I was prepared to hate it. While in London last year, I was invited by Ebele Okobi—my host the week I was there—to attend a showing of Hamilton at the Victoria Palace Theatre, and I had my “I’m gonna hate this shit” cup of tea ready to sip. I knew it was Founding Father fan fiction. But mostly I have a deep animus for corny rap, which is why I also hate gospel rap (“We trappin’, but for Jesus! We trappin’, for the Lord!”) and I just couldn’t imagine sitting through a 150-minute rapped reconstruction of Alexander Hamilton’s life.
And then the show started, and that cup of tea remained unsipped. I was captivated by the performances, the story, the production and just the spectacle of it all. So captivated that I wasn’t even that bothered by the rapping—which I said to Ebele after the show. (“I wasn’t even that bothered by the rapping.”)
So when the version with the original cast came to Disney Plus earlier this month, I watched it again. And again. And again. And again. I watched interviews with the cast, both here and at The Undefeated. (And learned that Jasmine Cephas Jones and Anthony Ramos are engaged now.) I did my own research on the people depicted in the play, and discovered, among other things, that Aaron Burr has an entire tree of Black descendants who had no idea they were connected.
And now, two weeks later, I have several takeaways. Here’s three, for now:
1. At least once a week, 50 Cent does or says a thing that makes you think “Yeah, I see why people want to kill you.” Alexander Hamilton was (spoiler alert) killed by Aaron Burr, but like 17 different people had good reason to kill him too. The homie Bassey put it best: “Not enough people shot him.”
2. The hook from “The Reynolds Pamphlet” should be played whenever Pete Buttigieg enters a room.
3. Perhaps I’m exaggerating a little bit, but Renée Elise Goldsberry’s “Satisfied” performance is the greatest thing that has ever happened in the billions of years of the universe’s existence.
The song tells the story of Angelica Schuyler, who introduced her sister, Eliza, to Alexander Hamilton, despite her feelings for him too. They (Eliza and Hamilton) get married and Angelica questions if she made a mistake in dismissing him so quickly. During the performance, Goldsberry is required to convincingly act as both the proud and protective older sister and the (slightly) regretful potential lover and has to dance, and has to deliver a pitch-perfect, exposition-filled, double-time rap and has to sing. And not just sing. But blow the fucking roof off.
I’ve never seen anything like this before. Maybe because there’s never been anything like this before. It’s like someone fused Linkin Park, Gina Torres and Jennifer Hudson together. Watching this made me feel how I felt when watching Kyrie drop 57 on the Spurs or when discovering that eating shrimp and grits and bacon at the same time was actually a real thing you could order at restaurants and not just a fake meal dreamt up by me while drunk.
I know I’m years late with this, and Renée Elise Goldsberry already won a Tony for it, so this is a raindrop in a sea of acknowledgment. But fuck. She deserves all the flowers. Like literally every flower. Flowers should not exist anywhere other than her living room.