*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.