by Cierra Johnson
When I got the email informing me that I had won Berklee’s ticket lottery to see “Hamilton,” I was ecstatic! Every review I saw about it praised it immensely, and the fact that the cast mainly consists people of color intrigued me. The story is about Alexander Hamilton, one of America’s founding fathers, as well as the founder of America’s financial system, The New York Times, and The United States Coast Guard. I learned about Alexander Hamilton in high school and middle school, as all American children do, but seeing his story told in this manner transformed him into a real and interesting person. Never in a million years did I think I could relate to someone like Alexander Hamilton, but with this musical I felt his pain, laughed with him, and cried at his unfortunate demise.
On Wednesday, November 3rd around 11:45 am a group of 25 students eagerly gathered while awaiting a bus that took us to New York City for the show. The trip took around 3 and a half hours, and we were all brimming with excitement the entire time. As we entered New York City I felt the energy build as people began singing and rapping the “Hamilton” soundtrack. Upon arrival, we were let out in front of the Richard Rogers Theater, where everyone
took pictures of the iconic logo and building. We were then left to our own devices, and my group decided to walk around the city while we waited for the show to begin.
When we came back to the theater flocks of people had gathered outside, anxious for it to begin. We then got our tickets and proceeded to walk inside. After speaking to Roger Brown for a few moments we gathered to take a group picture, then headed up to our seats. Unfortunately we were not all seated together, but I was able to sit with a friend, and Roger Brown was seated not too far behind me. The small size of the theater surprised me, yet it felt intimate and comfortable.
As soon as the lights went down the entire theater erupted in applause. (This would continue throughout the night). The opening song, “Alexander Hamilton” energized the audience and brought the mood up by 100%. Hamilton works well for musical theater aficionados and novices. I absolutely loved seeing a show such as this being played out with a diverse cast of color. The juxtaposition of the story of all white people from America’s history being played by people of color with rap and other musical styles enticed me to no end.
The most memorable songs for me were “Alexander Hamilton,” “My Shot,” “The Room Where It Happens,” every piece sang by Rory O’Malley (King George), and the finale “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story”. If I had to choose one song as my favorite however, it would be “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story.” I can’t give too much away for those who wish to see the musical, but I will say that this song perfectly tied together the main synopsis of the show and left me in tears. I have never seen or heard of a show similar to Hamilton, I only wish I could go see it once more.
After the show, our group had a brief question and answer with the Music Supervisor (and Berklee Alumni) Alex Lacamoire, and a few of the cast members and band. I was amazed at the number of Berklee alumni within the cast, and how transparent everyone was when answering questions. The breakthrough moment came when a Latina student said to the cast, “I just wanted to tell you all that I was in tears throughout this show. Just seeing all of you up on that stage reminded and inspired me that I CAN do it.” To which Lexi Lawson (Eliza Hamilton) replied “It is possible!” Almost everyone was moved by this interaction and I almost broke down. As an African-American I rarely see those who look like me on Broadway unless it’s a “black” show such as “Dreamgirls” or “The Lion King.” Seeing all of these actors (some of whom went to Berklee), on stage in one of the most acclaimed shows out right now was absolutely beautiful. The statement “representation matters” seems cliché, but in that moment the phrase was all I could think of. My thoughts were then directly echoed by Javier Munoz (Alexander Hamilton).
The beauty of Hamilton for me is that, while the cast is comprised mainly of black and latino actors, they are not subjected to stereotypical roles and commonly used tropes we are often forced into. Hamilton has been heralded as the greatest pieces of artwork of the 21st century. I wholeheartedly agree, and I can only hope that Hamilton will usher in a new era of musicals. If I had to describe my experience in a few sentences here is what I would say: Seeing Hamilton felt like being in a time capsule. In that moment, nothing else mattered, and time seemed to stop. Overall, I give Hamilton 2 thumbs up, and if ever given the opportunity I will gladly see it again.
HAVE YOU HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO SEE HAMILTON? SOUND OFF IN THE COMMENTS!