Thursday, December 14, 2017

Thoughts on Hamilton
There's a million things I haven't done...
But just you wait...

Melody is REALLY into musicals now. In particular, she really likes Dear Evan Hansen, Heathers: The Musical, Be More Chill and Lin Manuel Miranda's game-changing Hamilton.

If you've seen Disney's Moana, you've heard some of his work (he's one of the songwriters for the film and his voice is in the song at the end). 

Last night, I took her to see Hamilton at The Pantages in Hollywood.

This has been coming for some time. Melody has been playing the soundtrack on YouTube around the house for months. Finally, I purchased the soundtrack for her and now it's in the car too. The rest of these musicals aren't playing locally or touring on the west coast at this time. But the Hamilton touring company has been parked in Hollywood since August.

So I really had no excuse not to take her. Hamilton is literally her favorite thing right now. Far more important than her favorite band (Twenty One Pilots). My only remaining excuse was monetary. Hamilton seats do not come cheap and it's still selling out only two weeks from the end of its four-month Hollywood run.

Of all of the things I've exposed Melody to since Lori's passing, I feel that musical theater is probably the most Lori-ish thing I could have done. Lori loved the theater. She would play music from Phantom of the Opera and West Side Story on the piano in our living room and get Melody to sing along with her. We all went together to see Les Miserebles. Melody was just little at the time but it still sticks with her. In fact, now that I think of it, I suppose it's not me doing the exposing. Lori did it. And now Melody is sort of doing it to me.

I mean, I'm not a newbie. I've seen Cats twice. I've seen Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast (also twice), Camelot and that's just off the top of my head. And just this year I took Melody to see Musical Theater West's production of Lin Manuel Miranda's first hit, In The Heights at Carpenter Center and a local production of Hunchback of Notre Dame that used the songs from the Disney film but a story that matched more-closely to Victor Hugo's original novel. This production was expertly directed by my sister-in-law, Megan O'Toole and the costumes were impeccably designed by my brother, James (Melody knows them as Aunt Megan and Uncle Jim). I told Melody earlier this year, if we're gonna start going to musicals, we're gonna at least see the ones that family is involved with first.

So financial hurdle or not, it wasn't much of an excuse to hold out any longer. I didn't really have a choice. I disguised it as part of her (our) Christmas. But really, I still bought stuff for under the tree so that's a superficial disguise. Nevertheless, I buckled down and purchased two tickets to see Hamilton. And last night, immediately after Melody's Holiday Orchestra concert, we rushed up through Los Angeles rush hour traffic, paid our $20 to park and had the cast of Hamilton put on one HECK of a show.

Melody knew all of the words. And Miranda's hip-hop-like songs lend themselves to the sing-along in a fashion that is more akin to a rock concert than musical theater. But most of the audience were not singing along. So Melody refrained. But she was bouncing up and down in her seat and cheering. Applause after every song. And tears. Tears throughout the second act up until the end. Until the end. But AT THE END, standing ovation!

Me too. Tears and standing. Both. Most impressive, Lin. Most impressive indeed.

Before we sat down, Melody and I each purchased a shirt. Melody wanted to get the one with Hamilton and Lafayette high-fiving that had the line from the play, "Immigrants, we get the job done" on it. I talked her out of it. It's a great line and relevant in the context of the story. But here's the sad state of where I live in Downtown Long Beach, California as some of the only white people we know: Someone would have given her crap for that shirt in our neighborhood. Never mind that Hamilton, who was an immigrant from the Carribbean, was as white as Melody is. And never mind that Lori's ancestry on her mother's side came over from Ireland as immigrants... making Melody directly descended from Irish settlers (Colonel Thomas Carhart came over in the late 1600s from Cornwall, England so I guess he was an immigrant too). For Melody to go around with that shirt on, I'm afraid she would have been likely been accused of "cultural appropriation" (which I think is a laugh when you consider that every historically white person in Hamilton is portrayed by a person of color). Nevertheless, I cautioned her against the shirt because I didn't want someone giving her a hard time when I'm not around to protect her.

It's too bad that Melody can't be as openly proud of her own ancestry as others are. But that's the state of the world we live in. And I'm not going to put her in harm's way so she can wear a certain shirt.

So I caved to the (perhaps non-existent, or mis-perceived) pressure. We both got the standard black shirt with the star-shaped Hamilton logo.

The show itself was fabulous. For those of you who are not familiar with Hamilton. It's a hip-hop style musical that tells the story of one of America's founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton. It uses a diverse cast to tell a story of the founding of our country then with a cast of what America looks like now. I'm okay with that. I don't judge talent by skin color. And this cast has got loads of talent. The entire cast sings, dances and acts their way through the story impeccably. It soars and it tugs at the heartstrings. The songs have a beat and, despite its hip-hop pedigree, a melody as well. Miranda did an excellent job of crafting music that has a hip-hop base but is still accessible to the average listener through engaging melodies and snappy lyrics. And, even though I had heard the soundtrack for months (there is little spoken dialogue in the entire play... almost everything is done in song, almost like an urban opera), there were still little humorous surprises for me (just about everything King George does, for example). And I appreciate that.

After the show, Melody used her allowance to buy a set of six Hamilton buttons and then we were motoring back home, pulling into the driveway around 12:30 am. Work and school for both of us the following day. But the whole thing was worth it. Even the money--and it was nothing to sneeze at--it was worth it.

One thing of note that I find encouraging: When we look at the political landscape we're in right now, it's nice to know that, even in the founding of this great country, there was just as much disagreement and political in-fighting as we see right now. That gives me hope that we can iron out our differences without (God forbid) sparking another civil war. Which is the direction it sometimes seems we're going (I got the same takeaway from Spielberg's film, Lincoln, when I saw it).

For me, an artist re-finding himself after the loss of a loved-one, the story of Hamilton was important to me. As Hamilton says when he's first introduced, "There's a million things I haven't done. But just you wait. Just you wait..."

That resonates with me. And I don't have forever to do what I want to do.

"Why do you write like you're running out of time?"

I've got a lot more to write. To say.

So as we enter into the holiday season, no matter what holidays you choose to celebrate, my challenge to you is to think on that. Find something you haven't done. Something that maybe you've always wanted to do. Or something you feel like you need to say and haven't had a chance to get it out. And find a way to do that. Or at least try it.

That's what I'm going to do. So stay tuned. I've been gearing up for a couple months now to launch a few things in 2018. Puzzle pieces are coming together. New music. Cartoons. Books. 2018 is gonna be a year of changes and shifts. New paradigms and new directions.

And I'm not throwing away my shot.

1 comment:

JoAnna said...

Well said.