Let’s be real, at the very least you have heard of Hamilton – the biggest Broadway sensation maybe of all time. Even if you don’t care about musicals or theatre or even music, at the very least you have one friend who is kind of obsessed with the show. If you are one of my friends (and you probably are if you’re reading this), then I am that person in your life. When I first found out about the show – about the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton, performed by actors of color and told almost entirely through rap – I just couldn’t wait to see it. I was a huge fan of creator Lin-Manuel Miranda’s previous show, In the Heights, but it took several years for me to get out to see that one. With that in mind, I realized I may never see Hamilton in its best iteration, so I decided instead to devour the soundtrack in its entirety, over and over again. I started listening to the cast recording near the end of October, and still listen to it on a weekly basis four months later, usually while running. The recording is an astounding accomplishment by Miranda, the rest of the cast, and the production team. It’s the kind of show full of interesting roles that I would love to play, but will rightly never have the chance to perform – they aren’t for me. But then I found myself confronted with an opportunity to do just that, in a Hollywood-set sing-along.
As someone trying to make up for my white privilege by being excessively progressive and conscious of social justice issues (never enough, though), I had more than a few misgivings. The fact that almost all of the major roles in Hamilton are portrayed by non-white performers is kind of the point – Miranda wanted his show to reflect the make-up of the United States of America as it is today, so I was a little put off by the idea of dozens of white theatre nerds sitting in a room together appropriating another culture. “But the founding fathers were white,” you might be saying. My response? Mostly just a shaking of the head. Ultimately though, I decided that if my participation in the event could facilitate the involvement of three young women then it wasn’t all bad. How’s that for a self-congratulatory justification?
The event ended up being exactly what I expected. I walked into the back room at the 3 Clubs (which I coincidentally reviewed a little over two years ago) just around the block from where I live and was immediately overwhelmed. So many people. Too many people. I immediately stepped back into the main bar where I wouldn’t be constantly confronted with theatre kids all grown up (I know – I’m a “theatre kid,” but not like that). I couldn’t stay away forever though, mostly because I was performing in three songs in the second act, the best of the bunch being Thomas Jefferson’s rap in “Cabinet Battle #1.” I acquitted myself well, but I won’t be in a huge rush to spread around the video (which does exist). But in my time onstage I was able to see what this event meant to all of the people in attendance. Hamilton inspires people – regardless of race, religion, gender, or any aspect of identity – to chase their dreams; to “not throw away their shot,” as it were. So if an event like this one can give a hundred or so people an opportunity for cathartic release, I guess it can’t be all that bad.
I still have misgivings about the whole endeavor in theory, but it was a real undertaking, and it was pulled off incredibly well. The looks of joy on all of those white faces convinced me to give A Hamilton Sing-Along three out of five Reynolds Pamphlets: