Have you heard about Hamilton? The run-away smash hit musical currently dominating all of Broadway and the minds and heart of teenagers and their parents around the world? It’s a thing. It’s an obsession. It’s a damn fever. And we have it.
The first to catch the fever was my oldest daughter, Grace. Once a normal high school sophomore, over a few days of listening to the soundtrack she transformed into a wildly evangelical Hamilton fan. She would proselytize about the show to anyone who would listen, basically her sister Lily and me. I now understand parents whose kids join religious cults. There’s not much you can do. Thank goodness it’s just a musical.
But is it? Don’t ask us. We all are infected. We’d tell you it’s a g-damn way of life.
The Schuyler Sisters
You know how annoying it is when someone wants you to love the thing they are into? Well, multiple that by a million and you have, Grace. We listened mostly to shut her up. Lily fell ill with fever next. That’s when the non-stop performances began. First up? What we refer to as, “Work” otherwise known as The Schuyler Sisters. Forget the original Broadway cast of Hamilton, these girls, and their mad love and over the top exuberance for the music, made me a Hamilton fan. See for yourself…
Welcome to the church of Hamilton. We believe!!
There’s a lyric in Hamilton about New York City being insidious and well, hell, so is the Hamilton music. Before you know it you are only thinking in Hamilton lyrics and all of your reasoning and comparison skills filter through the Hamilton story. What would Hamilton do? You have no idea how you have lived this long and didn’t know Alexander Hamilton’s story or existed without Lin-Manuel Miranda’s brilliant words and rhymes in your head.
At this point, the Hamilton soundtrack is playing Non-Stop. I’ve never, ever, ever seen my daughters love anything as much as they love this show. They are following all the cast members, reading up about the revolution, and fired up about the damn birth of our nation. Let me repeat, my two teenage daughters became obsessed with the birth of our nation! Not boys, not drugs, not their looks, not rebelling, well, unless you count the grand rebellion of the revolutionary soldiers. Then, yeah, they were super into rebelling. And rap. They become obsessed with learning all the lyrics. Check out Grace rapping Guns and Ships like a boss with sister Lily “hamming” it up. And…Wait For It, Lily slams into the bureau about halfway through…classic.
Say No To This
Our Ham House is going along fine until one day Grace comes downstairs crying. Crying real tears, and she’s not a crier. She blurts out that the casts’ contracts are up in July and that she’ll never see the show with the original cast. Normally I’d be like okay, Veruca Salt of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, “I want an Oompa Loompa, now” fame, dial it down a bit. But I saw real pain in her eyes and if I have learned anything about having teenagers, it’s that you should never dismiss their pain if you want them to share stuff with you. Sure, it seems unimportant to a grown-up, but for them, it’s everything. Lily joins Grace in utter despair and heartbreak. They are Helpless. And I’m heartbroken for them too. Dear lord, I want them to have an Oompa Loompa! “Lord, Show Me How to Say No to This.”
Took Up a Collection To Send Them To the Main Land
In what can only be described as the seductive nature of Hamilton, we switch our Memorial Day vacation plans, pool our companion tickets and reward points to book a trip to New York City. The goal? To somehow see Hamilton.
I am Not Throwing Away My Shot
Meanwhile we don’t have tickets. It’s the most popular show on Broadway, sold out until the end of time, and probably a few years after that. Resale tickets are laughably expensive. I tell the girls, look, this is your dream, part of my job as your parent is to encourage you to make your dreams come true, so, “Figure it out, Alexander. That’s an order, from your commander!” (Yeah, we pretty much only speak in Hamilton lyrics.)
The girls are undaunted in their quest. They research cancellation lines and Ham lottery like it’s their job. They study the cast members’ time off habits and Lin-Manuel’s understudy schedule. They have committed to sleeping out in the cancellation line for tickets. They are incredibly grateful we have given them even the smallest shot to see this show.
Let’s pause a moment and remember that it’s a show. It’s a two-hour and forty-five minute show with a fifteen minute intermission. It will be over as quickly as it starts, but somehow, it’s everything. And somehow, miraculously, I understand this. Somehow my husband, Dan, understands this too.
They Say, The Price of My Show’s Not a Price They are Willing to Pay
We’ve never seen them take this much initiation in something they want and we are impressed, but know they don’t have much of a chance to see the show. We investigate tickets on Stub Hub, but ticket prices are only going up from a price point that we would never, ever consider. Never. Well, as is the case with Hamilton, you start to consider the impossible. The World Turned Upside Down. You no longer see prices. You see the moment. The now. You see your shot to be part of history.
For 22 years of marriage, we have made good, solid, boring financial decisions. We save for college. We save for retirement. We try to do good in the world. We bought our first ever brand new car three years ago in our mid-forties, for the love of snot! Spending this kind of money on a three-hour event is not in either of our DNA. Well until we bought Hamilton tickets. To quote Hamilton, “You must be out of your goddamn mind.” Yup. We were. It was not easy for us, but we decided we will spend a staggering amount of money on our kids during their lifetime and have few opportunities to be able to make them this happy…and, wrong or right, we went for it.
I’m the queen of buyer’s remorse. I close my eyes after we hit submit and wait for the regret to come. It doesn’t. The money is gone, but instead we have golden tickets, not just to Hamilton, but to the inner joys and happiness and dreams that live inside our daughters’ hearts and minds. Holy sh*t that’s a great feeling! And we know we are insanely lucky because not everyone could do this.
For a week we keep the secret. We listen as they stay positive about getting tickets. They are somehow going to get the impossible ticket. They are sure of it. Much like Hamilton, himself, they are “not throwing away their shot.” His story of being in the right place at the right time, his vision of what he wants, and his confidence in his ability to make it happen becomes their story too. We enjoy this more than I can say.
The Story of Tonight
We get to New York City and take them to the Richard Rodger’s theater to scope out the cancellation line they think they are camping out at that night. It’s there we tell them we bought tickets for the next day. Their reaction is everything we thought it would be. They were shocked. They cried. They hugged me. They hugged each other. It was pure joy. It was complete gratitude. It was a confirmation for them that we hear them. We don’t discount their dreams, and when and if we can, we will do everything in our power to make their dreams come true. Watch the moment…
The Room Where it Happens
And so we saw it. We were lucky enough to be “in the room where it happens.” As they say in Act II, “Ladies and Gentlemen, You could have been anywhere in the world tonight, but you’re here with us in New York City.” There was nowhere else in the world we would have rather been. We sat in that beautiful theater for three short hours in the midst of the brilliance of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s brain and vision, along with the insanely talented cast who makes that vision become the phenomenon that Hamilton deserves to be. As we watched the show, I looked over at my daughters and hoped I remembered their rapt, smiling faces “for the rest of my days.”
The World Turned Upside Down
When they win the war at the Battle of Yorktown they sing, “And just like that it’s over. We tend to our wounded. We count our dead.” When the show is over, we stagger, awe-struck, out of the theater with our t-shirts and mementos in hand. Much like these passionate revolutionary soldiers, we almost don’t know what to do with ourselves. The dream continues as we wait to meet the cast, including the generous, lovely Daveed Diggs, who kindly listened to my daughters rap Guns and Ships, a moment we will never forget.
A lot of this story only makes sense if you know the show Hamilton and the message of urgency and action. A lot of this story only makes sense if your kids have ever truly wanted to be part of something they felt was part of them, something hardwired into their very souls. Hamilton does that to a person. The music, the actors, the lyrics, the story of the bastard, orphan, immigrant who works non-stop, taking every risk, standing firm on his beliefs, putting it all on the line as a massive gamble of his brain and ambition being enough to survive the revolution and start a new nation infects you.
But a lot of this story might never make sense because Hamilton is a phenomenon, something you have to just witness to understand and even then, the love of it still perplexes.
What Comes Next?
Well, we feel a little like Alexander Hamilton himself. We “will never be satisfied.” We already want to see it again! Thank you Lin-Manuel Miranda for this gift.