For anyone who knows anything about me, it will come as no surprise that Hamilton the musical is one of my biggest passions. I’ve seen this musical 8 times across San Francisco, New York, London and Puerto Rico (with Lin Manual Miranda, the original Hamilton!), learned every lyric, followed the original Broadway cast in their post Hamilton lives like a proud mother and told just about anyone who would listen that they NEED to see this musical. While Hamilton is without doubt my favorite musical, I’ve never shared the deeply personal reasons this musical means so much to me. As Hamilton is now finally available for everyone to stream via Disney+ from today, I wanted to take you behind the scenes of my love of this musical and why I won’t shut up about it! I truly believe there is something for everyone in this musical – and I’d love to hear what your favorite song is after you watch it (and warn you that it’ll change over time!)
I still remember the goosebumps that ran over my body as I heard those opening chords of Hamilton. I first sat in the audience back in March 2017 in San Francisco. As a musical lover, I’d heard all the rave reviews about the show, and though I had never listened to the soundtrack or read much about the plot, I knew when an opportunity to buy tickets to Facebook’s buy-out of the theatre during previews came up, it shouldn’t be passed up. Little did I know this musical would be a catalyst that would influence and alter my life’s path forever.
I somehow managed to stay completely in the dark about the story and the music until I sat in the theatre, so I was on the edge of my seat all night as I tried my best to keep up with the lyrics, the pace, the humor, the history, the context. I was hooked from the moment Burr took the stage with the first lyrics and set the plot of the entire show in motion, and though this musical would come to mean different things to me each time I watched it, the first time I found myself completely captivated by the rise and fall of Eliza and Hamilton’s relationship. The falling in love, the marriage, the letters, the words of affirmation. I watched eagerly as their love story unfolded and Eliza declared herself helplessly in love with Hamilton, as she stood by his side as he went to battle for the country, and told him it would simply be enough if they were together. And then I felt like the rug had been pulled out from underneath me when it all came crashing down on stage: Hamilton’s affair, and Eliza’s subsequent response.
I sat there next to the person I’d been by the side of for 10 years, feeling every ounce of Eliza’s pain through the song Burn. Our own relationship had been rocked by betrayal and as she described the trust and love built through his letters, only to realize “she’d married an Icarus, he’d flown too close to the sun”, the tears streamed down my face and a little voice inside my head said, “this is it, you’ve got to leave.” The rest of the musical was a bit of a blur after that moment. I listened to Burn another few hundred times before I built up the courage to leave my 10 year relationship and marriage 4 months later and would continue to play it over and over in the months to follow, screaming and sobbing out the lyrics as I grieved a future that had been taken away from me, trust which had been broken and painfully looked towards a new chapter and story I’d have to write on my own.
Fast forward to November 2017, I bought myself a last minute ticket to finally see this show that had rocked my world on the original Broadway stage in New York City. By this point I knew most of the lyrics, and cried again through Burn, but this time another part of this musical sang to me: New York City, “the greatest city in the world”. I’d set my eyes on a move to London to start the next part of my story, but after finding out I’d been rejected from a job opportunity there in October that dream felt like it was slipping through my fingers and a new place was becoming more and more like home. It’d be another 6 months until I landed a job in New York City, but I credit Hamilton for slowly planting this idea in my head and ushering me through a door I hadn’t ever noticed before. I truly can’t imagine living anywhere else other than New York now.
Now, as I reflect on this time in history when Hamilton is coming to the rest of the world, finally off the stage and into our televisions, I’m yet again drawn to another part of this musical: “immigrants, we get the job done”. I’m reminded of my privilege that allowed me to move to America, to find work that allows me to stay here legally, and the responsibility I now have to learn the messy and complicated history of this country as an immigrant. It has been humbling to live in this city as we’ve grappled with a pandemic, recession and civil revolution all at once and I don’t want to waste the fact that I’ve been blessed to move to this city and live through this unique and remarkable time in history. Hamilton reminds us that “we’ll never be free until those in bondage have the same rights as you and me”; something I’m reflecting on this weekend as we head into Independence Day and ponder what it means to be in the “land of the free and home of the brave”. My heart breaks as I weigh all that I love about this country that has become home for the last 6 years; with what I’ve witnessed in the last few months and as I’ve properly learned the history of the last few hundred years. I’m grateful for the way Hamilton causes us to question this – whether you’re an American, an immigrant or watching from other countries around the world; it calls us to face the reality of own own national history in this moment.
As I watch Hamilton tonight (and another few times over this weekend!) I’m grateful for all the ways it’s caused me to pause and reflect and ushered me in directions I never expected. I am overjoyed you’re finally able to watch this musical and hopefully share my love of this story, the music and it’s message whether it’s relevant to you on a personal level like it was for me the first time, or at a community level as it’s come to mean to me in 2020. Enjoy being in the room where it happens!