There are 13 things you need to know before you step one foot into the room where it happens. “It,” of course, being the unparalleled international sensation, “Hamilton: An American Musical.” Forget about spoilers; we all know who lives and who dies in this story. If you’re going to spend anywhere from $100 to $1,000 per ticket for this piece of the cultural zeitgeist, then you’ll certainly want your money’s worth. Here’s how to get the most out of your “Hamilton” experience.
It’s very fast-paced
How fast? Let’s compare:
The second-fastest Broadway show is “Spring Awakening,” which averages 77 words per minute. “Phantom of the Opera” comes in next at 68 wpm. The classic 1940s hit “Oklahoma!” clocks in at an average 59 wpm. And “Hamilton?”
One-hundred and forty-four (144) words per minute. On average.
So get familiar with the show well before you go see it in Nashville, Naples, Ft. Myers, Grand Rapids, or any of the other upcoming touring cities.
Fear not, you can learn the lyrics before you go.
Well before “Hamilton” gets to West Palm Beach at the end of January, or heads up to our northern neighbors in Toronto in February, you have plenty of time to familiarize yourself with the lyrics to the show’s songs. A simple Google search will take you to any number of song lyric sites that have every single one of the 220,000 words in “Hamilton” for you to peruse. There’s also “Hamilton: The Revolution,” a book about the show that contains all the lyrics, as well. And while those in Miami, Los Angeles, or Jacksonville might have time to learn most of the songs, everyone should at least read through “Guns and Ships,” as well as “Non-Stop,” two of the fastest numbers in the show.
Listen to the Original Cast Recording.
It’s free on Spotify and YouTube, so there’s really no reason not to have a listen before your ticket date. Again: there are no spoilers here. Especially if you are someone who is not used to the hyperspeed pace of modern hip-hop, you will almost certainly have trouble picking out what’s being said in some of the songs. The OCR is almost identical to the stage show, so if you don’t like surprises or are going with children, it’s worthwhile to have a listen all the way through before attending a performance.
Ron Chernow was the historical consultant for the show.
In 2004, Ron Chernow published a biography detailing the life of Founding Father, Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton. Four years later, Lin-Manuel Miranda picked up the book while on his honeymoon. And, as the saying goes, the rest is history. Literally. In every sense of the word.
Miranda wanted to make sure his show would pass muster with actual historians, so he brought in the book’s author to help get the story right. Chernow fact-checked every song as writing and production went along.
At over 800-pages, theatergoers in St. Louis and Ottowa better start reading the book right now if they want to be familiar with the source material!
“Hamilton” the show serves low-income students around the country.
As “Hamilton” tours to cities such as Norfolk, Miami, and Los Angeles, educational partners from the show will provide students from Title I high schools the chance to see Hamilton for just $10 a ticket. But the experience for these students is more than passively sitting in an audience; when schools are chosen to participate in the Hamilton Education Program, educators are provided with resources for teaching history to their students before the show. Students are then encouraged to use primary historical sources to create and perform their own pieces inspired by “Hamilton.”
It took Lin-Manuel Miranda six years to write the entire show.
In fact, it took him a year just to write the song, “My Shot,” in which Alexander Hamilton introduces himself to his new friends and proves that he’s one to watch as America heads towards revolution. Kind of makes looking for parking near the Orpheum in San Francisco seem quick and easy, doesn’t it?
The music doesn’t stop with the show.
“Hamilton: The Musical” is a musical theater phenomenon unlike any other. And since it celebrates the diversity that makes America possible, it’s only natural that it would inspire an entire generation of artists from all over the world. In 2016, The Hamilton Mixtape was released, an album dedicated to artists re-interpreting the show’s songs as well as creating new material based on the existing songs. The single, “Immigrants: We Get the Job Done” has nearly 7 million views and over 200k “likes” on YouTube. In 2018, Miranda released a new “Hamildrop,” each month, a collection of songs inspired by the show including artists from “Weird” Al Yankovic to Mobb Deep. Even Barack Obama reads part of George Washington’s farewell address over a gospel-inspired version of “One Last Time.”
There’s No Opening Overture
Unlike other Broadway musicals, there’s no music-only medley to open things up. The show jumps right into Aaron Burr’s first number rapping details of Alexander Hamilton’s early life and setting the scene. This means that smart theatergoers will want to allow for plenty of time to get to the theater, park, and get to your seats before curtain. When the touring company comes to cities like Grand Rapids, Toronto, Miami, and Los Angeles, keep in mind the traffic situations on weekend nights if you plan to see an evening performance. This way you’ll be sure not to miss a single word.
The Show Has Won 11 Tony
…as well as a Grammy and a Pulitzer. “Hamilton” is STILL one hot ticket no matter where you see it, so plan ahead when it’s finally your turn. If you see the show at the Richard Rogers Theater in NYC, consider taking the subway to Times Square to avoid mid-town traffic (parts of Times Square are closed to vehicles, making it that much harder to get through). The best seats in the house are usually easier to buy for mid-week performances, so consider going on a Tuesday or Thursday. Check and see if your local “Hamilton” venue has on-site parking (as with the DeVos Performance Hall in Grand Rapids) or not (as with the Tennessee Performing Arts Center in Nashville); and in the case of the Hayes Hall stop in Naples, for example, some parking may be restricted by construction.
Aaron Burr Actually Talked Hamilton OUT of a Duel
Spoiler alert: eventually Burr changed his mind.
If you are heading to New York City to see “Hamilton” at the Richard Rogers Theater, be sure to plan some time to visit the Weehawken dueling grounds across the river in New Jersey. The best way to get there is to take a bus from the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan. Once you’re there, you’ll find a plaque and memorial bust to Alexander Hamilton commemorating the place where he was fatally shot by Aaron Burr on July 11, 1804. Since Port Authority is just blocks away from Times Square, you can go to Weehawken in the morning and still make a 2 pm matinee!
Speaking of Duels…
The show includes a song called “The Ten Duel Commandments,” which is based on a very real set of rules known back then as the code duello. The code duello contained more than ten rules. But ten is more fun for a Broadway show.
Eliza Schuyler’s Orphanage Still Exists
These days it is a community service organization dedicated to helping New York City children in need, including those in foster care.
You Can Tour Hamilton’s, New York
From his burial plot in Trinity Church Cemetery and Wall Street in downtown Manhattan to the “Quiet Uptown” house in Harlem, there is no shortage of ways to visit the real-life sites of Hamilton’s life. Google “Hamilton NYC Tours” to find an official tour, or search “Alexander Hamilton Spots NYC” to create your own itinerary centered around your theater date and time.
If you’re going to spend the money on tickets and make the time to get to the theater well before showtime, it’s worthwhile to do a little bit of (fun) homework first so you can really get the most out of your Hamilton experience!