In an episode of Seinfeld, Elaine is baffled by how boring she found the film of The English Patient. Whenever she expresses her dislike she is met with virulence by the film’s fanatical supporters. She even loses a prospective job when the interviewer finds out that she didn’t like the film.
I have been that way about musical Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda. I began hearing about it a while ago. Everyone, I mean everyone, rhapsodized about it. It was life-changing! Never experienced anything in the theater like it! It makes history come alive!
Well, I liked it fine. But I didn’t get transported. My life didn’t change. I even found it a little tedious toward the end.
I had really done my homework, too. I listened to the score a lot before I went. I followed it with the lyrics. As in all shows, there are some really catchy tunes that have become earworms: the opening, My Shot, You’ll Be Back, Helpless, they are all Broadway hits in the great tradition.
It just never came alive for me. I found that expressing this opinion in public, though, was dangerous. ‘Are you nuts?’, one woman screamed at me when I told her that I didn’t much care for it. She then launched into one of the canned responses people have when praising the show: “It is remarkable how this show delivers a lesson on American History to young people in their own language!’ Well, maybe not: We were at a restaurant the night we were seeing the show. We told the waitress that we need the check since we had to be at the theater. She asked which show we were seeing. I told her, and she said, ‘Oh yeah! That’s the show about President Hamilton, right?’ So much for the civics lesson!
Just to show that I am not a dogmatic prig, the next week we saw Porchlight Theater’s wonderful production of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first show In The Heights and I loved it. It is in the same hip-hop pop music vein, but I was tremendously moved and deeply involved with the music and the book and the characters. Afterwards, I thought how like Porgy and Bess it was, offering a rich tapestry of characters deeply rooted to a specific time and place. It is a kind of masterpiece.
I don’t get the fervor for Hamilton in the way I don’t get why anyone cares about sports. OK, the Cubs won the series after 108 years. What does that have to do with me.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t judge anyone for loving either sports or Hamilton. It’s just that I seem to be missing a gene that would allow me to appreciate them so I want someone to explain them to me, rationally and unemotionally.
I would love to heaer what it is that you think is so earth-shattering about this show. I liked it fine, but my life is still the same after seeing it.
I guess asking someone to explain why they like something is kind of fruitless, but go ahead and try, please.