Monday, 15 May 2017

My Weekend on Broadway

Last December, The Husband gifted me with Hamilton on Broadway tickets for my birthday. As he knows his wife is a very public and self-proclaimed Broadway musical savant/nerd, his gift couldn't have been more on point or more personal. The date finally arrived this past Friday and while I have been sitting and marinating my emotions for the several intervening days from then until now, there is no question that witnessing that show was one of the most profound and emotional experiences I have ever had in the audience over decades of watching musical theatre. I don't really want to rehash what dozens of critics and theatre-goers have already written about this brilliant musical. That would truly be an unworthy exercise in mental masturbation, but I will give a few answers to some very basic queries some of you have asked about the evening.

Yes. The Husband did pay an ungodly sum for our tickets. I won't embarrass either one of us by publishing the actual number, but I do know that he felt his largesse was truly vindicated by the performance. This was the first time in over thirty years of dragging him to musicals whereby he said that he really wants to see this one again because he feels that he hasn't fully processed it. I have to admit that he stunned me with that admission.

Yes. The cast we saw was excellent. Were they as good as the original? I can't answer that because I never had the good fortune to see that award-winning group, but this cast of actors was off the charts brilliant and incredibly talented. Their voices were strong and the acting impressive as hell. This young ensemble made my Hamilton experience singular and I was engrossed from note one.

Yes. I was terribly concerned that the hype was overplayed and that I would be disappointed. The Husband kept asking me if I was excited and I kept downplaying my emotions. It seemed impossible that anything could live up to the reviews and massive media reports. I won't say that it surpassed the hype, ( could it?) but it was certainly a unique and singularly impressive theatre experience.

Yes. I believe that this show is one of those rare experiences that moves the needle for the Broadway musical. Every so often, a show comes along that changes the definition of the artform. It started way back with Show Boat by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II in 1927. Show Boat was a radical departure from the trivial burlesque and "follies" that had preceded it as it married musical spectacle with serious drama. Those watershed Broadway musicals moments are few but important. Porgy and Bess gave us the first American operetta. Oklahoma! gifted us with the book musical and fully integrated choreography into the storytelling. West Side Story allowed it's lead characters to die and not have a happy ending. Hair integrated modern themes and explored rock and roll for the first time within the confines of the musical theatre stage. Cats demonstrated that a series of independent stories strung together could act in cohesive harmony. Rent allowed for the exploration of modern alienation. And finally, Hamilton has continued the work Mr. Miranda began in In the Heights where he married the beats and rhymes of hip-hop with the elegance of jazz, r&b, and traditional Broadway belting. The simplicity of the choreography belies the complexity of the source material. The historicity he imparts to the audience is poetic and he takes great care to present his subject matter without fear or favour. Hamilton is a watershed moment in the history of Broadway musical theatre and I do believe it carries a mark of brilliance.

Yes. I do want to see it again. Like The Husband said, it is impossible to digest it all in just one sitting.

No. Hearing and memorizing the soundtrack isn't nearly enough to get the full picture of the true brilliance of this particular piece. I have had the music playing almost non-stop for close to two years and I still wasn't prepared for what I saw.

Yes. You should pony up for whatever it costs when this show comes to your city. Even if you think it isn't in your musical "wheelhouse", you should see it anyway. I do believe it is that important a work of art. It is kind of like saying that you won't see a Picasso exhibit because blue isn't your favourite colour.

***As a quick footnote to our weekend on Broadway, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the other two plays we saw. Sweat is a brilliant and difficult dissertation on working class alienation. It is the winner of this year's Pulitzer Prize for Drama and is nominated for several Tony awards. And of course...there was the Divine Miss M. Never before has a role so perfectly suited an actress. Bette Midler was born to play Dolly Levi. She is "of age" and frankly her voice is showing some wear and tear, but it really worked in the part and she happily moved about the stage with the flamboyance that the role dictates. David Hyde-Pierce is her perfect foil as Horace and was every bit her equal. Hello Dolly! is an old-fashioned, rip-roaring, over-the-top Broadway crowd-pleaser and it succeeds on every level.

Broadway is my happy place but it is even more so when I get to witness history.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, sounds like you had the time of your life! I would love to see "Hamilton" and hope that it comes to Buffalo at some point. It is a very creative concept and I've heard nothing but good things about it.