‘Hamilton’ delivers, even with a Wookiee
May 18, 2017
Steamboat Springs — We had waited for more than a year to see the Broadway smash “Hamilton,” and finally, April 28, there we were, walking into the crowded Richard Rodgers Theater on the Great White Way in the heart of New York City.
My wife, Jacki, and I had waited so long, and we were so excited, yet things seemed to start going wrong even before the show began.
We were in the back — the very, very back — of the orchestra section, and our view was partially blocked by the balcony, hanging down in front of us. Squat as low as possible in your seat, and you may just be able to see an actor on the second level of the stage from the waist down.
Of course, I could only see that much when I leaned left or right to see around the guy in front of me. He was at least 10 feet tall — maybe 12. I didn't measure him, but he had a head the size of a state-fair pumpkin and may never have gotten a haircut.
On top of all that, we checked our Playbill only to find four of the nine main parts were to be played by understudies, including one who seemingly picked up a speech impediment in the second act that made him difficult to understand in the show's quieter moments.
This is what $200 per ticket from the actual box office got us?
We'd considered paying much more.
Jacki is from New Jersey, and she's a Broadway fanatic. When living in the region, before we met and she had moved to Steamboat Springs, she'd seen the show “Rent” 15 times and at one point had seen every show currently playing.
While I'm certainly not a fanatic, I've become a willing partner. She took me to “Jersey Boys” on Broadway soon after we met and have since become subscribers to the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, making trips to the Buell Theater in Denver five or six times a year.
We were walking out of a matinee showing of “Pippen” on a fall Sunday afternoon a few years ago, the Broncos and the Chiefs playing football just two miles away, when I realized love can do funny things to a person.
We don't share as many interests as some couples. We cheer for different teams. We watch exactly one TV show together. I'm not sure there are any bands we mutually like. She plans ahead and worries. I assume and relax.
Seeing musicals, though, that's one of our things.
There's been no bigger musical to see in the last two years than “Hamilton,” the supposedly brilliant, supposedly unforgettable, supposedly amazing story of United States founding father Alexander Hamilton, right-hand man to George Washington during the Revolution and the nation's first secretary of the treasury. It’s the genius — supposed genius, that is — of Lin-Manuel Miranda, already a Tony winner before “Hamilton” and a household name for many after.
So, on a visit to see her family last summer, we considered forking over to see “Hamilton.” We would have had to spend between $700 and $1,000 per ticket to buy from the second-hand market.
Paying $200 per ticket is insane. Paying five times that begs for a different word.
But, it's supposed to be the best show, right? The praise has been unanimous and unequivocal. At the time, we could have seen it with the original cast, too, most of whom rode the production to modest fame and Tony awards and have since left the show.
Can you put a price on a once-in-a-lifetime experience?
Apparently. Plus, what if it wasn't that good?
Expectations can weigh on an experience in funny ways. We saw “The Book of Mormon” in Denver and went in with the highest expectations — "funniest thing you ever saw" expectations.
It was very good, but as I left the theater, I couldn't help but think it hadn't delivered on someone else's promise. It wasn't THAT funny.
I'd have been embarrassed if I'd spent $1,000 to see it.
In the end, the fact that we didn’t have the money for “Hamilton” helped make our decision, but the fear of leaving thinking, "It was good, but just good," sealed the deal.
We jumped on the chance to buy tickets the official way, the next time they were available from the box office, and ended up with $200 tickets for April 28, my 35th birthday.
So, there we were, in the back of the theater, constantly crouching down to see below the balcony, constantly shifting side to side to get around the Wookiee in front of us, and constantly straining to hear an Aaron Burr who struggled mightily with his S's.
Hamilton, though, is a jaw-droppingly awesome experience — brilliant and unforgettable and amazing and genius, no matter the circumstances. It is the most thoroughly excellent piece of art I've ever seen.
Songs are catchy and powerfully performed. It's as tightly written and intricately crafted as anything I've ever encountered. The story is fleshed out the way few are, and when you get to the inevitably tragic end, every character is there because of the story we've been told not simply because history demanded it.
We didn't spend $1,000 a ticket to see it, but we wouldn't have walked out feeling cheated if we had. It was an experience we'd waited years for. It was a night my wife had planned carefully, from a wonderful dinner before the show to an astounding cheesecake afterward.
Even the things that went "wrong" only added to the experience. (How many can say they got to sit behind a domesticated wooly mammoth?)
Musicals are one of our things, something we share. “Hamilton” is the biggest musical going, and thanks to the hype, thanks to the environment, thanks to the brilliant show, it gave us a night we'll never forget.
It was that good.