His Name Was Alexander Hamilton
Like the little history-loving theater geek I am, I’ve wanted to see “Hamilton” since it first started picking up buzz during its original 2015 Broadway run, so to say I was beside myself with delight about the chance to check it out at Tulsa’s PAC courtesy of Celebrity Attractions is an understatement. As Disnerds, the kids and I have been singing Lin Manuel-Miranda songs around our house for a while now, much to the chagrin of my musical-resistant spouse (You know those folks who say, “But why would someone just start singing for no reason?” That’s what I’m working with over here).
Although I hadn’t seen the televised performance, I do love me some Revolutionary-era history and yes, my browser history does include some searches for “Colonial dress” and “18th-century coat.” I’m still shipping Abby and Ichabod from “Sleepy Hollow,” and in fact, I do occasionally fall asleep to the melodic lull of “The Federalist Papers” on Librivox audiobook. All in all, I felt pretty stoked for what was about to transpire as I shuffled through the airport-level security check installed outside the PAC for the performance. When I realized I had scored a bathroom seat (end of the row), I knew the Founders were smiling down on me.
Told chronologically, the performance kicks off with that super-catchy iconic song we’ve all heard, “Alexander Hamilton,” following the young Founder from his youth on the Caribbean isle of Nevis to King’s College, where he makes the acquaintance of Hercules Mulligan, John Laurens, the Marquis de Lafayette, and Aaron Burr – the man who would one day be responsible for his death. The tale follows him through the Revolutionary War and the years to follow, recounting his domestic life and enduring rivalry with Burr that would ultimately lead to his untimely demise at only 47 years old – the age I am about to be (gulp).
While I’m hardly suitable to give any kind of meaningful analysis of the performance other than the fact that I was absolutely flipping giddy throughout the entire thing, I am excited to share some of the things that really stood out to me:
1. The stage is a literal turntable.
I don’t see that well, so it took me a little while to figure out if I was actually seeing what I thought I was seeing or if the Bloody Mary I had at Charleston’s was just hitting me in some kind of way. But no, a big chunk of the stage was actually rotating, and I gotta say watching the performers dance around on this and use it in the blocking was kind of amazing. But nowhere was this set put to better use than the genuinely breathtaking “eye of the hurricane” scene, which finds the cast members whirling and hurling objects around the stage only to suddenly freeze in place, rotating slowly around with the wooden turntable floor. It’s a feat of pure theatrical genius.
2. The costumes were delicious.
18th-century fashions are amazing, if cumbersome. The costumes featured in “Hamilton” capture the almost regal elegance of the Georgian period with a simplified, modern appeal. Think long, velvet waistcoats and pastel satin gowns. The ensemble dancing around the main cast wore 18th-century inspired looks in balletcore beiges and nudes that I would high-key wear on any given day – and apparently, every one of the female dancers’ corsets is unique. Can I have one now, please?
3. Do I even know U.S. history?
I must admit, I’m not the super history buff that my husband and eldest son are – although I have recently done some deep dives into the French Revolution, which I highly do not recommend for anyone who doesn’t want to fear and distrust all of humanity. Still, I felt I knew my way around US History 1113. But the entire musical had me mentally noting things to look up, and I know I wasn’t the only person hitting Wikipedia hard in the bathroom line at intermission.
I’ve read and watched enough historical fiction to expect liberties to be taken with any retelling. But I also look at these works as entrees into the story behind the story, and I’m often surprised at how many things I actually learn from historical fiction. One thing that really stood out to me was the story of John Laurens, who really was committed to recruiting enslaved Black soldiers to the war effort as part of his continued campaign against slavery.
4. The Schuyler sisters rocked.
All the performances pretty much rocked my face off. But two of the Schuyler sisters – the women who had Alexander Hamilton’s heart – were just absolutely incredible. Historically, the Schuyler sisters were wealthy socialites who crossed paths with many of the Founders. While Hamilton married Elizabeth, he maintained a very emotionally and intellectually satisfying correspondence with his sister-in-law, one that was overtly flirtatious and has raised a few eyebrows throughout the couple of hundred years since.
The actors portraying the Schuyler sisters, particularly Alysha Deslorieux and Stephanie Umoh, were outstanding, bringing a level of emotional commitment to their roles that made me wholly invested in their characters.
5. King George has my heart.
Clad in Valentine red and a decadent crown I actually need in my life, King George III was the comic relief of the musical, portrayed as the emotionally manipulative spurned lover – you know, the narcissistic, aggro “nice guy” types who seem to be in ample supply in the social media age. His scenes are few but potent, and his deliciously skeezy musically-delivered monologues are absolutely hilarious. .
6. Hamilton’s story is seriously dark.
Just a few nights ago, I was finally getting around to watching “1923,” and I was somewhat stunned when a character taunted another into a duel. A hundred years later, duels seem like an absurd fantasy ripped from a dark children’s book – could they have ever been that widely practiced? I wondered.
Fast-forward a couple of days, and I’m learning that Alexander Hamilton died in a duel after his son died that way. Poor Eliza! Imagine living in a world where the men around you literally make it through a war as brutal as the Revolutionary War only to have them dropping like flies because someone was offended.
I have said it before and I’ll say it again. It’s a myth of the modern age that we’re becoming more violent. History is full of human lives wasted over someone’s bruised ego – and unfortunately, too many of those who perish from this disease are young men.
7. The message is still hopeful.
So as not to end on a grim note, I really want to drive home how uplifting “Hamilton” is overall. It’s a story about using one’s voice and passions to change the world for the better. Like the story of the United States, it’s a David and Goliath tale, a story of overcoming almost insurmountable odds while wearing what had to be some pretty restrictive breeches. And between all of the singing, rapping, historical mic-drops, and visual spectacle, even my musical-resistant spouse had to admit he had a pretty amazing time.
Hop onto the Celebrity Attractions site and get your “Hamilton” tickets while they’re hot. And have a fantastic week in your little nebula!