‘Hamilton:’ You don’t need to be in the room where it happens (because it’s for old, rich white people)

The author's actual Playbill from a real-live Hamilton performance.

The author’s actual Playbill from a real-live Hamilton performance. Photo by Sam Kite/Brokelyn

$96,000. $96,000. If you won the lottery, would you invest in protest, and never lose focus, ’til the city takes notice? Or would you change the station, then teach ‘em about gentrification?

Nah. Be honest. That shit is for poor people! You’re rich now! Time to get yourself a ticket (just one, you didn’t win the Powerball) to Hamilton! You haven’t seen a Broadway musical since the tour of Rent back when you lived with your parents in San Antonio. But you’re a New Yorker now! This is your shot! You even get to post that Facebook picture (above) of your hand holding the playbill right before the curtain. “Finally seeing Hamilton, you guys! #greatestcityintheworld #blessed”

Don’t worry if you can’t get tickets, though. Unless your daily routine consists of skipping town from the teachers strike on your private jet to sweet-ass VIP house seats, you can wait for the tour. I got lucky, spent three hours sardined in the overheated Richard Rodgers on a Friday night and have some news: it’s truly not worth the hype (or price).

In case you haven’t already orphaned your children to teach them a lesson or watched viral videos from the White House, Hamilton, the most popular musical to cast its spell on Broadway since Queen Elsa belted about the Wizard to every mom from Green Bay, is the new hit by writer/actor/composer/Obama’s BFF Lin-Manuel Miranda (whose previous Tony winning production, In The Heights, started this “new genre” of white-accessible rap/hip-hop musical theater). It features a mostly non-white cast as they dramatize the life and times of American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton from his time out of college in 1776, to serving in the Revolutionary War under George Washington, writing the Federalist Papers (there are literally, like, seven songs about him writing at his desk), marrying his baby momma and his bitter rivalry with Aaron Burr, sir, the man whom he constantly trumped that finally bested him in a duel to the death. All set to clever rhymes and a funky beat. Sounds fun, right?

I truly quite enjoyed the cast album. There are some great songs! I really like the one that’s an homage to the British Invasion of the 60s, except instead of singing about peace and love, it’s King George letting America know that he loves them so much he will murder all of their friends and family until they love him back (Jonathan Groff as a foppish petulant King George is probably the best part of the show).

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Hamilton is Hamiltons of hype, but it doesn't deliver.

Hamilton is Hamiltons of hype, but it doesn’t deliver.

I’m a total theater buff, and I try to see everything that comes out (you can get cheap tickets if you know where to look; many shows also offer same-day rush seats). I missed Hamilton at The Public, before it became insufferably exclusive or ridiculously expensive, so I tried calling in a favor through some fancy friends. But even a multiple Tony nominee couldn’t get me a ticket (let alone one I could afford). So, I resigned to jamming along with my #Ham playlist on Spotify.

It’s actually so expensive that the ticketing service charge (around $150) is more than full price to any other show on Broadway (more than double anything at the TKTS booth). The service charge! That is on top of the actual ticket price (averaging more than $1000 on the secondary market; better seats are even more).

They also have a daily “lottery” where you can try to get a ticket for $10, also known as a #Ham4Ham (he’s the guy on the $10 bill, get it? Advertising!), which is basically New York’s version of Black Friday at Walmart (since there are no Walmarts in New York, how else would the bougie gawk at mobs of poor people fighting over something totally not worth the hassle?).

Luckily, I won my own kind of lottery, as a friend from L.A. was in town and happened to have an extra ticket. Friend lottery! And they were great seats! I got my shot! Here I am, on The Great White Way.

And boy, was it white! There were so many old-ass white people, I thought I was in Branson, MO. If they weren’t decked in furs doing their best “smell the fart,” they were like, totally stoked, and totally hyped, from their, like, totally ahmazzing pumpkin spiced lattes. You’d think such a “groundbreaking” show would be more accessible to the people it should be inspiring: kids from the inner city, people who have a hard time connecting to the arts due to lack of representation; people of all classes and races coming together. Nope. All I saw was a harem of basic bitches, their boyfriends who are “just the best,” a few rich old white queens, and one Billy Bob in a NASCAR T-shirt, for the love of God!


There were 10 times more people of color on the stage than the entire audience combined.


I counted three black people in the entire sold-out Friday night audience. Three. There were 10 times more people of color on the stage than the entire audience combined in a theater filled to the brim. I started to feel uncomfortable. This isn’t Oklahoma. It’s New York, New York! The melting pot of the American dream! It immediately became the most hypocritical piece of art I’d ever seen.

Showtime. The audience goes nuts. “Alexander Hamilton. My name is Alexander Hamilton.” I start to forget all of the socio-political aspects of the audience, the exclusivity and how nearly fucking impossible it was to get myself into this tiny, uncomfortable seat. “Talk less, smile more.” Wait, is he talking to me? I should definitely do that! I start to relate. Like my country, I’m ALSO “young, scrappy and hungry!” I’m singing along at this point (to myself, I’m not an animal). I know the cast album almost by heart — the good songs, anyway — and it’s quite nice to gain some real context.

We get to the American Revolutionary War. “Here comes the General!” Christopher Jackson slays as George Washington. He was my favorite part of In The Heights as Benny (the guy that raps about traffic in NYC). He’s cool, collected, intense and sexy. The real deal. He could tell my story any day; hell, I’d be fine with him just reading George Washington’s Wikipedia page on stage.

The war is ending, and it’s been over an hour. We’ve gotta be rounding out the end of Act I. I really, really have to pee at this point. I shouldn’t have had that pre-show beer at 9th Avenue Saloon. Epic group number signifying America’s victory. “The world turned upside down!” America! Fuck, yeah! Here it comes, house lights … nope. It keeps going. I start checking the time. How long is this show? We aren’t even at intermission yet?!

At this point, the most basic-est of bitches next to me is driving me fucking nuts. I may know the songs, and I might have caught myself feeling the moment, but I’ve not seen the songs. If you couldn’t tell that she’d already been three times based on the way she mouthed every lyric, laughed hysterically at every joke a beat before they landed, or danced and hooted and hollered like a pageant mom, then you’d know because she’d mentioned how many times she’d seen it about 72 times already (I guess she needed to let us know how great it is to justify spending an entire month’s rent on this one show)! In her best vocal fry, she said: “This is my fourth. It’s soooooo good.” She turns to the people behind her. “You guuuyyysss. Is this your first time? Lin is just. The. Best. Isn’t he?” Nightmare.

What would’ve been a perfect close to the act fizzles into a scene with Aaron Burr, sir, and Hamilton singing about parenthood (Hamilton had eight children, I only met two) and how they were both orphans. Hamilton and Burr, sir, mirrors of each other. Two sides of the same coin! Metaphors! Then something, or other, about lawyer stuff. I don’t know, I kind of fell asleep around this point. Lights up.

Intermission. The superfan next to me apparently finds me a kindred spirit. “Have you seen it before? This is my fourth time.” That’s 73. I smile and nod. She starts in on the people behind us, referring to all of the actors by their first names. “Daveed [Lafayette] is so funny. I’m so amazed by Lin. He’s so talented. He wrote it!” I hate her.

Act II begins another hour and half of reprises. Basically the same songs from Act I, with different lyrics. Hamilton gets tricked into a honey trap and starts banging some shady lady. He should have really gone with his wife to the lake house! He’s also kind of in love with his wife’s sister (I honestly rooted for the sister; I found his wife shrill and whiney). There’re some really great songs, but the staging is a bit pedestrian. You go in expecting a giant “Be Our Guest” kind of number, but all you get is dancing around a giant desk (props to the props dept, though). And writing. Lots of writing.

There’s a bunch of (inaccurate) history mumbo-jumbo; we learn a lot about the founding of our country through sick rhymes and a little freestyle. Hamilton’s son dies in a duel. Hamilton’s wife is sad. Hamilton and Aaron Burr, sir, have it out a bunch. They duel. You know the rest.

The crowd explodes. All of the white people stand up and cheer. It blew them all away. Some douche-bro near me said, “The best thing I’ve ever seen.” I was a little perplexed. How many shows have you ever seen? What’s your favorite musical? Jersey Boys? What was the last musical you saw? Lion King at The Fox in 2006?

My friend Danny put it really well when he said:

As far as I understand, Hamilton’s “breakthrough” is that it tells the story of Alexander Hamilton’s life using people of color and contemporary musical idioms. Great, but is that it? There’s so much to be said about America’s history of slavery and racism; we’re tragically reminded of it every day. However, this show seems set on merrily speeding through Hamilton’s (highly edited) life story without delving deep enough.

A lot of people love it. It’s brought modernity to musical theater. The cast album is spectacular. I still listen to it all the time. But I never gained that experience, that moment, that I needed from the “best musical ever.” It’s three hours long! No one ever mentions that! That’s longer than Batman v Superman! That’s almost an entire season of Broad City!

Can you say no this? It really depends on your situation. If you’ve won the lottery, either through the state of New York, or the show’s very own #Ham4Ham, then you betcha! You’ll get to see an okay musical and be part of the conversation with all the other rich and/or lucky white people.

But if you are looking for a connection, a life-changing experience, I would suggest seeing something else. Perhaps Cynthia Erivo in The Color Purple (rush tickets can go as low as $35). If you’re just looking for a hilarious fun and affordable night, try Disaster (half off tickets by using code FOOL1 until April 15th)! Check the boards, look online, there are tons of options! Go see new musicals. Try discovering the next big thing, before it’s too late. If you can’t get a ticket, just know the world is wide enough. There is more than Hamilton. And honestly, you’re not missing that much.

Follow Sam for more declarations of independent thought: @thesamkite.

If you’ve seen Hamilton, do you think it’s worth the hype? Let us know in the comments!

11 Comment

  • I am an old white guy, not rich, with a 15 year old daughter who is also caught up in the Ham experience. I think it is wonderful experience because it has gotten kids involved in history. We live in a little town in northern California and we paid a small fortune to go to New York to see this show. I hope my daughter does not see this article because of all the negativities. I have never felt compelled to comment on any articles before but this article is sad. Let’s hope that only a few people read this article.

    • I would love to see it but unfortunately, I’m not willing to mortgage my house and I cant afford to go to NYC to see this production without knowing I could get a ticket. I think this writer was explaining his point of view and that’s his critique and how he saw the show. Lin is amazing. I loved In the Heights and Ive followed him for a years. My 13 year old son is dying to see this play. (A young black kid who has little interest in theater or history.) However, he wont be able to see positive role models because the scalpers have scooped these tickets. The rich white folks are seeing this show multiple times. I think this article was interesting because it gave me the knowledge I already knew. It’s wasted on the rich white folks.

  • I left this article knowing an awful lot more about your seething disdain for the people who are able to attend showings of Hamilton (it kinda seems like when you say “white people” what you actually mean is “women, especially those who are enjoying themselves too much” but I could be wrong) (also why are you holding Lin Manuel-Miranda and the work itself accountable for the attendance demographics???) than anything about the play’s narrative shortcomings, which it most certainly has. I would worry a lot less about trying to establish yourself as Not Like Other White People (and a lot less about policing a person of color’s work for its “whiteness”) and maybe a little more time learning to like things in spite of the fact that a bunch of ANNOYING, UNREFINED, GODDAMNED ***WOMEN**** might also enjoy it

  • I haven’t seen Hamilton but I don’t think I need to to know this guy is a very sad and bitter douche canoe.

  • ““The best thing I’ve ever seen.” I was a little perplexed. How many shows have you ever seen? What’s your favorite musical? Jersey Boys? What was the last musical you saw? Lion King at The Fox in 2006?”

    Oh, man. This hyperbole really highlights the problem I have with a lot of media consumption, and it’s why I can’t stand Broadway in particular. Short of an absolutely disaster, is anyone REALLY going to admit they spent so much money on something they didn’t like? Especially those who have to make, like, a TRIP to do it?

    That, in turns, encourages audiences to act less like patrons of the arts than consumers. Most people aren’t concerned as much if something addresses its particular focus well, or how it conveys its own message, so much as how close to or far from it is from being considered “the best.” It gets worse when something becomes critically acclaimed or award-winning. Nuance has to be jettisoned, and you have to “just enjoy it.”

    I might sounds like an elitist saying, “Shouldn’t you know what a good show looks like?” but I mean it less in a disdainful way than a cautionary way – are you really willing to spend so much money on something you’re KIND OF sure is good? Considering all the time and money involved in something’s creation, is it financially responsible, even moral, to “turn your brain off”?

    Though I don’t see why I shouldn’t be disdainful of someone who’s seen a $1000 show four times and has Nothing Insightful To Say. There are theatre students and professionals who are young, scrappy, and hungry still waiting to get the chance to truly EXPERIENCE and UNDERSTAND the show that they’ve only listened to. But they can’t afford to, because they’re in theatre. In NYC, “I’ve seen Hamilton four times” might as well be “Let them eat cake.”

    I do love the Hamilton conversation – any big pop culture phenomenon is only truly worth it for the conversation –especially when compared to the industry as a whole. DID Hamilton have a duty to expound on our country’s racist history in particular, or was it okay for it be a straight musical adaptation of the Ron Chernow book? Do WE know the difference between colorblind casting and color-conscious casting? IS it ironic that George III songs are so popular with white people because it basically written to lampoon musicals written by white people?

    I don’t have answers yet, because I haven’t seen it, and Lord only knows when I’ll be able to.

  • I have not had the privilege of seeing the show, but my wife and mother-in-law have, as have many of my friends and they loved it. However, I am not really posting about Hamilton. I absolutely LOVED the line in your dripping review where you state,

    “All I saw was a harem of basic bitches, their boyfriends who are “just the best,” a few rich old white queens, and one Billy Bob in a NASCAR T-shirt, for the love of God!”

    I particularly liked the part where you quote the girlfriends saying their boyfriends “are just the best”. I swear, no sarcasm intended, that is seriously funny. It’s like I can picture them (the basic girlfriends) saying it and how you intended me to develop my minds-eye picture. Well done! I hope you are writing more for comedic impact rather than pure truthfulness, but no harm either way… at least to me. Coincidentally, I do agree with you that it is a shame that most people, regardless of ethnicity or socioeconomic status, are precluded from enjoying this show. For the record I am: old, rich, white, and have a PhD. But even more importantly, I have a sense of humor and although some would say slightly warped a sense of humor nonetheless.

  • That is so funny “‘Hamilton:’ You don’t need to be in the room where it happens (because it’s for old, rich white people)”

    I’m an older white guy (wouldn’t call myself rich) and refuse to see that racist show no matter what. You can GIVE me free tickets and I’d sell immediately. I’d never see that crap.

    Once I saw that that racist guy who did In the Heights, made the Casting “Non-White Only” I knew I’d never see it.
    My wife (who likes theater) knows if she sees it I will file for divorce.

    I figured it was a show made for the BLM movement but I guess there are enough liberals in NY with white guilt to go and support a show that discriminates against them.

    Sad

  • It sounds to me like you had more of a bad experience at the show that had nothing to do with the actual show. Half this article has to do with you having to pee and the bad audience around you, not the actual show itself :/

  • I’m a Puerto Rican and nowhere near rich who had the honor to see hamilton with the Original Cast on Broadway .. my seating was center , center orchestra which were better seats than the president’s … Awesome for a true BrokeNyer with no connects…

  • Hamilton isn’t overrated c: you do you, we do us. Stop trying to make me stop liking something or Turn around,bend over and lemme show you where my shoe fits