My Hamilfilm Review

So, I know probably half of you are waiting to hear what I thought of the Hamilton film on Disney+, and the other half are ready to hear me never talk about Hamilton again for the rest of your lives. I address this post to the first half. ūüôā

Now of course you know I loved it, so I will cut to the chase: how does it compare to seeing it live? I would say, on the whole, it compares very favorably. So if you never got a chance to see the show, you don’t have to feel bad!

In fact, I would say of the 4 times I saw Hamilton, watching the movie is most similar to the time I got to sit in the front row. The thing that really struck me about sitting that close is how much acting is actually going on. It absolutely floored me how much funnier lines were, how much sadder scenes were, when you can see their faces. And here the film excels, getting you close ups better than what you can see from the front row.

(To say nothing of the spitting. As I mentioned at the time, people in the front row get spit on. Well, now you all get to share that with me! Boy was I not exaggerating.)

So I cried the first 2 times I saw Hamilton in the theater, and then not the next 2. But because of the phenomenal performance from the actors, I did cry again when I saw the movie. Specifically Phillipa Soo; her face just really got to me. The anguish when her son died…even knowing it was coming, she still got me.

In fact, I would say that was another aspect where the film really excelled: I was excited to see some specific people, particularly Daveed Diggs and Leslie Odom Jr., but I was blown away by everybody. Ren√©e Elise Goldsberry and Phillipa Soo somehow overshadowed a really amazing cast. I have been blessed with seeing some really talented actors here in Chicago (I know a lot of people are going to kill me over this, but I think Jin Ha was a better / funnier King George than Jonathan Groff), but it wasn’t consistent across the entire cast. The original cast, as depicted in the film, truly were an amazing collection of individuals. Each and every performance is a can’t miss, each performer a superstar. Just stellar.

If I had to say one bad thing about the film it would be that I really honestly enjoy the background choreography and movements of the set itself almost as much as the main performers. It’s certainly present in the film (the visuals of Hurricane are just masterful), but you do sacrifice a bit of the wide view in exchange for intimate closeups.

Still, on the whole it is a good exchange, and it is an excellent way to experience Hamilton.

Highly recommended (but you already knew I was going to say that, didn’t you?)

In which I win the lottery

By which I mean the Hamilton lottery, of course. The only one that counts!


The musical has a lottery system by which you enter for a chance to win Hamilton tickets for a “Hamilton” (Hamilton is on the $10 bill). I have dutifully entered this lottery for every performance for about THREE YEARS. You can imagine my surprise when I actually won!

Not only are the tickets super cheap, but they are very good tickets. I vaguely knew they were very good, but I didn’t realize they were FRONT ROW good until we got there!


Now, I know what you’re saying: haven’t you seen Hamilton before? Yes. *ahem* Three times before. BUT I ASK YOU, who would appreciate these seats more than me?


Okay, maybe one person, but I brought her with me!

Being this close was a TOTALLY different experience seeing the show, and really just unlike anything I have ever experienced. The seats are not good for actually seeing the show in the sense that you are almost too close. Anything that happens near the back of the stage is not visible. (Although it was really funny when they were on the rotate-y stage thing because you couldn’t see it and it seemed like they were just floating along by magic!)


Given that I’ve seen the show a number of times before and know the story and music forwards and back (and can probably “see” it with my eyes closed at this point), that wasn’t really a problem for me personally. And it was vastly, vastly outweighed by the awesomeness of how close people were when they came to the front of the stage. Aaron Burr in particular comes out to the very front often, and when he did, he was an arm’s length from me, at most.

I mean, I was so close I could have reached over and played the piano!

Because I was in the first row, I totally forgot there was anybody else in the theater. It was so intimate, like they were playing just for me. The lights were in my eyes, the bass was in my chest, and I totally forgot there was like 1000 of my closest friends sitting behind me; it was like they didn’t exist.


Oh hai there, where did you come from?

The thing is, there are so many things you notice when you’re that close. The acting is so much more pronounced when you can see their faces! And there are these moments with the crowd: sometimes they would lock eyes with someone and just give them a look. For example, there was one part where one of the dancers came up from the orchestra pit, and he kind of startled the woman sitting just to my right. After that he kept like winking at her and stuff. It was great! But you totally wouldn’t have even known that was happening if you were even a few rows back.

There are a million little things you can’t see unless you’re that close: little, hilarious quirked eyebrows, or expressions of grief, or tons and tons of sweat and spit. Seriously. We didn’t get spit on, but people on either side of us did.

Okay, but that got me thinking about what consummate professionals these people are. This is just a random Wednesday night, and each and every one of them is giving it their all, selling it with emotion, sweating it out, singing so hard their faces are turning red. FOR THE SECOND TIME THAT DAY! Just absolutely bringing it, nonstop (you see what I did there?)



Another funny thing about being so close is you really just focus on the most random things. Like there is a person dancing two feet in front of you so you’re just staring at them, unable to look away. And then all of a sudden you’re like, “Oh, there is singing on the other side of the stage, what am I doing?!”

Anyway, the whole experience was utterly magical, and easily one of the best nights of my life. When it was over I was extremely reluctant to leave and just kind of lingered by the stage, hoping to prolong the magic. I’ve probably never been that close to ANY musical act, but to have it be the greatest musical of all time…


Thank you Hamilton lottery for giving us a night we will never forget!!

Hamilton Redux

I know people have been waiting to hear what I thought of Hamilton, but it is difficult to get time to write on the best of days.

I know that people think I am obsessed with Hamilton, but bumping up against that fandom as I do, I can assure that I am on the low end of things. Still, I cannot deny that I know all of the words to every song, gobble up Hamilton-related trivia,¬†and got 10 out of 10 on a¬†quiz where you have to identify the song and character by only hearing a single “yo”.

I fought for tickets the day they went on sale, and ended up with matinee tickets on a random Wednesday. Sara and I planed a nice lunch at Topolobampo¬†before going to the show. Topolobampo was actually AMAZING, but I know that’s not what you’re here to hear about.

My day started like:

Followed by a long chorus of “La-la-la-Topolobampo!” in the shower.

We took the train downtown, ate an amazing 3 course lunch, and then finally it was time:

The cast¬†was overall very good. Miguel Cervantes was fantastic as Hamilton. Jos√© Ramos knocked it out of the park as Laurens, and all of the women were great (including Aubin Wise, who was stepping in as Eliza). I thought¬†Chris De’Sean Lee did a good job too, as Lafayette/Jefferson, but I have to admit the two people I really wished I could see were¬†obviously Daveed Diggs and Leslie Odom Jr.

Our tickets weren’t the best (if that’s the price I¬†have to pay to see it, then so be it). We were at the back of the dress circle, with the mezzanine over our heads. We could see the stage just fine, but whenever anyone was up on the second level, we could only see them from the ankle down. Still, that wasn’t *too* bad…the giant sitting in front of Sara and the lady with big hair in front of me were more of a problem. We actually had the 30 most amazing seconds of our life when they realized they were in the wrong seats and tried to switch with the two most petite people in the world, but then they all agreed to stay where they were and our hopes were dashed.

Seriously universe? Why?

There is clearly an entire level of nuance that you get seeing everything rather than just listening. For example, Hamilton hiding his letters from Angelica from his wife Eliza gives the whole thing a more illicit tone, or all the people delivering Hamilton’s copious letters during “Your Obedient Servant”, or¬†just seeing Burr and Jefferson’s faces (and/or celebratory dancing) when they realize Hamilton is endorsing Jefferson. So many little nuances, like Madison wiping away a tear after Philip dies. I don’t know if I would have caught everything if I wasn’t so in tune with what was going to happen.

In fact, the show is also a lot funnier when you see it in person! It’s amazing how much humor an actor can pack into a sarcastic raise of an eyebrow (we saw Jin Ha as King George, and he was hilarious!) Thomas Jefferson is MUCH more insufferable when you see him dabbing, or generally enjoying someone’s downfall.

The entire stage is like two levels of turntable, and there were some really awesome visuals, like everything swirling around a stationary Hamilton singing “Hurricane”. I love how the set changes are choreographed into the dancing. One of my favorite visuals was when time stops after Burr fires his gun and one of the white-clad ensemble members used a fist to represent the frozen bullet.

I will admit that I was a little surprised at how old, and how white the audience was. I kind of figured it would mostly be people like me, who loved Hamilton, had fought for a ticket, and would just go whenever they had a chance. Instead it was the usual theater crowd; people who could afford to pay $ and take a day off of work. As a result I was pretty surprised at how much of the audience seemed to not really be familiar with the soundtrack or the story. In some ways it was fun to see them discover it, but I will admit I felt a little condescending towards the lady next to me who audibly gasped when Philip died.

It’s funny, though: if I had only experienced Hamilton by seeing it, I¬†would probably have a whole different set of favorite songs. The soundtrack does not adequately capture the emotion of the actors during “Yorktown / The World Turned Upside Down”, nor does it capture the sheer whimsy and delight of¬†“The Reynolds Pamphlet”.

I know, I know, you want to know if I cried. Oh man did I cry. I have a secret to confess: I pretty much always cry even when I’m just listening, as long as I’m paying sufficient attention. But I would like to say for the record that I DID ALSO HAVE SOMETHING IN MY EYE during that song, no matter what Sara thinks. I mean, it probably got there from all the tears I was wiping away, but still.

I would love to see it again, but it would be hard to justify the money. I do recommend that everybody see it sooner or later (eventually tickets will be cheaper, right?) And if you do, I fully expect you to take me with you!

Until then, we always have the performance from the Tonys:


So, if you’ve been following me on Facebook or Twitter, you know that I have recently discovered the musical Hamilton.

Now, a lot of people I know are already obsessed with Hamilton, and I have watched for months as they go on and on and on about it. I do not know of a single person who has listened to the soundtrack that did not immediately become a Hamil-zombie.

I love musicals as much as the next man. I take that back, I love musicals WAAAAAAY more than the next man. I love musicals with the passion of a thousand suns. And I was really overdue for a new one that would take my breath away (the last one must have been when we saw Wicked in NYC, which would have been in 2005).

Anyway, that is to say that of course I expected to like Hamilton when I got around to listening to it. So the other day I queued up the soundtrack on Spotify…


I mean, literally from the very first song. It is just that good. It is better than any musical I have ever heard. It is better than ANYTHING I have ever heard. It is probably the crowning achievement of human beings as a species.

It’s a compelling story, and suddenly I’m feeling¬†real emotion about people who haven’t been alive for almost 260 years. Important people, who shaped our country, and it’s all being RAPPED at me, with current¬†culture references, but also sung by amazingly talented people.

I feel a little stupid making such a fuss over it, especially since I’ve watched everybody do that already. I really didn’t want to be “that guy”. But seriously, I simply cannot help it. Every five minutes I’m like, “This reminds me of something that happened to Alexander Hamilton…” or “I think Aaron Burr said it best when he said…” If I have a stretch of 5 minutes, I think “Why aren’t I listening to Hamilton right now?” If I have a job to do, like washing dishes, I think, “I’ll wait until Sara’s done with the iPad so I can listen to Hamilton.”


(Hey, did I mention Hamilton won a Pulitzer?)

So I was worried I would be annoying all the Hamilton fans by squeeing about it on social media, but it seems to have had quite the opposite effect: everyone seems to be enjoying it.¬†I guess nothing makes an addict happier than dragging someone down to their level…as demonstrated by their feeding me buzzfeed lists and websites such as this one¬†which allows you to click on any part of the lyrics for a full breakdown of the historical significance, references, connections to other songs…yeah, there goes the rest of the day.

And, in fact, while I was assuming that I was the last person on earth to listen to this, it’s a good reminder that we all surround ourselves in a little bubble, because several people have told me they hadn’t heard of it until I started talking about it.

So there’s still time to find and infect victims! ONE OF US! ONE OF US!


At the best of times, I am an obsessive song-listener. Sara can back me up on that. When I find a song that I like I listen to it over, and over, and over until I have it completely memorized. Except in this case I love ALL of the songs, so that’s a 2 hour and 22 minute loop (but who’s counting?)

Now, the good news is, I had the foresight to pre-emptively¬†name my son Alexander. (Side note: is this going to be a super popular name now?)¬†“Alexander Halbach” does not have the same cadence as “Alexander Hamilton”, but here is an incomplete list of substitutes I have sung in the past week:

  • Alexander Halbach-ton
  • Alexander Snugglepuss
  • Alexander Smoochington
  • Alexander Fancypants

Alexander Fancypants
My name is Alexander Fancypants
And there’s a million things I haven’t done
But just you wait, just you wait…

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it has been several minutes since I’ve had my fix…