Hamilton, the popular Broadway musical created by Lin Manuel Miranda, made its debut in Honolulu this past December. From powerful vocals to heartwarming storytelling, Hamilton in Hawaii did not disappoint.
The play is set in the late 1700s during the American Revolution, and it follows the life of Alexander Hamilton, one of America’s Founding Fathers. He played a key role in the Revolutionary War and the establishment of our government. The original 2016 production was filmed and then later released on Disney+ during the COVID-19 pandemic, after live Broadway shows came to a halt. Now, the show is back on tour and started the season with performances at Honolulu’s Blaisdell Concert Hall this past December.
When I first watched the musical on Disney+, I found myself rapping and singing along to every line of “Satisfied,” in which Angelica Schuyler laments the necessity of suppressing her feelings for Hamilton, because her sister Eliza loves him too. I think what distinguishes the Hamilton soundtrack from those of other musicals is that every song is not only catchy but causes the listener to truly empathize with the characters. Although we can’t all relate to life back in the 1700s, themes such as unrequited love and sacrifice are very relatable. Hamilton grew up as an immigrant, and at least 26% of America’s current population is made up of immigrants. My parents, who took me to see the Honolulu production, are the children of immigrants, and the song “My Shot,” which expresses how Hamilton is not going to give up the chance to make a difference, was something I could see them really sympathizing with.
Even though you can access all of the songs on Spotify or Apple Music, watching the live performance of Hamilton is an entirely different experience. Live performances are special in that way; you get to be in a room full of people who are also keen to enjoy the show, and sometimes they cheer and sing along making the experience a participatory one. Being able to see the actors up close is surreal, adding a new dimension to the words and the music. Hamilton, the musical, perfectly captures the feeling of getting to know the characters and their stories, and it’s a whole other experience to get to see it live.
When my parents told me they purchased tickets to go see the performance, I didn’t think that the cast would be remotely comparable to the original cast, so I wasn’t very excited about seeing it. Yet as soon as the play started, I realized I was wrong.
It wasn’t that the skill level of the new cast differed from that of the original cast, but it was the fact that they created the same feeling that got me hooked on Hamilton in the first place. Almost every single one of the cast members had an amazing solo voice, and there was so much passion and emotion in every note they sang. When all of their voices joined in unison, it became something magical. The acting also brought people, including me, to tears, both in sadness and laughter. It was hard not to get choked up when Eliza Hamilton suffers through the loss of her child and husband. During the final song “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story” many sniffles could be heard in the concert hall as Eliza wonders if what she had done in her life would be enough to make everyone she loved proud. She then closes out the song with her own death, spending her last moments anticipating the time she will get to be with Hamilton once again. That was a powerful moment that kept me on the edge of my seat.
Whether on screen or live, Hamilton is a timeless musical that will live on as a legend. They will be performing “one last time” on January 29, so there is still time to grab a ticket to one of the greatest performances of all time.