Experiencing Hamilton in Hollywood

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When I bought the Hamilton CD about a year and a half ago, I had no idea how much it would affect my life. I’m not even being dramatic… the Hamilton musical is what inspired me to start selling my artwork on Etsy, and continues to drive me as I struggle to get noticed in a huge digital marketplace. Lin Manuel Miranda wrote Hamilton while he was already working on his other show, “In the Heights”. I figured if he could write a masterpiece using his spare time, then I could create some artwork in my spare time. I’m probably not going to be a famous celebrity like Lin is, but I will never know how far I’ll go if I don’t try, right?

Needless to say, I was so excited when the Hamilton Tour announced they would be performing at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood. When ticket sales opened my sister and I sat with 5 different devices on Ticketmaster, hoping to get tickets. If you’ve ever tried to score tickets for a major event, you know how stressful it is. (First world problems, I know.) We were thrilled to finally score orchestra seats! And after months of sitting on these coveted tickets, our big show day finally arrived last night.

And it was amazing.

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Hollywood is a far drive for me and I don’t go often, so I tend to go full tourist whenever I go. We got to the theater early and decided to take a short walk down Hollywood Blvd to check out the stars on the sidewalk. I found Kristin Chenoweth’s star…. I think she’s great, and wish I got to see her in Wicked! The Pantages is located on Hollywood and Vine, which was the center of the entertainment capital during the Golden Age of Hollywood. While the current heavy construction in the area was decidedly NOT golden, the Pantages is. You step inside and you are immediately swept back in time to the Roaring 20’s and all that Gatsby glitter. It’s gorgeous. I definitely wasn’t the only one shamelessly taking pictures of every ornate ceiling medallion and sculptures! Getting there early means beating the lines and crowds, which was so nice! We had plenty of time to explore, take pictures, grab a drink, and check out the merchandise at our leisure. They had some cute shirts ranging from $20-$40, and some smaller items for less. I ended up getting their star logo lapel pin for $10.

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I loved the fact that nearly every age group was represented in the audience. There were little old ladies hobbling with their walkers, couples on date night, and 10-year-olds dressed in their nicest clothes. There were a lot of kids, actually. My parents exposed me and my siblings to theater at young age, so seeing them there made me a little nostalgic. The older ladies sitting in front of us in the theater were talking excitedly during the intermission about how surprised they were to be “so into this show.” The teenager behind me dropped whatever ’cool guy’ façade he had to gush about his favorite song (So What Did I Miss?)

So how was the show?

It was fantastic. The touring cast is wonderful, which makes me wonder (and pine for) just how incredible the original Broadway production in New York must have been. 99% of the show is singing, with only a brief scene between Alexander and Eliza to explain how John Laurens died.  And if you’re wondering why you should bother if you already own the CD…. I just have to say that the actors’ facial expressions and body language add so much more to the story and overall experience. So much. The CD won’t show you Hercules Mulligan being the flower girl at the Hamilton wedding. Or King George dancing in the background during “the Reynolds Pamphlet.” And the show knows this: the brick facade in the background is the only stage setting throughout the entire show, so the focus is on the characters and their interactions.

I just want to give a shout out to the ensemble cast for a second. Those ridiculously fit and beautiful people in the cream pants and vests are the ones executing all the scene transitions, quietly and stylishly moving all props into position. They often move in slow motion and, in one scene, freeze in impossible positions that make my abs hurt just thinking about it. During “Satisfied”, the entire scene rewinds itself to the night Alexander and Angelica met then fast forwards again to Angelica’s wedding toast. The transition is incredible…. I’ve wondered how they would do it ever since I heard the song, and now that I’ve seen it I can hardly describe it. To the choreographer of that scene, I salute you.

The lighting crew also deserve some props. From the opening number’s quick succession of solo spotlights, to the canon flashes in “Right Hand Man”, to Hamilton’s f-bomb in the “Adams Administration”…. The lighting made the scenes much more dramatic and exciting.

Our showing had several understudies: Ryan Alvarado for Hamilton, Julia Harriman for Eliza, and Desmond Newson for Lafayette. Our Hamilton sounded similar to Lin Manuel Miranda, which was surprising and fun. I feel like he got stronger and stronger as the show went on. Our Eliza played her delicate and sweet, with a heartbreaking rendition of “Burn.” Our Lafayette/Jefferson was hilarious and sassy.

But the standouts for me were Emmy Raver-Lampman’s Angelica and Rory O’Malley’s King George. It was no surprise to find out that they were part of the original Broadway production. Everyone in the show was great, but these two were obviously more comfortable, confident, and polished in their roles. They were an absolute joy to watch! Runner up goes to Mathenee Treco’s Hercules Mulligan/James Madison. This big guy just seemed like he was having the best time, even when he was deadpanning.

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At the end of the show the cast comes out for their final applause, and then asks for donations for the victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Hurricane Maria. If you wish, you can drop any amount of cash you can into the buckets that cast members would be holding in the lobby. They were also selling posters autographed by the entire cast for $1000. (Yep, that was 3 zeroes.) There were also a few posters signed by the cast AND Lin- Manuel Miranda going for $3000… but that poster also included tickets to come back and see the musical again on Christmas Eve AND a private backstage tour with Rory O’Malley (King George). If I only had $3000 on me, lol!

So there you have it. I wish I had pictures from the actual show, but there was no way I was breaking out that camera in the middle of that performance. I am so so grateful and happy that I got to see such a fantastic show in such a beautiful theater. If you get the chance to see it, please do!

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