Michael Schmid ‘21
The majority of my winter break was spent resting my beleaguered mind and body, battered by the 1L fall., in tranquility back in my hometown. “Take a break,” Eliza Schuyler Hamilton commands. You got it. Then, with all but a week left before my return to Charlottesville, an almost unheard-of gift came before us: (relatively) cheap tickets to Hamilton on Broadway! Surely this fortuitous break was due to a combination of a post-holiday dip in tourism mixed with warnings of the kinds of weather conditions that would usually elicit an email from Stephen T. Parr.
Now I must confess, going on trips in the godforsaken middle of winter is something my family holds near and dear to our hearts. Maybe geography is to blame, with our hometown in Central New York surrounded by nothing but tundra for—let’s be honest—a good chunk of the year. Or maybe trips are just more memorable when they are tinged with a bit of climatic adversity. Whatever the reason may be, this ritual was once again resumed over winter break when my parents and I headed off on a short jaunt to New York City to see the smash Broadway hit, and admittedly a mini-obsession of mine, Hamilton.
From the beginning, the weather was not on our side. Several inches of snow blanketed the back roads to I-81 as our Subaru battled the elements deftly. The snow was long gone by the time we arrived in Manhattan, only to be replaced with whipping winds and the type of cold air that stings the face and causes the eyes to water helplessly. Our arrival delayed by the weather, we only had time for dinner before the show. Creatures of habit as we are, we headed off to our go-to restaurant only to discover it existed no longer; signage gone, any evidence of an eatery erased. Maybe it’s now Harry Potter-themed and you just have to run at the building really fast to gain entry? No matter, with no shortage of restaurants near Grand Central, we found substitute arrangements and did not have to rely on street meat to fill our bellies.
Once evening came, we trekked westward towards the bright lights of Times Square, bundled up as we braved the single-digit wind chill. Eventually, we made it to Richard Rogers Theater—the room where it happens! Our seats may have been near the very back, but there honestly isn’t a bad seat in the entirety of the theater. I took my seat and anxiously awaited the opening song. My towering five-and-a-half-foot frame was squeezed into the incredibly small seat (people really must have been a lot smaller back in the day). A Playbill rested in one hand; in the other my beverage in an awesome Hamilton-themed plastic cup I am definitely using constantly and keeping forever. Showtime!
Unsurprisingly, the entire cast was extraordinarily talented and left me engrossed every second of the performance. If you’re waiting for me to say something at least mildly critical of the performance, it won’t happened. I won’t deign to offer any criticism, and I chafe at the thought.
“Wait for It,” the R&B-style track that chronicles the cautious and oft-overlooked Aaron Burr’s internal struggle as he reckons with the brash golden boy Alexander Hamilton, has continued to be among my favorites and was brilliantly performed. Other standouts include “My Shot,” “Satisfied,” and the Cabinet battles.
James Monroe Inglehart, perhaps best known as the Genie in the original Broadway production of Aladdin and who possesses an apropos name for the current production, stood out in his portrayal of the Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson. An often unheralded but ubiquitous group of performers is the ensemble, without whom the show would not seem quite so larger-than-life. Even the second time around, I am still in awe of the physical endurance of the performers, who remain in perpetual motion for nearly three hours carrying out expertly choreographed routines. King James, as always, did not disappoint with a dash of comedic relief and absurdity. Last but not least, a shoutout to Thayne Jasperson, who recently reprised his role as Samuel Seabury, which he played when the show first began, which allows me to boast that I saw at least one member of the original cast.
One of the best things about live theater is that even someone such as myself, who unashamedly knows every word to every song and has already seen the show once in Chicago, is how each performance of a show done by different cast members can remain both true to the show’s original spirit while still allowing for variation and change. Seeing the show live for a second time, I notice slight variations that make the renditions unique and each one phenomenal in their own right.
After spending some time the next day traversing Manhattan, we headed back Upstate with our mission in NYC complete. Seeing the show twice still was not enough, and immediately after leaving we began to scheme for a third trip to the theater to see Hamilton once again. No, I will never be satisfied.