Thursday, September 29, 2016

Who Tells Your Story

As I mentioned before, seeing Hamilton on Broadway was an incredible experience. It's weeks later, and I still think back to it all the time. The girls and I listen to the songs, and they know so many of the words already.

It is an incredible show that has blown away all the norms for a theater musical. It was nominated for 16 Tony awards. The cast recording album debuted at #12 on the Billboard charts, rose to #3, and has been streamed over 17 million times. It won a Pulitzer Prize. The Rockefeller Foundation donated $1.46 million to allow 20,000 New York Public School students to see the show every year at a reduced ticket price. Even the Secretary of the Treasury was swayed by its power when he decided to keep Hamilton on the $10 bill after a public outcry. It's a phenomenon to say the very least.

The hallmark of great storytelling is when people can identify with what they are seeing on a personal level. Hamilton is such a good example of that. There is a lot written about the parallels between the Revolution era and today, and Hamilton only enforces that. The non-traditional casting and hip hop score make it relevant to so many people who don't look like the founding fathers and who don't normally listen to show tunes.

For me, first, I love history. To see history told in such an amazing way and affecting so many people makes me all giddy. Second, I know how big a deal it is that I got to see the hottest show in the country (maybe the world) so early in its life. To borrow from something else I read, there was no place those people in the theater wanted to be more. What really got me in the gut though, was the last song. Alexander Hamilton's widow, Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton lived 50 years after her husband was killed. She was in charge of protecting his legacy. She interviewed men he had fought with, she organized his papers, and she tried to make sure he wasn't forgotten. In the song, Hamilton's sister-in-law says "every other founding father's story gets told, every other founding father gets to grow old." Eliza imagines what Hamilton would have done if he had more time, and spends her time trying to accomplish it. And she laments that she can't do the job as well as he would have. She says that she's most proud of the private orphanage she established in New York, a place for orphans like Alexander and she gets to watch them grow up.

I sobbed shamelessly through this song. It started out with polite theater tears, but then I let the flood gates open. It is not often that I relax my defenses (mainly because I am afraid I won't get it back under control); that night I did. As we left, the usher told me to stop crying... THAT'S how bad it was.

I'm not really comparing Tony to Alexander Hamilton (although Hamilton was another great Scot!), but after sitting through that amazing show and seeing the ups and downs of their lives, I was very familiar with how Eliza felt.

I'll conclude with a few paraphrased quotes strung together...
"History has its eyes on you." You've got to take your shot, and not wait for it, wait for it. If you do, "you'll blow us all away." "Death doesn't discriminate, between the sinners and the saints. It takes and it takes and it takes." Do it well, because "you have no control: who lives, who dies, who tells your story."


  1. Next time tell the usher to get a life. ;-)

  2. Stop in and tell me about the show sometime. I'd love to hear about it!