Yesterday I finally saw Hamilton.
You know, the phenom that took Broadway and then the world by storm last year? The Tony-winning, Pulitzer Prize bearing masterpiece that’s brought a young and more diverse group of people to the stage — and to appreciate American history?
Lord have mercy what a show.
Words come at you like firecrackers, backlight by melodies you’ll be singing for weeks. The dancing. The costumes. The punchlines and the gut punches.
It lives up to the hype people!
But just hearing Hamilton isn’t the same as experiencing it with all your senses. And I underestimated how much this really is a story about Eliza, the shadow behind Hamilton.
****** SPOILER ALERT! IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW HOW THE MUSICAL ENDS, STOP READING! *****
(Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)
Eliza, Hamilton’s wife (whom he told the world via pamphlet he cheated on, whom he often left behind for his political work and legacy, whose eldest child he let go into a duel to his death, and with whose sister he flirted), has the last word in Hamilton. The literal last gasp. For a nearly three-hour show that’s a non-stop stream of of words, when Eliza walks to the edge of the stage, touches her throat, gasps for air, and the lights go out. It’s striking.
In the end, she has the ultimate power over Hamilton. More than Burr, more than Jefferson, more than Washington.
Because not only does she end the show. But she also forgives him.
Even before the Broadway smash, I think many Americans had at least heard of Hamilton. (And those other smart but privileged white dudes.) But Eliza?
Not so much. Let’s just say that women were not in the room where it happened back then.
Aaron Burr may have always felt out of the room where it happened, but it least he had a room of his own. Women were defined by the rooms white men owned and the room they provided in the womb for other men.
What Lin Manuel Miranda does in Hamilton to give the voiceless voice is quite remarkable. You see Eliza gain power and strength. When they sing “who lives to tell your story,” I cried knowing he finally told Eliza’s.
I have to think Virginia Wolf would like that. I know I did. I’ll be singing it non-stop like I’m running out of time every shot I get.