So I saw Hamilton. And like any decent obsession, this adventure is going to warrant at least three blog posts (sorry). This is a post for Act Two, covering the notes from Hamiltome and my experience watching the musical itself. There will be separate posts to discuss Act One and overall post on my experience with the show in NYC.
Let's do this song by song:
What'd I Miss: The second act starts off with Washington and Hamilton deep in Secretary/President business on the balcony as Burr discusses Hamilton's new role in the young government. And then we meet the new guy. Jefferson's intro is fantastic - he lights up at "Thomas, Thomas' and panders to the audience, blowing kisses and making the 'more applause, please' gesture. There's lots of dancing as Diggs is basically a ball of energy for this song. When he meets Washington and Hamilton, Hamilton steps between the two and introduces himself first. Jefferson is none too impressed and moves on to the President.
Hamiltome notes: The article accompanying this one is about Oak and Daveed, which seems about right. These two are part of the 'Sons of Liberty' in Act One, but really form their own duo in Act Two. The pictures of them backstage include Daveed in his underwear, if you're into that kind of thing. One quote from Daveed that makes me tear up: a black man playing these presidents when he was a kid might have changed his life. That impact! As for the song itself, I love the introduction not just to the song but to the second act from Burr (are you ready for more yet?). Miranda also notes that Madison and Hamilton's falling out falls in the act break. Hamilton's financial plan screwed over the war vets and this pissed Madison off. It's sad to miss it (along with John Adams and the Whiskey Rebellion and, and, and everything else) but it is also a little cleaner to just introduce Madison with Lafayette. Their relationship is mammoth. Also, Miranda notes that the 'Uh, France?' line was ad-libbed by Daveed. Thank you, Daveed, for this and many more things.
Cabinet Battle 1: There's plenty of interaction with the audience, especially compared to my other Broadway endeavors this week. The two factions encourage the audience to cheer for them. The mic is treated with special attention. George is very much exasperated here. The 'battle' is surprisingly emotional. Alexander is highly frustrated with the crap Jefferson is saying.
Hamiltome: The article here goes for the kids! Honestly though, the Hamilton cast and crew seem so enthralled with the impact this show might have on young minds and it's refreshing. The Rockefeller Foundation's partnership is truly incredible. Anyway, on to the music! The rap battles are full of hip hop and West Wingian references. Miranda points out that diuretic was in fact a word at this time; good to know. I just really appreciate that most of the stuff in these political dramas that is still true today. It's both sad and encouraging - they don't have plans, they just hate mine! AKA the Republican Party.
Take a Break: Another great use of the turntables, this time creating multiple rooms in the Hamilton home. Everyone takes a moment to acknowledge how hilarious it is that Ramos is playing a 9 year old. Hamilton is simultaneously impressed with Philip's poet skills and Eliza's beat boxing. But then he flirts with his sister-in-law (comma sexting!). Eliza and Angelica attempt to team up to get him to go up state. Hamilton's frustration at his work is evident - he really is busy, guys. But then Angelica shows up and there's a moment of happiness and relief. Lots of affection between the sisters. But then they give up and leave Alexander to his work. Which is bad news!
Hamiltome break: The article for this one is - did Alex and Angelica bone or not? The general agreement is 'we'll never know', but Alex definitely married the right sister. As for the song notes, apparently a composer Miranda admires suggested he get rid of this song. What? Honestly, it's excellent and also needed. We've had a bunch of political stuff but it's good to check in with his family, meet Philip. We also don't see much of his family, except for a cameo in "Schuyler Defeated" until "Burn," so this seems important. Apparently, the Macbeth quote used to be super-obscure. Macbeth is my favorite Shakespeare play, so whatever. I'm just happy it gets a shout out. Miranda also notes that Philip's rap is the most autobiographical thing in the show. Dust in my eye, excuse me. My favorite note on this song though: 'And, boy, did he get them (brothers)! Five of them, actually, and two sisters. But if you want to see a musical with eight kids, go watch The Sound Of Music.' Sound advice.
Say No To This: Maybe my favorite song of the show! He's still at his desk from "Take a Break" when Burr comes forward and starts the song. He remains sitting as he starts the infidelity story and continues to look tired and frustrated. There isn't as much interaction between Hamilton and Maria in the beginning; he really does try to stay away! Then there's a big kiss and some groping and he's talking about 'I wish that was the last time.' I guess we just discovered what sex looks like on this stage. James Reynolds is effectively scuzzy and sleazy. He also pops up in the background frequently for the rest of the show. The ensemble does a great job of serving as Hamilton's conscience, trying to get him to stop this nonsense. The song ends and Hamilton is alone at the front of the stage, dejected and sad, as Maria and Reynolds walk off together.
Hamiltome break: For the article, we look at Broadway masters and Jasmine Cephas Jones (aka, Peggy Schuyler and Maria Reynolds). It includes emails between Miranda and John Weidman. Jasmine has one of my favorite quotes from a contributing cast member: 'we are influencing the piece by just being who we are,' in a reference to her R&B style. For the song, Miranda addresses the narration - all hands on deck as Hamilton takes over from Burr. It's apt - this is a super personal, intimate song. Miranda also notes how the writer of The Last Five Years let him borrow the last line. I adore Last Five Years, so this is a nice bit of synergy.
Room Where It Happens: A barn-burner, as it were. Seriously, if you aren't on your feet, slapping your hands together at the end of this song, I question your humanity. Burr joins the Hamilton pity party at the front of the stage. During the 'Mercer' bit, Hamilton is clearly still upset and distracted by Reynolds. But then he gets swept up in the drama by Madison and Jefferson. The staging and lighting again work great together to be incredibly effective at creating the different spaces. The two Virginians and an immigrant stand with their backs to the stage as Burr sings. Jefferson starts his intro, adding Hamilton and Madison to the mix while walking around the stage. Then Burr moves to the front while they have their meeting at a table in the back of the stage. Hamilton comes over to deliver his lines about selling New York down the river. He makes fun of Burr 'waiting for it,' questioning the latter's strategy while returning to the 'room where it happens.' Then the dinner's over and Leslie really takes charge as it becomes his daydream fantasy. He just brought the place down with song and dance. It ends with him on stage alone. Just a really incredible moment of theater.
Hamiltome notes: The article is on The Chorus Line, a musical about the Broadway ensemble that debuted at the Public. For the anniversary, the Hamilton cast paid tribute and the Hamiltome takes it a step further, introducing us to the various ensemble members. And from my place way back in rear mezz, those guys work, non-stop, from the first note to the last. On the music side, Miranda's dad is a political consultant and I have to imagine that had a huge impact on this song. The Mercer bit is excellent and all comes from a list of rhymes Miranda had for Aaron Burr, Sir (Hamilton rhymes with nothing). Also, Miranda mentions that his favorite bit of Hamilton to play is when he throws Burr's philosophy back at him.
Schuyler Defeated: Eliza and Philip are on a side balcony with a newspaper, Burr and Hamilton on stage. Afterwards, Burr joins the Cabinet Battle. He's finally in the Room. He also wipes sweat off his brow, still overcoming the physicality of 'Room Where It Happens.' Friendly reminder that Leslie Odom Jr. is human.
Hamiltome side notes: Crickets here.
Cabinet Battle 2: Incredible, obviously. Ditto to everything from the first battle. Jefferson drops his mic and Madison catches it at one point. The mics themselves are a 'big deal,' in a fancy wooden box. Similarly, Hamilton makes a big to-do of giving his mic to Washington. As in the first battle, Hamilton has an inordinate amount of energy. I'm tired just watching him.
Hamiltome side notes: No article, but we got song annotations! The annotations are excellent - the line about 'where do we draw the line' draws mixed reactions every night (my thoughts? Look at ISIS, we should draw the line more, and I love that a musical is making us ask these questions), and there were originally lines about Angelica. I'm bummed this didn't get in. The relationships with Jefferson and Angelica and Angelica and Hamilton are fascinating.
Washington on Your Side: This piece is kind of an inverse to "Story of Tonight." Burr starts going off on Hamilton. At first, Jefferson is surprised and just watches. But then he joins in and by the end of the song, he's resigned from office and they've created an anti-Hamilton group. Madison joins at 'which I wrote.' Jefferson hands in his resignation to Washington, a nice overlapping of songs.
Hamiltome notes: We talk about how Questlove got involved with the cast recording and the cast recording in general. I loved the show (and am so looking forward to seeing it again, no matter who the actors are) but the cast album was my gateway drug. Well done, is what I'm saying. Per Miranda's notes, this music is some of his favorite and took some time. We also have another series of Mirandas notebooks here. What we learn: King George originally showed up in "Guns and Ships" and Burr initially narrated "It's Quiet Uptown!" I'm so used to it is, I can't imagine.
I always thought "One Last Time" was really right after "Cabinet Battle 2." I realize now this makes no sense - there has to be a somewhat significant time period for "Washington On Your Side" to give Jefferson time to decide to resign and then to actually resign. This is obvious on stage.
One Last Time: Miranda was incredible for this song - there's a whole range of emotions as he reacts to Washington's news. Also, there's lots of drinking, which always seems appropriate. I really loved how they managed Washington's announcement. I wasn't sure how this would go - Hamilton's words are incredible but it's a bit of a slow spot in the song as they revert to just quoting the farewell address in speech. But this might be one of my favorite bits of stage handling. It starts off with Hamilton writing the words, Washington in the background. Then Hamilton takes the stage and slowly he and Washington trade places until Hamilton's barely audible, standing off to the side with his family while Washington is front and center, giving his speech. Also, in importance in jacket changes, Hamilton starts off sans jackets and then Eliza puts Hamilton's dark green jacket on later in the song.
Hamiltome time: The article here talks about the switch from off-Broadway to Broadway, especially regarding "One Last Ride"/"One Last Time", namely the introduction by Kail of that vine and fig stuff. The article also gets a little heartbreaking, as Chris Jackson, our Washington, talks about his own struggles with coming to terms with Washington's stance of slavery and how he addresses it in the show. Now on to annotations: Miranda admits it was hard to merge the good stuff of "One Last Ride" into what it became and they reuse "The Story of Tonight" here, which I didn't realize. Then we also have the slavery debate text, which was cut.
I Know Him: I think, from a historical perspective, this song is incredibly interesting. When George Washington retired, King George referred to him as the best man in the world. Basically, it takes someone pretty special to give up power and responsibility. Good thing we found Washington or we might have just have reverted back to a monarchy. I also love the idea of giving up power being totally foreign to the king. And it serves as a friendly reminder, as all of his songs do, that this was not a forgone conclusion and England was probably still waiting for us to shit the bed. After the song, the King dramatically takes a seat to the side of the stage. He's around for most of the rest of the production, off to the side and providing comedic relief.
Hamiltome time: This time we talk about Groff! He came on about halfway through the production, when Brian d'Arcy James left for Something Rotten. For the song info, Miranda admits that King George just kind of showed up again, unexpected, for this song. He also mentions the John Adams HBO miniseries, which I really need to get back into. If only to understand this song better. Randomly, the book features is a picture of Miranda playing video games in his dressing room after this song. I'm not sure what the purpose of this picture is, but thanks for the insight!
The Adams Administration: Again, a slow spot on the album but exciting on stage. Hamilton is on the balcony. The lights go red as he drops his huge sheaf of papers that is his Adams Pamphlet on the stage at the 'fuckstick' line. For the rest of the song, Hamilton is at his desk. In Jefferson's words, he's still a threat.
Hamiltome notes: The article here talks about the changes from the Public to Broadway, especially the cuts. In some interview with Miranda (I can't find a direct reference but my brain says I saw it) said that the first thing they cut was his piece from "Adams Administration" so that this would be an open process and anyone and anything could get cut, it didn't matter who you were or who you were playing. The annotations have the missing pieces. And there's a lot! Miranda has tons of comments about what was cut, and while this stuff is great I can see why it was cut for pacing purposes - John Adams is a dude we never meet, after all. Finally, Daveed first thought 'As long as he can hold a pen, he's a threat' was 'As long as he can hold a pen, he's treat.' Let's all be sad there aren't recording of that floating around the internet.
We Know: At some point, I think we actually see Jefferson receive the info about James Reynolds, though I may be confusing this with his resignation letter, which also gets passed around. This scene was way off from what I had imagined. Stupid brain. Hamilton is at his desk when the anti-Ham dudes show up. I had actually imagined this the other way around, Hamilton being summoned, but it's closer to what actually happened as Hamilton shared the information at his own house in real life. He pulls the letter out of a drawer and shares it. Burr reads it and Jefferson stands over his shoulder. They're shocked, Hamilton is pissed. He puts the letter away again. The other men clearly don't know how to respond - this is not at all how they thought this talk would go.
Hamiltone time: For this article, we chat with Howell Binkley, the lighting expert. While the lighting for "Hurricane" is impressive, it's insane the entire damn show. For song notations, Miranda mentions this has some of his favorite rhymes and that the music mirrors that from "Say No to This." Perfect for all affair-related musical moments!
Hurricane: And then we're right in to "Hurricane." He's alone on stage with lighting and ensemble simulating a hurricane. Everyone is watching from the balcony. Lots of emotions. Seriously, so many emotions from Miranda as Hamilton. It's basically Act One, but from his point of view. Maria gives him the pen to write the Reynolds Pamphlet. I think you've done enough.
Hamiltome annotations: Basically, we need to see what the hell would make Hamilton write the Reynolds Pamphlet. He really doesn't want to die or fail. So he just fucks everything up instead.
The Reynolds Pamphlet: Another great, fun piece. Well, except for the man at the center of it. Everyone is just enjoying Hamilton's misery. He stands in the middle of the chaos. It's a moment of brevity before shit gets real for the rest of the act. A nice touch: Hamilton mouths the words as they read aloud from the Pamphlet. Philip reads the pamphlet! Maria reads it! Way to disappoint everyone, Hamilton! We were all rooting for you! King George comes out to really rub it in.
Hamiltome notes: Our nation's first sex scandal gets a contemporary beat. Even Miranda appreciates the usefulness of the phrase 'Well, he's never gon' be president now,' during this current election cycle. At one point, there was an entire song for Angelica's response to the affair, called 'Congratulations.' I have to say, way more effective as one song. After "Reynolds Pamphlet," we just want to hear from his poor wife.
Burn: After the grandiose chaos of "Hurricane" and "The Reynolds Pamphlet" this is quiet, simple, and effective. Just Phillipa onstage, playing with fire.
Hamiltome time: Miranda admits this is all made up - Eliza's letters are gone, who knows why. But Angelica did basically say the Icarus line in a letter that didn't disappear.
Blow Us All Away: Great staging and lighting here as well to show the different settings. Ramos is an excellent, cocky 19 year old. I wasn't sure how they were going to stage the play within a musical but it's so well done - the actors are in a spotlight on the stage with a small audience to the side. Eacker is on the balcony, Philip on the stage, yelling at him. Then we transition to Hamilton's home. Hamilton is already in black. The moment between father and son is sweet, touching. We even get a laugh in (everything is legal in New Jersey). Hamilton gives him the two pistols that are used in the duel. I imagined him giving Philip his pistol sure, but it's also the pistol Eacker uses. You know, the one that kills his son. And then we have our second duel of the evening.
Hamiltome: The article accompanying this is so sweet, I almost cried. Basically, it describes the craziness around opening night (previews). Anthony Ramos, our Philip Schyuler/John Laurens, brought the entire cast to tears the next day, describing the experience and their roles. The article also describes how far Ramos has come with Hamilton. President Obama shows up (his second appearance so far, but not his last) and, after greeting everyone at intermission, takes a special moment to tell Anthony he's really gifted. A moment that will last forever for him. As for the song itself, Miranda notes this is the happiest music in the show, to create tension and contrast for the what is about to occur in the rest of the act. Also, the name of the play Eacker was seeing? The West Indian. Just for another moment of tragedy and drama.
Stay Alive (Reprise): Just heart breaking. She lets out a sob at the end that is chilling. The show also takes advantage of the issue with moving around a dead guy instead of making it awkward; Anthony gets off the table and walks off stage as the table moves to the back of the stage. It feels organic and more whole than just 'how do we get this supposedly dead man off stage.'
Hamiltome: For the annotations, Miranda admits this a pretty tough scene to play, especially as a new dad. Yeah, that sounds bout right.
It's Quiet Uptown: It's fitting that Angelica narrates - she has already had such a big influence and impact on the Hamilton marriage. When Eliza comes out, she just stands unresponsive for awhile. At the very end, she finally forgives him and takes his hand. It's a much simpler song than I imagined - just the two of them for the most part. Him just begging her for forgiveness, trying to find something to hold on to in all the grief.
Hamiltome: The book gets serious here. The article is black with white text, no pictures. It describes the evolution of this song - it took Miranda quite awhile, until early 2014. The show was in workshops at the Public when he realized the answer was with 'There are moments that the words don't reach.' It's not about what's said, but what can't be expressed. Additional sadness: In November, Oskar Eustis's teenage son died. Miranda sent him the demo for this song. The article ends with ' They had listened to it every day [the week after their son died].' This is when I started crying. There aren't any notes for the song itself, just an image of a very sad Lin and Pippa on stage, and this seems right.
The Election of 1800: Madison is crying! Poor guy. He is the anti-Hercules Mulligan. Burr overhears all the nice things said about him and is very happy (you can grab a beer with him!). Hamilton shows up without his jacket (the jacket always seems important). After chatting with Burr, he moves to the balcony. Everyone is on stage as he sings about his choice, meaning Burr and Jefferson are both on stage when he says 'Jefferson' and their reactions are evident. Burr is pissed. Also, for Jefferson's last few lines, Burr has his hand out for a shake the entire time. Which helps us lead to "Your Obedient Servant."
Hamiltome time: This article is interesting. There's a discussion with Chris Hayes (liberal) and David Brooks (conservative) on Hamilton in modern-day politics. Basically: Hamilton's story is an extremely American one. And the question Hamilton brings up in us: am I doing enough, are my dreams big enough? Am I achieving the American dream? Finally, they both agree that Hamilton would be neither a Democrat or a Republican today. He's more complex than a two-party system. As for song notations, Miranda notes this is the most modern politics-adjacent song of the bunch. Today, there are campaign slogans and who you can have a beer with certainly matters.
Your Obedient Servant: Lots of very dramatic letter-writing! Burr writes and Hamilton reads and then vice versa. The letters go back and forth via the ensemble. Hamilton really writes a lot, to the point of humor. It's very much a back and forth between the two but they never address each other directly.
Hamiltome thoughts: The article here is on the difficulty of bringing Burr and his ambition to stage, Leslie's coolness, and Lin's surprising relationship to Burr. For the song, Miranda notes how ineffectual the office of VP can really be; the original exchanges were more historically accurate but making them modern and honest and intimate, that seems more effectual. There's even a Parks & Rec reference: When he says 'Here's an itemized list of thirty years of disagreements,' Miranda refers to this as a very Leslie Knope thing to do. And it is!
Best of Wives, Best of Women: One more moment of sweetness before everything goes to shit again. Eliza is still very much in grief over her son. There's just an overall sadness.
Hamiltome: No article but two notes, both of which are basically just Miranad telling us how awesome and important to this work his wife was.
The World Was Wide Enough: If the jacket stuff is important, Hamilton's in a damn coat for this. When he mentions his son, Anthony briefly shows up on stage. The bullet stuff is creative and effective. As Hamilton talks, the bullet moves closer. The people he names join him on stage. Eliza is in blue, between Hamilton and the bullet in the middle of the stage, and walks off when he says good-bye to her, the only person to move. When he gets shot, he hunches over and remains hunched over until he exits the stage. Two men act out rowing him around the turn table to the back of the stage. Eliza and Angelica join him and he walks up the stairs.
Hamiltome time: This was interesting. Per Miranda's Twitter, the Hamilton side of the duel popped up right before the debut at the Public. This article is all about getting it right, as it describes Oskar pushing Lin to refine the song until it becomes not just Hamilton's side but his question. He doesn't make a decision about what Hamilton's move here is but describes his thought process and questions. Both Burr and Hamilton, their actors, come in to the duel with questions. As for song notations, the title comes from a Sterne novel Burr read after Hamilton died - he really said that if he had read this book first, he would have known the world was wide enough for him and Hamilton. We also get the first mention of Hamilton's glasses - just listening to the audio, this is startling, but in the show, the dude is wearing them on and off the whole time. I bet there are a bunch of glass pairs backstage, just in case. There's also a really lovely anecdote about Miranda discovering the secret to Hamilton's soliloquy on New Years, 2015. It involves his newborn son and is adorable.
Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story: Her gasp at the end when she realizes that his story is being told, so heartbreaking. And so meta and perfect. Hamilton comes on stage when she mentions the orphanage and he is the one that guides her to the front of the stage and shows her the audience, what has become of his story. And I just got teared up writing this... She cannot wait to see Hamilton again and I cannot wait to see Hamilton again.
Hamiltome notes: Here we talk about the real opening night. There's a party and fire works and Miranda puts together a 'New York' playlist. Basically, it sounds like a good time. Oh, to be in the room where it happens. As for the song itself, Miranda notices that it's unusual to end with someone other than the protagonist but cites 'Caroline, or Change' as a good precedent to follow. Let's see Eliza's musical now! Another fun fact, both in this and in Chernow's biography - Hamilton's son finally got around to publishing his dad's biography, but only right after Eliza died. Then the Hamiltome wraps up, talking about the moment in November 2015, when President Obama visited the theater and gave a speech afterwards, to Democratic party bigwigs who had paid to see the show with the President. Tell your story. Be part of America. Tell it better than Hamilton.