What I'm saying is the bar was set pretty high. So, when I tell you that seeing Hamilton in Chicago was a dream come true that was everything I wanted and more, please know I don't say it lightly.
Hamilton was the best theatre experience I've ever had. And I got to see my cousin on Broadway in Book of Mormon. You can also catch him in Sousatzka if you hurry! Look, I've seen Book of Mormon three times. I love it and seeing Ryan in that show on Broadway was still my second favourite theatre going experience.
Let's get the obvious thing out of the way. Yes the show works for me because the cast is made up of mostly people of colour. While I think it's definitely misleading to call this show a Hip Hop musical, it definitely features Hip Hop, R&B, and other music I grew up on.
So that's all sorts of dope. I also like the American history aspect of it or when Burr namechecks Quebec during "Right Hand Man"
I say all of that to say this. As an intermediate musical fan I must say I finally understand how people might not love this musical.
I am not really into shows without much dialogue. Hamilton is pretty much all singing and no talking. Why didn't I mind? Because I've spent so much time listening to the soundtrack that watching the show felt like a best case scenario of an adaptation. There wasn't anything left out (in fact there are some numbers not featured on the soundtrack) and it really felt like you were watching someone bring your imagination to life!
If I watched this show cold, I could have loved it, but I bet I would have felt overwhelmed. There's the task of piecing together the story using only the songs (including a song with over 6 words per second) while also taking in how everything is staged and acted out. Anyone who has tried to get tickets also knows that this isn't a musical you can just catch whenever you want. Tickets are scarce and expensive. So you'd have to like the show enough to want to listen to the soundtrack again and keep working on deciphering things from there.
We all know that I think reading George R.R. Martin's books then watching Game of Thrones isn't worth it. However, being able to live with these songs and characters without any real visuals created an intimacy with the material that was actually rewarded and enhanced by seeing the musical live.
I got to see the fun visuals of Alexander and Samuel Seabury fighting for attention during "Farmer Refuted" I got to see why "The Room Where it Happens" is liked by certain podcasts. But, most importantly I got the amazing moments of the stage working as turntables (rewinding) during the "Helpless"/"Satisfied" numbers and the reveal of Hercules Mulligan during "Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)" To say nothing of the high bar that Wayne Brady got over as Aaron Burr!
Homeboy had to SANG and spit bars just like Leslie Odom Jr. on the album. As the clip above shows, he's not Kendrick but I'd watch him in the basement and, trust me, he can SANG!
As I said, it isn't impossible to love this show as much as I did if you've never heard the music before hand. I just think it's harder to do so. Which is why it's a great idea to listen to the soundtrack before the show. There are two good reasons to do so outside of what I've already explained.
Number 1: have you ever been to a concert where you didn't know any songs by the artist? It's a bit alienating. Sure you could have a good time, but I bet you stand there thinking, I wish I knew these songs...
Number 2: it's a story about a founding father. There are no twists or spoilers to speak of. Especially if you're only listening to the music to have a better grasp of the story through the lyrics.
So go ahead! Listen to the soundtrack before going to see the live show. I promise it will only enhance your experience during an already amazing show!
Or don't! But go see this show. It's important and fun like if Moonlight had a dance number at the end of that diner scene! Jk, Jk!