What can you say about a musical that’s dropped three years ago and has been touring since?
“Hamilton,” which is Broadway’s smash hit of all smash hits, has been playing in New York for three years, Chicago for two, West End, is coming to D.C., and has two — soon to be three — national tours.
It is still a hot ticket; during its brief Costa Mesa stint (it ends on May 27), the cheapest seat you could buy was $130 or so … if you bought it when tickets went on sale. Today, you can possibly still buy one ticket for $330 to $700.
And yet, after witnessing the largesse of creator Lin-Manuel Miranda’s masterpiece, I have to say that the musical is worth that amount. I say this not just because the breadth and depth of the music is phenomenal – Miranda fuses the founding father’s historical biography into a densely packed 2 and a half hours (honestly, you don’t feel the passing of time), using rap, R&B and Britpop songs. The songs are written with deft and respect, letting us see a history as it happens — relatable, and very much in the present. Casting minority actors in lead roles forces viewers to digest the idea that America’s history was created more than old white men.
The best part? The irony of rich South county folks paying an upward of $300 for tickets to watch a show that celebrates immigrants was just too delicious.
But what Hamilton creators don’t tell you is the show is just the gateway. When people say that “Hamilton” is making an impact beyond Broadway, that is because it’s a living, breathing piece that exemplifies what a piece of art should be doing in the 21st century. The viewing of Hamilton doesn’t end when you walk to your car from Segerstrom.
Instead, Miranda and company have made it so that, as you’re contemplating Hamilton’s legacy, and how his wife Eliza made it possible to venerate him 250 years later, you buy the t-shirt and stream the original Broadway soundtrack. (BTW, Eliza — played by Shoba Narayan in this tour — is the best part of the show.)
And THEN, you stream “The Hamilton Mixtape,” which features assorted songs and outtakes from the musical performed by artists such as Busta Rhymes, the Roots, Regina Spektor. (According to a friend of Miranda’s, mixtapes were his favorite things to make back in the day — his gift of choice.) Miranda is said to have written the Hamilton songs with specific artists like Busta Rhymes in mind — now he’s brought these iconic artists together to cement that vision and to create the full circle of inspiration. And ugghhh, the artists are so carefully curated — Kelly Clarkson! Ja Rule and Ashanti! USHEEEEERRRRRR!!!! — that all these songs are amazing and adds another layer of depth to our appreciation of the musical.
And THEN, you can follow Miranda and the Hamilton twitter handles to hear Hamildrops – wherein Miranda and his cohorts drop a Hamilton-related song each month. There’s “First Burn,” an outtake of Elizabeth Hamilton’s song that brings each of the Elizas from each production (Broadway, Chicago, West End, and two touring shows) together in one video. (Spoiler alert: You will cry when you hear it.) There’s “Found Tonight,” a collaboration with actor Ben Platt; a portion of the proceeds went to the March For Our Lives Initiative. And so on.
Hamilton is a story of immigrants, created by folks of immigrant stock. From the time of Obama to Trump, no matter who is talking about it, it has been used to propel the national conversation about immigration. – “Immigrants/We get the job done” — is a litmus test for venues in which it is performed. (OCW’s former head honcho Gustavo Arellano said that when he saw the show opening night, the Segerstrom audience barely clapped. In Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, that line “gets such sustained applause that the pause that follows has been lengthened to allow time for the ovation to end.”
And Hamilton the Musical is Miranda’s masterpiece, but everything that happens alongside your appreciation of Hamilton — the mixtape, the Hamildrops, the Prizeo contests — are his ongoing gifts to the world. It’s so clear that Miranda’s goal is bigger and more grandiose than just writing a Pulitzer/Tony/Grammy-winning musical.
Miranda’s goal is to give minorities in America a bigger stage, a standing place within this country’s history. Beyond that, he wants all Americans — immigrants and all — to recognize their own legacies and tell their own stories. (To quote Arellano again, “It’s a very pro-America story, which many don’t get.”)
Everything he does conveys a deep respect what came before, and where it came from — whether it’s American history or old-school hip-hop, and a love and excitement toward his current audience, who will partake of his work and keep building on it. All throughout these processes — the Twitter feed, the Prizeo , Miranda displays his knowledge, his heart and his soul.
For that, I’d pay $330 anytime.
When: Through May 27. 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays, 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sundays, 7:30 p.m. April 30, 1 p.m. May 3
Where: Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa
Information: 714-556-2787, www.scfta.org