Mad Men and English Dogs

Susan Cinoman 

  • OnStage Columnist
  • @susancinoman

So first let me tell you about Scooter, my dog. He’s an asset. I mean, to his country, which is probably England, because he’s a Yorkshire terrier and a spy. And those terriers are tough. I mean when he gets a piece of cloth or a dog toy, he does not let it go, and he growls. So, yeah, he is one tough small dog and also a double agent. The reason I know he’s working both sides is that his dad, my husband, Doug, reveals secrets to him. But at other times, Scooter questions me, and even if I think my guard is up, he manages to play me, and sure enough, I’ve told him about some location, or some safe house that might have a bone under it. Or something like that. But I bring up Scooter, first of all, because I’m obsessed with him, but also because of Hamilton and the Tonys, The Hashtag Hamiltonys, which I thought I had coined, but alas no, it’s yet another bitter disappointment in my life. I digress.
Hamilton. I am one of the lucky bastards who has seen it. I use the terms specifically, because I AM a lucky bastard. Literally, I was a bastard, meaning that my parents were not married when they bore me, they abandoned me, and then I was lucky enough to be adopted by The Cinomans, my parents whom I loved (and lost) but loved and was so lucky. So, just like Hamilton, I was a bastard orphan born, well, I did go to the Caribbean with my friend, Jill while we were rehearsing The Soubrettes, our comedy act, but I guess a lot of the similarities between Hamilton and I begin to diverge after the Bastard Orphan part. Until you get to the writing. I definitely write like I’m running out of time. Because I am, I’m getting a lot older and still waiting for a production of two of my plays, so yea, I’m running out of time. I contend, who isn’t? The point here, is that when it comes to Hamilton, and his quest, and his shot, and his scrappiness- I relate. Totally. I am there. And I’m sure that a lot of you are there, too.

You are singing it in the car, dancing it in your room and putting your name in the lottery. And listening to Ham4Ham - can’t forget that crazy good promotional tool that no one gets mad at, because how can ANYONE ever get mad at Lin? He’s like a combination of a cherub and an imp, but also swashbuckling and a comedian. So no, I don’t think you can find much fault in someone who can sing with the boyishness of Bobby Morse for one minute, then rap like Biggy Small the next, and end the number like Errol Flynn. Lin’s so cool that he uses the word l’chaim often, which make Jewish people, like myself, just want to pinch his cheek and admire him all the more. 
Working on the assumption that you all love Hamilton like I do, and must get your listen on at least once a day, I beg to put forth one idea about why we love the show with the intensity that we do. I want to theorize about just what it is in particular that has galvanized us into a bobbing, clapping, booming bunch of Hamiltonians. (I read that visitors to Hamilton’s house in Harlem used to number about 100 or 200 every couple of months. Now 3000 people a month are visiting.) I think I know why. I think it’s… pride. I think that we are desperately thirsty to feel a sense of national pride. To think that Hercules Mulligan and John Laurence and Lafayette were not that far away from where a Starbucks is on 8th Ave in New York City, or that Washington was sleeping at inns across Philadelphia, or that Jefferson was dancing around the Disney theatres on Times Square at one point in the past, it makes us feel that we are connected to a history that was really honorable and important and rebellious and cool and diverse and American.

And I think we like that. And we need that. And we deify Lin Manuel Miranda, who with this amazingly soaring music and the sound of battles from antiquity mixed with hip hop, and the charisma of the cast, they imbue us with a feeling of wanting to be an American that a lot of us haven’t thought about. At least I haven’t, not since fourth grade, when I thought that anyone could do anything here in the United States. I found out otherwise, but Hamilton helps me to forget that. Hamilton washes away cynicism and replaces it with an unironic production of pure human intrigue on the public and private level. I love that so much. Part of it is too sad, and I have to skip it and I don’t even know the music to those sections. That point brings me to a conclusion.
At the end of the musical, when transcendence arrives and it’s all very beautiful but also so terribly heartbreaking, I am at my most vulnerable, just a gaping wound. That’s what Scooter sniffs out, as he jauntily prances toward me from the kitchen to the living room. He looks at me and cocks his head. He looks again. What is he thinking? Who does he report to? The King? General Howe? Something isn’t quite right or comforting in his gaze. As I said, he’s from England. Is Scooter an adorable, cuddly playful little pup, who seeks comfort in my arms, hailing from Yorkshire…in Britain? Or is he a harbinger for a time when history repeats itself… indeed a revolution may be upon us again! Or not.