My take on “Red Tails”

The ‘rents and I, on our standing Wednesday date, went to see Red Tails. Interested on cultural, historical and technical levels–AND pre-warned by other friends’ reviews–I figured it was worth checking out and giving my two cents on.

It was a decent film. Not the greatest or necessarily most fluid story, but decent. I do appreciate that the story was told, and released to the movie-going public. The flight sequences were AWESOME–to be expected of a George Lucas flick, naturally, and Terence Blanchard did his usual great job composing the score. The choice to use a lesser known main cast was inspired–outside of Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Terrence Howard, many of the young actors have few big-screen credits. I recognized a few actors portraying the airmen–Ne-Yo is kinda hard to miss, and my diehard loyalty to All My Children eventually helped me recognize Michael B. Jordan. I also picked some out by sight to connect later on IMDB (like Elijah Kelley, who I ironically watched the next day in a classic Oprah with the cast of Hairspray) and marveled at the ones I didn’t recognize (he must have used his given name, because I DO NOT remember seeing Method Man in this movie. Plus not having regularly watched Moesha, I wouldn’t have recognized a grown-up Marcus T. Paulk if he’d jumped up and bit me). And of course, devotion to classic soaps and sitcoms grabbed Bryan Cranston and Gerald McRaney right off.

Sadly, the plot development was a little scatter-shot. In an effort to introduce us to as many as the flyers as possible, a lot of the stories were haphazardly developed or underdeveloped. (I will attempt to avoid too many spoilers, but be warned if you haven’t seen it yet….) The love story between Lightning and the Italian girl is quaint but a little forced–so much out of character with his ladies’ man persona that when he proposes it doesn’t seem genuine. Also, the confrontation at the officers’ club and the ensuing brawl was extremely forced. The weak allusion to The Great Escape with Junior’s capture was so ill-conceived it almost didn’t need to be in there–but then Junior would have no story. Michael B. Jordan’s Maurice came onto the base as a newbie, and while he (and we) were introduced to the other airmen, we got NO backstory on him at all. Why focus on his interaction with everyone if we’re not going to learn anything about him? Lastly, (or at least the last one I’ll mention) Easy’s issues with drinking (and subsequent resolution) were too predictable and unrealistic.

Even though it seems like I’m unhappy with the movie, the story was pretty well told even with the gaping holes. The movie gave us a small slice of the history about the 332nd fighter group, and considering that there are so many more stories untold and so many more people who weren’t included in THIS story, it did its part in giving as broad a spectrum as possible to an entire untold segment of our nation’s history. Yes, I did expect better (which prevailing opinion tells me that HBO’s The Tuskegee Airmen was), but for the greater good–having more of our positive and influential stories told in the mainstream AND appreciated by all audiences–decent works for me this time.

original image: http://civilrights.si.edu/blackwings/items/show/55

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I got 99 problems…but this post ain’t one

I couldn’t resist.

I’ve got a slew of profound, thought-provoking, fun, interesting posts sitting in draft mode that I need to work on. But as you well know, I thrive on being cute. And I couldn’t pass up hitting post #100 without being cute. Corny, I know….but I’m actually kind of excited that I’ve gotten to 100 posts in my less than a year blogging, and grabbed 40 subscribers to boot. Of course, I have to give a shout-out to Lin-Manuel Miranda and his itchy Twitter finger for that really good 337 hit day…don’t know when I’ll get near that again, but I’ll take my jollies where I can get them. Bear with me, y’all–I’ll try to keep the attention whore-itis to a minimum. But for now, I’m pretty jazzed.

Dumbass Diaries part 8

Sometimes I wonder about people in authority….

So, there’s this new school in Utah opening up–voted for their new mascot, FROM A BOARD-APPROVED LIST, and picked their top choice. The School Board rejected their choice and they had to select another mascot. Why? This is why. Their choice was deemed potentially offensive.

This is where political correctness gets outrageously out of hand. Of any group of people, I’d venture to get middle-aged women are tough enough to take a hit. But that’s not even the issue….unless the school mascot is gonna be a pleather-clad 36DD crawling on all fours. Even with all of the school sex scandal headlines, I REALLY doubt anything outside of the Puma concolor was on their minds when considering a mascot….

Seriously, do you REALLY think these Utah kids had the image to the right on their minds?

 

 

 

 

 

Why I Whip My Hair

True love is self-love. (Courtesy Roc Nation)

OK, I turned my nose up at all of those long hybrid names people give themselves on Facebook. It made no earthly sense to me to add all of those run-on words to your name, especially since it made it more difficult for folks to find you in a search (though sometimes that’s a good thing). Then cue NFL Playoffs 2010…when pigs flew, Hell froze over, and the Saints made it to the Superbowl. After so many years of blind, unwavering devotion, my boys had a shot. So naturally I, like a few other thousand of my closest friends, adopted the middle name of “Who Dat.” Had to support my team, however small the effort. Cue us, miracle of miracles, actually WINNING that bad boy and bringing the Lombardi home…I was over the moon ecstatic and still supportive, but a little weary of my new name. But I held onto it for a little while in solidarity.

Cut to about October 2010 and the news that young Willow Smith–progeny of entertainment royalty Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith–has released her first music single, “Whip My Hair.” Like most, I snorted. Not all talented people can squeeze out talented kids, and many who try their hand at music are not necessarily successful…or meant to be (*cough* Paris Hilton *cough, cough*). After a while, I gave the kid a listen–and was reasonably impressed. I mean, she’s not an opera virtuoso here but for what she’s doing, it’s pretty good…and she’s got potential. So I wait for the video to come out and watch her pre-interviews and interviews…and I figure she’s one of the good kids who could use some support. Then the YouTube video exploded–and so did the comments. I have never in my life seen so many hateful comments from supposed adults directed at ANYONE, let alone a then-9 year old. The comments were more than just rants and dislikes about the music, they were outright nasty…even borderline to outright racist. Over a pop song. Wow. Almost sounds like fodder for my Dumbass Diaries.

As the press junket went on, Willow began to explain her concept of “whip my hair.” More than just flinging the stuff on your head, she describes it as an attitude–the new “I’m me,” as she put it. Having a positive attitude about who you are and letting it shine despite what anyone else says about you–that’s a huge concept for a pre-teen to promote AND embrace fully. I have seen Willow in classic, stylish clothes and trendy, out-there outfits, I have seen her with the close-cropped fade and the whippin’ weaves, and in whatever she’s got going on she’s comfortable and thriving in it.

If this kid can know who she is and live it out with a level of maturity uncommon at such an early age, then certainly adult women should be able to do the same. So, in support of my young “niece” in her principles and against her obvious haters, and despite my current lack of it….I’M WHIPPING MY HAIR.

The Greyhound Travelogues

The following are entries I wrote during my two-day bus journey to New York City to see a one-night-only performance from Lin-Manuel Miranda and a few of his friends. I give you fair warning–hilarity WILL ensue.

**Bus station nicer than I though. Woke up at 6:30–after sleeping through 4 AM alarm. Got to station 1/2 hour early even with rain and traffic. Never rode Greyhound non-charter before…interesting experience. About the same as local transit with folks hoarding seats, but more territorial. Thankfully, I got a seat close to the front (assigned seating if we do this again). Bus pulled out at 8:07. Sobering mark on my childhood that the driver’s seat is now encased in bulletproof glass.

**Pulled off to leave…and the gate won’t open. Had to manually override (somebody needs to figure out how to make those gates with sensors that don’t trip at the first drop of water). Just noticed for the first time that the onramp is conveniently right next to the station. Lady sitting next to me is comical–between the “kown-tree” accent and the phone convo (apparently somebody slapped somebody else at the Texas stop and got arrested–and had worked her last nerve). This will definitely be interesting.

**Got to some town in Mississippi around 9:45. Up to then I’d had a smattering of cell phones ring while most folks were trying to sleep–including my seatmate Maxine, who took two phone calls, swore never to ride the bus again, and proceeded to talk my ear off the rest of the ride. She made sure I got my bus change, though…plus I didn’t mind letting her talk. Arrived 20 minutes before bus departure so I was able to get right on and find my seat first. Riding through to Atlanta on this leg. A little unnerving getting scanned in Mobile–but not in New Orleans. :-/ Older gentleman with an oxygen tank was my seatmate through Evergreen, Alabama. Head-to-toe camo, so either a Vet or a “good ol’ boy.” Seemed nice; not much talking because I finally dropped into a semblance of sleep. Though if those little Hispanic kids make their little brother scream One. More. Time….

**Is it REALLY that crazy that I’m bussing it to New York? Yeah, I could have flown faster but it’s a little more adventure plus I have copious snacks and a water bottle and way fewer security restrictions. I think at the next stop I’ll refill my water bottle and eat my last Bambiburger. Now to figure out what I’m going to read.

**30 minute stop and reboard in Montgomery. How do you travel with 5 children on the bus, 3 of them toddlers? And I was almost proud of my people, too. Old girl was cussing those babies like they were grown, and I’m positive they were responsible for the toilet paper and nasty drawers on the bathroom floor. Thank God for the Bambiburger, ’cause I had to make a pimp decision between Mickey D’s and a pit stop. I can deal with no dinner, but I can’t sit on this bus with a malodorous air. These little bus depots are cute, but ragged. I don’t remember the stations looking like this.

**Opelika, Alabama–let the trash talking commence. That’s why I didn’t even consider LSU. On another note, sure would be nice if this bus had cupholders like the last one. But I have an empty seat so I can’t complain. Oh, wait, yes I can. These smoke breaks are killing me. Good thing most of the smokers are sitting in the back of the bus.

**Second stop in the middle of Podunk, Georgia. Almost to Atlanta station and next bus change. Officially in the pitch blackness. Dinnertime!

**Mad rush at Atlanta terminal for bus change #3. Went inside to come back down the ramp to the bus we were parked directly across the street from. Too bad it wasn’t the one with outlets and Wi-Fi (show shoulda been in Chicago). Side note: why is Magic City across the street from the depot?

**5 minute stop in Greenville after a long ride on the “No Air Funky Bus” express. No A/C makes for a cranky busload. The epic gas pains I was having weren’t helping my situation at all. Hopefully popping the roof hatches will help. And folks will stop sniping at the bus driver.

**Ask and ye shall receive–changed buses in Charlotte to the modernized coach with outlets andWi-Fi. Aw, sooky-sooky nah! Oh yeah, and the legroom and working A/C (and cupholders) didn’t hurt, either.

**Outlets didn’t work, but no big. But I’mma need some of these Greyhound employees to work on their customer relation skills.

**Boarding final bus–two more major stops and it’s NYC! Ol’ girl with the five kids asked for money for food (which probably explains some of the baby crankiness last night); I gave her a little something. Despite appearances to the contrary, she is doing an admirable job of keeping up with all of them not to mention the two oldest are holding their own and largely without complaint.

**Brief stop in Maryland–yes, the crab cake are all that. Really brief stop at Newark Penn Station, and am either nearing the Lincoln Tunnel or the GWB. Almost there!!

They can stop your vehicle for search at the toll booth. I get it, but dayum! Also, $12?!? I am never complaining about the Crescent City Connection again.

**Lincoln Tunnel. Like the Harvey Tunnel but longer and better lit.

**Arrived at Port Authority, not Penn Station. Whatevs. Got to a bathroom to use the facilities and change–the latter of which are apparently no-nos. =-o Good thing I was already changed and brushing my teeth–and that the attendant let me finish. I hope ol’ girl and her kids were able to get inside a shelter before the sun went down; while it’s not as cold as it could be, it’s windy and my cute coat ain’t cuttin’ it. Got to the Lincoln Center complex via the #1 train in rush hour. Glad it was only three stops and I’m accustomed to crowded transit. found out I was indeed at the wrong building and walked six blocks into the wind to Columbus Circle. Ducked into the shopping mall (what the mall off the Hyatt used to be), and wound up ducking into the right building. Strolled the mall with these heavy A bags until my right ankle decided to yell at me (where THAT madness came from I have no idea), so I’m sitting and waiting to go into the show. Gotta figure out where Lin’s coming out–waiting for him in that wind is going to be a trial. Times Square may be out. But I still have ESB tickets….hmmm…. OK, figure out which bus or train I need and then taxi to JFK terminal 5, hopefully with a McDonald’s in between

**There are a lot of little old ladies here tonight. A LOT of little old ladies. But the space is a dream. Everybody’s got a great view of the stage, and Columbus Circle. So excited! Only have enough beads for the singers, though. 😦 Side note: it’s nice to be somewhere where people still dress up for the theater. Still some casual, but extremely nice casual.

**Visibility at ESB was slim to none–rain not heavy but clouds at the 86th and 102nd floor were thick and moving. Went anyway and got as many interior pics as I was allowed. Had I come here straight after the show instead of waiting for Lin I’d have probably had better views. Three guesses as to if I care. Doorman was nice enough to hail me a cab–$50.30 and curb service vs. “guess the right train/bus combo in the cold wind and rain” was no contest–money well spent. Even though I was convinced the cabby was trying to kill me the way he was driving. Gave him $60 and let him keep the change, but only because it was raining and I was way early for my flight. Didn’t help me with my bags either way, no driver convo….is there some regulation I don’t know about?

**Got to airport where JetBlue has Wi-Fi. Was mega sleepy but still wired. JetBlue and TSA crew got there around 2 AMish. Attendant was not rude but not particularly helpful either–seeing as of the two of us, she was the only one well rested and having set foot in JFK before, you’d think she have been a little clearer in directing me to baggage check-in. Not to mention the long line to get through TSA. But I got through. got on the plane and got to sleep. If I was in the “cramped” section of the plane, I never need to spend the money on the extra room. Dan the pilot is The Bomb.com–I didn’t feel the plane leave or touch the ground–plus he had a wicked sense of humor.

**New baggage claim area is nice–once I found it. ‘Rents came to get me and I decompressed, went home around 12:30 and crashed before work. Great trip. Gotta do I again, with more time to savor it.

It’s good to see the King

So, I’ve already waxed intellectual on the Lincoln Center performance here….welcome to the fan version.

#96 on my Bucket List (it's actually higher, but LMM purists will get the reference)

*insert giddy schoolgirl scream here*

I can’t even do the whole travelogue here, as this post will be just as long as the last one. I’ll just set the scene a little and jump to the really good stuff.

Prepped for the trip like a total überfan–couldn’t find anyone with money designs that weren’t Ben Franklin, so I had my toes painted money green and found some Sally Hansen nail strips with cursive writing for my fingernails (called Love Letter–providence, much?). I left early Tuesday morning by Greyhound bus–true, JetBlue would’ve gotten me there faster, but not only did I get to New York just in time for the show without needing a room, it provided so many interesting stories. Got in 4 1/2 hours before the show and had to quickly change and figure out how to navigate the subway for the first time. In rush hour. With luggage. Thankfully, my formative years riding the RTA bus to and from school gave me the patience to stand packed in that crowd with a good grasp on my surroundings and my stuff. I had Avery Fisher Hall in my mind for some reason and easily got to Lincoln Center in three quick stops. I looked around for the theater entrance and couldn’t find it, so I figured I’d patiently wait until showtime, only to hear an announcement at 6:00 that they’re closing. After a long, loud bus ride and with aching feet I am NOT to be played with at this point, and go ask about the performance–only to be told I’m in the wrong building and the right one with ALLEN HALL in it is about 6 blocks away. Since I had only bought 4 rides’ worth of subway fare on my Metrocard and it looked like 6 regular blocks I figured I’d walk it. The wind tried to push me down the street–which was NOT fun since I had packed my warmer coat in favor of the cute one. I ducked into the first available doors at the end of those six blocks to warm up and regroup and found myself face to face with the words Frederick P. Rose Theater. Oh, happy stroke of luck to usher me into the right building! The Shops at Columbus Circle reminded me of the shops that were at the front of the Hyatt Regency Hotel back home, but as I was in New York to have a good time, I shook off the maudlin Katrina-tinged memory and walked around. Window shopping with luggage, however lightly packed, gets to be uncomfortable after a while, and as the restaurants looked pricey, unappealing or both I decided to find my way upstairs and wait anxiously for performance time.

With the tick of the clock and the check of the luggage (thank God!) the doors eventually opened and the ushers guided us inside to our seats. In buying my ticket I knew I was going to be in the back rows but the space is amazing. Every seat in there had a good view of the stage–not that it was all that necessary for music performances, but it was a huge plus to know I would be staring at Lin and company and not the back of some really tall guy’s head. While waiting for the show to begin, I cautiously took two pictures with my phone’s camera of the empty stage and the gobo projection on the back wall–which I thought would be a good compromise for capturing the memory and not getting thrown out for prohibited activity. I DO wish I had performance pics, but it wasn’t worth missing out on the whole experience. Which was BITCHIN’. Honestly, it was all I could do to contain myself in that roomful of well-heeled folk. I was trying to imagine all of the blue-haired ladies in front of me reacting to the hip-hop influence portion of the program, especially when all the F-bombs started flying. As Lin and crew kept performing number after number I was trying to stay in the moment and remember everything at the same time, and the memory was losing fast. At one point, I pulled out my blogger’s notebook and, eyes never leaving the stage, wrote the whole order of songs down as we went along. Although they did wind up giving us printed song lists after the show, my writing was frighteningly legible and almost straight. I sang part of Pharcyde’s “Passing Me By” and tried to follow with Em’s verse on Jay-Z’s “Renegade,” missing maybe all of five words. I’m fuzzy on whether Lin or Jon Rua spit that, but it was AWESOME. And Chris “Shockwave” Sullivan is one of the funkiest beatboxer/percussionists I have ever heard. I think I should figure out a way for him and Courtney Jensen to do something together.

The start of the Hamilton material almost felt like a segue from the opening act into the main headliner, and even though it was performers dressed in black dresses and suits, the lighting changes and the depth of portrayal in the performance set the scenery for us. On “Valley Forge” I could swear I could see smoke rising out of the mist and powdered wigs showing up on the guys’ heads. Christopher Jackson is not exactly the casting director’s visual choice for George Washington, but damned if his voice and stature didn’t make me see it. Watching the tunes unfold was really like watching a full-fledged Broadway musical. And Lin—oh my GOD, I could literally see the moments when he switched from being Lin to being Hamilton—not acting, BEING. I have to be honest, though—watching the YouTube and PBS clips of Mandy Gonzales, the vamp she let out for Maria Reynolds? I REALLY never saw THAT coming.

After a thunderous standing ovation and a delirium-producing encore of a Heights duet from Chris and Mandy, the lights came up and the show was sadly over. Everyone left the theater with a few people staying behind in the lobby. After a few minutes it dawned on me that the vast majority of them were friends, colleagues and acquaintances. I was the only FAN in the room. Great—I already feel uncomfortable being a fan and approaching folks for autographs and conversation…way to REALLY stick out like a sore thumb. But, as I wasn’t only doing this part for myself but for a few other friends living vicariously through me, I continued to wait. I did the southern hospitality thing and brought a gross of Mardi Gras beads–a small but sentimental thank you to Lin and the cast–which I wound up being short on since I didn’t know about the musicians beforehand. I decided to give them to all of the singers, with the two extras I’d intended for Lin and Chris’s wives to go to musical director Alex Lacamoire (LOVE his hair) and producer Thomas Kail. Grabbing autographs one by one and distributing beads, I felt incredibly awkward and juvenile but I was determined to leave all of those beads around necks in NYC and wait to see Lin. I almost got discouraged as everyone went downstairs to one of the restaurants for an after-celebration (which due to the luggage and the awkwardness I wouldn’t have even dared crash), but after a long time Lin finally emerged with his family in tow. Every clever thing I wanted to say flew out of my head to the JetBlue terminal to wait for me, yet I waited for him to walk in my direction and asked him for five minutes. He gave me one. What–I traveled for a day and a half and waited all that time to tell him NO? I took it gladly and did the fan assembly line bum’s rush–got the autograph, gave him his beads (along with Mandy’s and Gavin’s, who I managed to miss) gave him two hugs and got a picture. His dad was gracious enough to snap it for me, which meant that digital rectangle was to now be protected with my life. I thanked him again, said some stupid fan gibberish and then headed to the elevator with the rest of his family–Mom, Dad, sister and a relative I’m going to call a cousin because I don’t know and was REALLLY too scared to ask them. I did, however, manage to thank Mr. and Mrs. Miranda for creating that boy genius. In a move that may make me a bigger fan of his, Mr. Miranda said as he walked away, “It was fun.” Lin’s sister cried TMI and everyone went off into the night.

I was to head to the Empire State Building after the show; waiting all that time for Lin let the rain roll in and reduced visibility to almost nothing. I still went in and looked, though most of my pictures were interior shots. But I didn’t care. I can see the Empire State Building another time. I got to see Lin-Manuel Miranda perform mere feet away from me AND I got a minute of his time. TOTAL SCORE.

A Hamilton State of Mind

“I am not giving away my shot!”

Prophetically true, as I wanted so badly to attend the closing night of In The Heights on Broadway but could not manage to make it happen.

Sometime before Christmas, I got word that Lin-Manuel Miranda was set to open Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series of performances with an expanded presentation of work from his future concept album, “The Hamilton Mixtapes.” For those who scoff at the possibility of Treasury Secretary (and face of the $10 bill) Alexander Hamilton being hip-hop magic, here’s a preview from a performance Lin did at the White House.

Yeah. He did THAT.

So I took some things into consideration: THIS performance was going to be on a Wednesday night (which is a Sunday in my work schedule so I didn’t need a vacation day), and if I timed everything perfectly I could arrange cheap travel and get to the show without needing to stay over. The Lincoln Center website said the performance was sold out—refusing to be let down again, I took a chance and CALLED the box office, securing one of the last few tickets available. Needless to say, I’ve been flying since early December.

I’ll post the full travelogue version in a later blog and focus on the performance here….

The Allen Room performance space is magnificent–small, but perfect for a music performance. Columbus Circle and the bustling city proved an appropriate backdrop for an evening beginning with Miranda’s spin on Empire State of Mind, masterfully sliding a little Sondheim and Kander & Ebb amongst the Billy Joel and Jay-Z. Backed by a five piece band and a few of his talented vocalist friends, the sound was immense. We spent the first few minutes traveling down memory lane as Miranda lyrically skipped through many of his childhood hip-hop influences, beginning with the atypical (but very dear to me personally) Passing Me By by Pharcyde. Joined by some of his Freestyle Love Supreme compadres (Utkarsh Ambudkar, Jon Rua, and James Monroe Iglehart with vocal and percussive assists from Christopher Jackson and Chris “Shockwave” Sullivan), they flowed and jammed and passed the mic effortlessly. The audience was then treated to a sampling of verses from more influential lyricists: Notorious B.I.G.’s Juicy, Big Pun’s You Ain’t A Killer (perfectly run by Lin himself, who was TOTALLY giddy afterwards), and the Eminem verse from Jay-Z’s track Renegade (one of the best verses in hip-hop, in BOTH our opinions. I’d like to say I spit the whole verse perfectly along with him, but I stumbled a couple of times—but our unofficial duet was still cool. 😉 ) The hip-hop memory tour ended with an In The Heights reunion duet on Talib Kweli’s Get By, expertly performed by Lin and my other crush, the versatile, multi-talented Christopher Jackson.

Finally, we arrive at the beginning of the Hamilton cycle, on which Miranda has been furiously working since the White House performance. Miranda introduces us to each piece like a troubadour guiding us through a live, hip-hop version of Schoolhouse Rock. This evening’s jaunt into history goes a little further back into Alexander Hamilton’s early life, beginning with My Shot, a duet between Miranda’s Hamilton and Iglehart’s Hercules Mulligan discussing their fervor to step up and make a difference in forming their country into a new nation independent of England’s rule. We go from there to General Washington’s search for a Right Hand Man, a trio with Hamilton, Ambudkar’s Aaron Burr and Jackson’s Washington discussing battle strategy. As we are settling into the spirit and fervor of the colonists, we then switch gears to the other side of the pond and the audience is treated to the masterfully stoic and wildly hilarious performance of Gavin Creel, in his turn as King George in You’ll Be Back. The tune itself is a blend of delightfully ominous lyrics to melody that sounds like the love child of the Partridge Family and James Blunt, and it simply didn’t help to have Creel’s ramrod, regal posture juxtaposed with the priceless Burger King crown….EVERYONE was in hysterics, including Miranda himself. Moving into happier times, we are treated to the lighter side of Hamilton’s life where he meets the woman who would become his wife, Eliza (Elizabeth Schuyler), at a ball in Washington. One look at each other and they are Helpless to stop to power of love, delivered in a delightful doo-wop ditty by Moesha Mcgill. Jumping back into battle, we go to Valley Forge, where Washington has to make a daring and desperate call to win the war by aligning with France. As America emerges victorious (or, in LMM vernacular, “we effin’ won”), Creel’s King George returns to the stage for a musical reprise, denouncing the new country for their efforts and asking them to consider What Comes Next. On the verge of establishing our newly-won freedom, we take a brief step back from the war and politics to listen to Hamilton and Burr musing about their children’s future in Welcome Theodosia, a hopeful tribute to Burr’s daughter and Hamilton’s son Philip.

The fledging new nation is struggling to form a new government, and is hampered by the meteoric plummet of Alexander Hamilton’s star. So focused on his ideals and principles, he fails to play the political finesse game and manages to rub against the grain of nearly everyone in the new Congress, particularly future president Thomas Jefferson, whose debates with Hamilton take the form of the modern-day rap battle. In the Jefferson vs. Hamilton battles, now President Washington “moderates” the proposals regarding the nation’s debt and the potential of aiding France in their latest war (If you’ve ever seen the YouTube series Epic Battles in Rap History, this will give you a general idea of how things go). The third “rap battle” takes place after Hamilton’s involvement in a sex scandal with Maria Reynolds, a wickedly (no pun intended) seductive turn from Heights alum Mandy Gonzales in Say No to This. The Aftermath, the last Jefferson/Hamilton battle, marks the beginning of the end of Hamilton’s career in politics. On the heels of Hamilton’s final public slight of Burr, we arrive at the musical finale, a more fully developed version of Alexander Hamilton enhanced with full instrumentation and background vocals. (Shout-outs here to Rebecca Naomi Jones, Cian McCarthy, Michael Aarons, Matt Rubano, Sean McDaniel, Tim Keiper, and of course, Alex Lacamoire…the show wouldn’t have been the same without you all.)

Naturally, from a fan’s perspective I’m going to say that this concert was AWESOME. But it actually was–I am amazed at the melting pot of musical styles Miranda uses to tell this tale in American history–rap/hip-hop, salsa, R&B, musical theater–and blends them in a way that makes so much sense you wonder why no one thought of trying it before. I can think of no other artist who can morph his audience into history geeks while getting them to bop their heads and tap their feet at the same time. His infectious enthusiasm for the material makes even the shortest attention span want to run out and get the mile-thick Ron Chertow tome that inspired Miranda in the first place. And the acting talent of all of his backup players is not lost, either–you could really see and hear history unfolding on stage thanks to the characterizations given by everyone, no matter how seemingly small the role in the performance. Alexander Hamilton couldn’t have asked for a better 255th birthday present.

Thanks again to Luis and Luz Miranda for the young, scrappy and hungry lad you unleashed on the world. It was an experience I will always remember…and wish for everyone to have just once.

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