief (and vocally, just soared. He left both David & I with our jaws on the floor). Chaundre Hall-Bloomfield was great as Hercules Mulligan, but had us laughing so hard as James Madison–I hadn’t caught the humor in the role over the audio recordings, so that was a nice surprise.
I still can’t believe how the cast made this show come to life…how amazing it was, to see the things I’ve only read about, in person. The stage was glorious, and far more complicated than meets the eye (2 turntables?!?). Sets are used in multiple ways; costumes are used and reused (it’s amazing how a jacket change can change a scene–who thought of that?!? BRILLIANT!!!), and the lighting is masterful in its apparent simplicity. The musicians–WHAT THE WHAT?!?!?!?!? We were sitting right behind the orchestra pit, and it seemed like so few musicians made such an incredible sound! HOW DO THEY DO THAT?!?!?!?!?!?!?
The dancers….oh, the dancers. I’ve never seen dancing like that. They danced THE ENTIRE SHOW, and one guy in particular stood out to me the most (Andrew Wojtal, I believe; he’s also the doctor for both duels, LOL, as well as The Farmer), as he never broke in his intensity. I don’t think any of the dancers did, but this guy RADIATED focus & intention. Like, almost 3 hours of intensive dancing and singing? Phenomenal. The dancers were ridiculous, and if that wasn’t enough, their vocals were SICK. Just amazing. That word keeps coming up…because it’s true. The whole show was freaking AMAZING. The whole night was freaking AMAZING. MY MOM IS FREAKING AMAZING, for dropping everything to watch our son so that we could have this AMAZING experience. She gets a medal!!!!
THE FACT THAT WE WON THE HAM4HAM TICKETS WAS FREAKING AMAZING, PEOPLE.
And like I said at the beginning, everything started on time, from the start of the show, to the intermission–it’s a tight ship, and that gets nothing but applause from me! By the time we made it home, we were so tired; 4am hit WAY too soon for me today, but I made it to the office, and I am surviving on coffee and my last Nawgan, along with good mascara and a gigantic bottle of water that will no doubt, be refilled 3-4 times. 🙂
I am euphoric, and I’m still riding the post-Hamilton wave, combined with the wave of actually winning something. It’s a good wave.
I’m glad I took my shot. 🙂