Over labor day weekend, I made a pilgrimage from Atlanta to New York for the sole purpose of seeing Hamilton. Ok, maybe not the sole purpose—I also attended a couple of improv shows, walked around the city, ate lots of food, and participated in the general shenanigans that accompany going on vacation with some of your best friends—but it was the crux of the trip, the fuel behind our 866 mile drive. To a lot of people, traveling 26 hours to see a 2 hour performance sounds crazy. To me, it was a small price to pay to see the hottest show of the season.
It should go without saying that I’m a huge musical theatre geek;I jump at the chance to see any show on the Great White Way. But I live in Atlanta, so watching Broadway shows usually isn’t feasible. It takes a special show, with a few key ingredients, for me to make it feasible. Hamilton met all of the requirements.
It’s by an artist I love.
I’d be lying if I said that Lin-Manuel Miranda, the driving force behind Hamilton, wasn’t the main reason I made the trip up to New York City. I’ve been an adamant admirer of Miranda since I first saw In the Heights, and I’ve been following Hamilton since the video of him rapping the opening number at the White House was posted on youtube in 2009. However, my love of Lin-Manuel Miranda wasn't enough to make me travel to New York City. After all, I didn’t travel that far to see Bring it On! Hamilton still had to meet my other requirements. If it hadn’t, I wouldn’t have made the trip, and would’ve instead waited to see it on tour or watched a crappy bootleg online. I love Lin-Manuel Miranda, but his name on the poster wasn’t the only factor that went into my decision to drive across 9 states.
I described the show to my friends as the story of founding father Alexander Hamilton’s life told through rap and hip-hop. That had enough of a WTF? element in it to peak their interests and convince them to spending 26 hours in a car with me. Hamilton’s built upon an idea so different from what we’re used to seeing in a theatre setting that people attend if only to see how the show could possibly pull it off. It’s incredibly satisfying to be in the audience of a performance that’s breaking boundaries, that’s doing things people haven’t tried before. It makes the audience feel as if they’re experiencing history.
It’s had critical success.
Because I live so far away, most of my information on the good, the bad, and the ugly of the current Broadway season comes from critics. So it was hard to ignore Hamilton when critics started gushing over it. I’d had faith that Lin-Manuel Miranda would pull off a spectacular new musical, but it was nice to hear the voices of critics assuring me that he had created one better than anyone could’ve imagined. When people are saying a show is so good you should mortgage your house to get a ticket, it’s hard not to plan to drive 866 miles to go see it.
This is the big one, the culmination of all of the above factors and the one element without which I wouldn’t have made the trip. Hamilton is exciting. It’s unique, which is exciting. It’s by a talented creative team, which is exciting. It’s had critical success, which is exciting. But mostly, it’s exciting because it’s a unique show by a talented artist that’s had critical success.These are the shows that Broadway needs to watch out for, that people will do whatever it takes to go see. These are the shows that leave a mark on the theatre community, that remind people why they love this art form. Shows that excite people