Hamilton and Other Founding Fathers

So I saw Hamilton last night. And yes, there is a reason it won every Tony it could possibly win. And yes, I’m so glad I spent the money and bought a ticket.

Because it’s L.A. and just getting anywhere is always a challenge I left the house at four o’clock to drive to the Universal City Metro Station to catch the Red Line to Hollywood and Vine. I bought a tap card, loaded on some credit and headed to the trains. The station at Universal is very modern and a bit SciFi in its look, but it was nothing as compared with the Hollywood & Vine station. As you can see from the photo this is a visual love letter to the movies.

Metro Station

The station exit is literally across the street from the Pantage’s Theater. A bit of personal trivia. My dad and Rodney Pantages were business partners so when I was a little girl I used to go and watch movies for free at the Pantage’s back when it was still a movie theater. Back then it was dingy and a bit run down. Not like today when it has been lovingly restored to its former Art Deco magnificence.

I had arrived very early so I went off to have dinner at the Running Goose restaurant. The meal was lovely. The restaurant is in a tiny building that is mostly open to the air with an herb garden out back. I had their tostada appetizers and make the mistake of having two — one with corn, the other with carrot. There were great, but it meant I couldn’t finish my main course of short ribs and pumpkin dumplings in a rich red sauce. And of course since I hadn’t driven it meant I had no place to stash the leftovers so I had to abandon them.

I walked back to the theater and waited for the doors to open at 7:30. My seat was in the orchestra but back enough that I had a perfect view of the stage. Any closer and the sight line wouldn’t have been as good.

I met two lovely ladies who are readers and aficionados of old Hollywood so we chatted about books and television and show at the Pantages. In between I studied the stage. It’s a single set, movable stairs and old bricks with a hint of dormers and windows. Each scene is set by the chorus and dancers moving chairs, stools and tables in and out. Very minimal and very effective because you don’t want anything that takes your attention off the performers.

Then it was time and the show began. First, this is not a traditional musical. It reminds me far more of opera in that virtually everything is either sung or rapped. I think there were maybe four words that were actually spoken. The audience also didn’t behave like a typical audience. There were loud, enthusiastic reactions to the arrival on stage of certain characters and to certain lines. One in particular got a big cheer when Hamilton and Lafayette shake hands and say “Immigrants we get the job done!” The cheers shook the roof and it was great.

The show covers decades in two hours and it’s an amazing tour de force. Most of us who write for the screen wish there was a way to cover that much time in a movie, but it often falls flat. Films tend to be immediate covering only a few days or weeks, sometimes only a few hours and they can lose their narrative drive when they try to cover too much time. Hamilton does it brilliantly.

The young men performing Burr and Washington were phenomenal. I had a bit of trouble understanding the young man singing Hamilton in the first act as his diction wasn’t as crisp as the other two. It got much better in the second act. I also think the second act is stronger than the first act. But perhaps that’s because of my background in Constitutional Law so I found all of the exchanges fascinating. There must have been a staggering amount of research done by Lin-Manuel Miranda.

There is a nice bit of comedic respite provided by King George, and I loved the way the costumes helped sell the passage of time. We went seamlessly from 18th century panniers to empire style dresses. (Yes, that word choice was deliberate.) I learned something too — about the fate of Hamilton’s son and the accomplishments of Hamilton’s wife Eliza after her husband’s death.

This is an important piece of art. It’s an important celebration of the men and women who created a new nation out of dreams and hard headed analysis of how to craft those dreams into reality. The use of a racially diverse cast highlighted for me the irony (and horror) of a country conceived in liberty that held a million people in bondage at the time of its founding.

I’m going to buy the soundtrack so I can really listen to the dialogue which is far more consequential then the usual musical comedy fare of croon, june, moon. Not that I don’t love those other style of musical. I’m a huge Broadway fan, but like I said, Hamilton is important.

If you get a chance — See it.

7 Responses to Hamilton and Other Founding Fathers

  • Melinda Snodgrass says:

    Sorry for the quality of the photos. The phone and I didn’t do a very good job last night, but at least you get a sense of it all.

  • Michael Charboneau says:

    Hi Melinda,

    Thanks for the article. Very well said. I don’t see the pictures at all though, either here or on Goodreads.

    I’ve had the good fortune to see Hamilton as well. My girlfriend and I had listened to the soundtrack numerous times, but I don’t feel our experience going into the show was diminished. The staging, costumes, production, and acting were all brilliant in the SF show. I think our Burr May have been little flat at the show I attended, but it wasn’t enough to take me out of the experience.

    I agree it’s an important show that has a lot to teach about America and on a personal level.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      Hmmm, let me check. The photos showed up on my computer when I checked the post. Wonder what went wrong? I’ll check again and see what might be happening. I really wish WordPress would just let me drag and drop.

      I haven’t downloaded the soundtrack yet. Too busy, but I’m looking forward to listening to it in the quiet of my home.

  • Melinda Snodgrass says:

    And now the photos are gone. What the heck is going on with WordPress? I’ll attempt to edit and get them loaded.

  • Melinda Snodgrass says:

    Okay, the pictures are in again. Let’s hope they don’t mysteriously slip away again.

  • Michael Charboneau says:

    Yep! There they are. Thanks for sharing.

    And… thanks for “The Measure of a Man”, one of my favorite stories.

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