Nerd Trip 2015 (Part 3): Hamilton the Musical

I'm BELATEDLY finishing up my NYC Trip Recap with my impressions of the HAMILTON musical, which was the main reason I did this trip. Saved the best for last, but March and April kind of blew past me. Sorry! I guess it's kind of fitting that I'm posting now as the musical's run at the Public Theater is coming to a close.

(Warning, wall of text ahead.)

We must go back briefly to late 2014, when I awoke to a Tweet from Sarah linking to an article about an upcoming musical about Alexander Hamilton. I honestly thought my half-asleep brain was making this ish up because... well, it sounds like something I might make up. And then to find out that Lin-Manuel Miranda was behind it and that it was a hip-hop musical?

REAL LIFE, people. From there, I made plans to visit Sarah in February and to see the musical because I would regret it forever if I didn't go. I also seriously underestimated the popularity of this show because I was thinking about it from the I love Alexander Hamilton side of things and not the Lin-Manuel Miranda is a big freaking deal in musical theater world side of it. So it was that Sarah ended up with tickets in early February (for previews), and I ended up with tickets in late February.

Early February: Sarah and her friend (both with open minds and no expectations) saw the show. She texted me late (for East Coast time) that night, and basically told me I was going to lose my mind when I saw it, and that my impromptu NYC trip is possibly be the best decision I'll make this year.

So, at the end of February, the Sis and I left balmy 80F Los Angeles weather for North-of-the-Wall-cold New York City. You know the rest of our experience from my previous posts on the subject: NYC Trip Part 1 and Part 2.

Aside from the busy-times of March and April, this last post in the series is late because I've struggled to describe how much I LOVE the Hamilton musical and how thrilling it is that it's getting the buzz, hype, and praise it is because it lives up to all of it. I've fangirled about it more than once. I've tweeted my immediate reactions...

A bunch of publications, shows, and fans have covered why this show is so great better than I think I could articulate. And obviously, I don't want to say too much because I think it's almost better going into this thing with as blank a slate as possible.

But I do have to say a few things about why I loved it so much and why I think work like this is so, so important and inspiring.

I've often been confronted by people's bemusement with my love of U.S. History (specifically the Revolutionary period) and Alexander Hamilton, probably because history is to a lot of people boring and irrelevant the older it is. On a family trip to Boston during my teens, my dad asked me (jokingly) "What is with you and dead people?" upon my interest in visiting a Revolution-era cemetery.

I think the reason for this interest boils down to the fact that history is story and I am nothing if not a lover of stories. History has the added draw of being real but sometimes encroaching into the territory of myth - especially when we're talking about something like the American Revolution. But this mythic quality can make it feel irrelevant to the present.

HAMILTON recognizes both these things - the power of story but also the need for story (of whatever kind) to be relevant to its audience, and it addresses this beautifully by shifting the focus to the level of the individual and emphasizing the humanity of the participants and the broader strokes of the American experience. This is the Revolution told through the personal lens - through the dreams, fears, clashes, and ambitions of people. Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr (and to a lesser extent, the other Founders) are brilliant and still glimmer with that mark of destiny, but they're also clearly fallible humans with ideals, desires, insecurities, great big hearts, and petty rivalries.

What's more sympathetic and relevant than the struggle and striving of people in ordinary (and extraordinary) circumstances?

Not to mention everything about the production itself is so fresh and makes the history, people, and conflicts so accessible. The contemporary music and dynamic choreography infuses the Revolution with life, transporting and translating the vitality and energy of that time to the stage. As Lin-Manuel Miranda has said, it's "the story of America then, told by America now."

Which brings me to the diverse cast. How wonderful was it to see a cast that looks like the multiracial landscape of America now bringing the founding of this country to life? I still get these ridiculous, happy feels as I type this because it's such a statement without being a statement. The diversity is a given as if to say that the Revolution centuries ago also belongs to the people (whatever their background) of our nation now.

This laying claim to American history is something I've thought about in passing. My love of history aside, I know there's sort of a dissonance between my fondness for this time period dominated by white men (and to the men themselves in some cases) and my ethnic background. Like as the daughter of Taiwanese immigrant parents, why do I care so much about something that seems so unrelated to my life? What is my stake in this, and sometimes, what is my right to it?

It's the same breed of discomfort as feeling like an outsider because you either are or are perceived as one, even though this is the place you consider home or is the only home you know. It's the annoying feeling of having to defend your participation in something you considered to be yours. (Super weird and coincidental that in my Hamilton biography reread last night I read about how people perceived Hamilton as an outsider and foreigner, and therefore thought his motives could never be purely patriotic - and that Hamilton was especially sensitive to these perceptions of him and they plagued him. To some extent, I get this.)

So to see a cast like this implicitly saying that yes, this national history - regardless of who the original players were or what they looked like - belongs to everyone who is part of this nation now was incredibly important and affirming to me. More so than I thought it'd be because I didn't realized that it would mean something until I saw it.

And getting back to the man himself, I latched on to Alexander Hamilton in high school because he was such a complicated, fascinating figure. He lacked a bit of the flaw-hiding shine we tend to give the Founding Fathers, and then, you know, he died in one of the most dramatic ways possible - a pistol duel with sitting Vice President Burr. The Ron Chernow biography made me into more of a fan with all the new things I learned, but the play's framing of Hamilton as an immigrant and writer has endeared him to me even more. It's kind of magical that I'm finding now I can sympathize with this long-dead man in these new ways. It's another inventive aspect of the play, how it frames and reframes the Founders and history as we were taught it.

And lastly, I love stories about stories, and huge themes of HAMILTON is legacy and narrative.  The tagline for the musical's run at the Public Theater is "who lives, who dies, who tells your story." While that most obviously applies to Hamilton  (he's both a prolific writer and kind of obsessed with his reputation), it also applies to everyone in the play. There are stories we tell ourselves, the stories we tell others, and the ones that others tell about us; and only so much of that is in your control.

Any of you who have read my book reviews knows that I love it when themes are explored in-depth and done well. So you can imagine how delighted I was (and am) with HAMILTON's.

Lastly (for real this time), I have to say the songs are so, so good. They run the range of smart, funny, catchy, clever, inspiring, and emotionally honest. They also teach a lot of history; for example, distilling down 1790s politics into potent rap battles. I mean, what is this brilliance? Cabinet meetings as rap battles. Think about it. This awesomeness does not let up. It is non-stop (like Hamilton).

I'm going to end here because I've basically written you an essay. (One of the very few things I have in common with A. Ham is that I am wordy as hell.) So TL;DR - I loved HAMILTON. It is probably the best musical I have ever seen, and to paraphrase my dear friend Sarah, I think it is impossible to over-hype. Thank you, Lin-Manuel Miranda for this wonderful, inspiring play (about some of my favorite dead people)!

Next time, I'll just post a sequence of key-smashing and flailing gifs because that would also be an accurate depiction of my feels.

Go see the show if you can; it's opening on Broadway in July. History is happening in New York!

P.S. Hamilton is my bae, but Washington's a bamf, Lafayette is my fave, and Eliza, oh Eliza! Her kind of "strong female character" is underrated and not praised enough. She is quiet strength, compassion, and love. She was Hamilton's "best of wives and best of women," and my freaking hero. Thanks for honoring her, LMM!

P.P.S. Read the book if you're at all curious about Alexander Hamilton. It's a daunting 700-some-page read, but it's a compelling narrative and just so, so good.



Before What's Up Wednesday (which has now concluded), I used the weekly update format of "Currently...". So I'm going to go back to that and will be posting every other Tuesday with Katy Upperman.

I found the Currently post at Kate Hart's blog, who got the idea from Amy Lukavics, who found it here

Since I'm going back to this format for the 1st time in a long time, I'll use all the headers - in case you want to join in (please do!). You are, of course, welcome to use and not use whichever headers you want.

The epic fun times I've been having in April.
  • 2 weeks ago I went to my first Coachella ever, and while there were some truly infuriating (i.e. the uber rude staff person and "parking lot" from hell at an off-site party) and grating (i.e. terrible allergy attack aka "desert sickness") moments, there were also really great and magical moments.
    Loved spending time with my girl friends under the California sun, sitting on the grass and listening to music.

  • This past weekend, I went to the LA Times Festival of Books and hung out with tweeps like Sarah Enni, and I finally met the stupendous Kate Hart! Bonus: briefly met Kirsten Hubbard and the adorably sweet Emery Lord.
  • Also, we made the Jon Klassen signing at the Gallery Nucleus booth, and as always, he was the coolest guy ever. He even drew the Sis an extra doodle in her book because he couldn't pass up the opportunity to draw a cat for Cat. (The book we had signed at this bookfest is the doodle in the top left - with the dog and cat. The others were from a previous signing.)

  • The fan-freaking-tastic new STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS teaser trailer they released last week! No details in case there are those among you who want to go into the movie as un-teased as possible, but it was so good. It felt like a Star Wars movie (the original ones), and I cannot wait until December.

Game of Thrones is back and man, has it felt like forever. So excited to be back in Westeros! Since I've been riding a wave of US Revolutionary History geekery since February, I am thrilled by the return of TURN: Washington's Spies. This season promises to be much more exciting than the last with more spying, more Washington, and the introduction of Benedict Arnold! Of course, Orphan Black and Outlander are back as well - need to catch-up with those.

I am also, of course, semi-binge-watching Marvel's first Netflix show Daredevil, which I am loving! I like that it operates as its own thing instead of overlying on its connection to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe (which I think Agents of SHIELD does too much, though some of that can't be helped given the fact that it's about SHIELD), and I love how different it looks and feels from the movies. Daredevil is what Marvel TV should be - edgy, clever, engaging, thrilling, and complex. Even my friend who isn't a big fan of the MCU is into this show!

A Darker Shade of Magic - yes, still! I'm going at it slowly because 1) I've been way busy, 2) it's just so good, I don't want it to end, and 3) I'm reading another book too.

The other book I'm reading is Washington's Spies by Alexander Rose, and it's about the spy ring that helped win the Revolutionary War. The AMC show TURN is based on this book and this bit of history.

Listening to
James Bay, George Ezra, Hozier, and Florence and the Machine.

Thinking about
A trip I'm planning for the Fall. I hope I can make it happen! Fingers crossed. Anyone good at planning road trips?

The next big thing on my list? Avengers: Age of Ultron! I can't believe it's already time for another Avengers movie. This is the age we live in, geeks!

(We already have our Casual Cosplay ready.)

Oh, and I'm looking forward to the next Geek Girl Brunch! The first one for the Los Angeles chapter was at the beginning of this month; casual cosplay was the theme, hence our outfits above.

I still had summers off. People still in school, CHERISH these built-in vacation months! As usual, the struggle is time and lately, energy! I am so exhausted recently.

Making me happy
The sunshine! I'm a summer-child, so I'm always happier when the sun is out. It means more ice cream and more puppy play time.
I'm also happy to be seeing my friends more often, and of course, all the tweeps I've been finally meeting up with!

Update me on your currently in the comments or in a blog post!


5 Fandom Friday (19)

5 Fandom Friday is a geek-blogger community building project started and hosted by The Nerdy Girlie and SuperSpaceChick. Every Friday, post a top 5 list based on a predetermined topic that can be found in this post which has topics through April- you can also find more info on the project there. Participate as frequently or infrequently as you like, and if a topic doesn't especially appeal to you, feel free to put your own twist on it.

This week's theme: 5 Favorite Theme Park Rides (Disney or otherwise)

(Yeah, mine are all going to be Disneyland rides...)

1) Tower of Terror (Disney's California Adventure)

I hate drop rides, but for some reason, I love Tower of Terror. Maybe it's the creepy holographic, doomed hotel guests. Maybe it's the fact that it's not just one huge drop. Maybe it's because the first time I went on it, I was with friends and we laughed through the entire thing. Whatever it is, it's awesome. Easily my Number 1.

2) Star Tours (Disneyland)

Disneyland + Star Wars = 2 of my favorite things. So of course, Star Tours is one of my favorite rides. Not to mention the fact that you get to fly through some of the most iconic moments of the movies. The old version was great, and I love the new version with the randomized scenes too. Although, let's be real, podracing is only fun the first few times. I'm always a little disappointed when I get that scene.

Also, I was the Rebel Spy the last time I went. Was it because I was wearing a Star Wars shirt?

3) Space Mountain (Disneyland)

It was fun before they upgraded it and fun after they upgraded it. I think it works because you're essentially hurtling around in circles in the pitch-darkness. It's thrilling because you're in the unknown (unless you've been on it when it's broken down and they turn on all the lights... not as impressive).

4) Big Thunder Mountain (Disneyland)

This is actually the Sister's favorite ride at the park, but I love it too. It's got the charm of a wooden coaster and is surprisingly fast! Plus, I love the part where we go by the exposed T-Rex bones.

5) King Arthur Carrousel (Disneyland)

This is more because of nostalgia than anything else - other than the fact there's just something magical about carrousels. But I love the one at Disneyland because of its gorgeously decorated horses. My favorite since I was a kid (and apparently Walt Disney's / everyone's favorite) is the horse known as Jingles because of the bells handing from her saddle. I have photos of me on this horse when I was like 4, and I have another one on the horse when it was painted gold for Disneyland's 50th Anniversary (I was 19 then).


5 Fandom Friday (18)

5 Fandom Friday is a geek-blogger community building project started and hosted by The Nerdy Girlie and SuperSpaceChick. Every Friday, post a top 5 list based on a predetermined topic that can be found in this post which has topics through April- you can also find more info on the project there. Participate as frequently or infrequently as you like, and if a topic doesn't especially appeal to you, feel free to put your own twist on it.

This week's theme: 5 Magical Items I Would Love To Own

1) Time Turner

This is my absolute number 1 because, um, hello! I need all the time I can get! Not to mention, the time turner is super stylish!

2) Wand

In keeping with the Harry Potter theme, I would also like a wand because magic. This opens up a huge door of possibilities, not least of which is the ability to Apparate!

3) Kell's Coat (A Darker Shade of Magic)

I will always take the opportunity to post this book cover because it is THE BEST. But anyway, there's lots to love about Schwab's magical world of multiple Londons, but one of my favorite bits of magic? Kell's incredible and gorgeous coat. I love coats. I love pockets. And all this plus style points? WANT WANT WANT.

4) Brimstone's wishes (Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy)

Who wouldn't like a wish or two up their sleeves - literally since Brimstone's wishes come in the shape of beads. Like Kell's coat, these wishes combine magic with fashion. ;) Besides, I'm not being greedy here; I'm just asking for some scuppies and shings - although I would not be opposed to higher denominations. Now, I only need to find the teeth to trade for these...

5) TARDIS (does this count as magic or is it "science"?)

Basically, the ability to teleport anywhere (or any time) instantly is kind of my greatest wish. Think of all the extra sleep I can have without having to factor in my commute time! Think of all the extra travel I could do minus soul-crushingly long flights! Etcetera and so forth.

Also, it's bigger on the inside and is more or less a mobile home - but better!

Honorable mentions: The Marauder's Map because I just love the idea of it. A lightsaber (again "science" or magic...?) because it's flipping awesome, but let's be real, if I were given an actual lightsaber, I'd probably end up accidentally cutting off my own arm. So let's not do that.


5 Fandom Friday (17)

5 Fandom Friday is a geek-blogger community building project started and hosted by The Nerdy Girlie and SuperSpaceChick. Every Friday, post a top 5 list based on a predetermined topic that can be found in this post which has topics through April- you can also find more info on the project there. Participate as frequently or infrequently as you like, and if a topic doesn't especially appeal to you, feel free to put your own twist on it.

This week's theme: 5 Times I Totally Fangirled

I think there are too many times, and maybe some of these times are embarrassing? Hah. Let's start with the most recent.

1) HAMILTON musical - There's this incredible hip-hop musical about my history crush Alexander Hamilton off-Broadway right now (it's going to be ON Broadway in the summer), and I just can't stop thinking or talking about it. Because it is amazeballs, and not just because it's about my favorite Founding Father. It's the whole package: music, content, staging, acting, story, and on and on.

So obviously, I was totally embarrassing when I met Javier Muñoz (left), who played Hamilton at the matinee I saw, and the creative force who made this whole thing (and is usually Hamilton as well) Lin-Manuel Miranda (right) - who I clearly should've been fangirl-ing more before but alas the world of musical theater is something I am only casually a fan of (as in, I like musicals and theater but am not very knowledgeable about the world?). Needless to say, LMM is the ish and I'm hooked.

See this thing in NYC if you can. Believe the hype. (I need to go back. Also, will I ever stop being so embarrassing? Word vomit is so real.)

2) Peter S. Beagle at SDCC - The Last Unicorn is arguably my favorite book ever (and it was my favorite movie growing up), so when I stumbled upon the author himself at a booth in Artists Alley at Comic Con last year (while being frustrated about lines at another booth), it was kind of amazing. I'm not someone who gets overcome with emotion in a choked up way, but this was probably the first time I was anywhere close to that - much to my surprise.

Guess it's true what they say about books being life-changing, and Mr. Beagle was such a delight! I got my books signed and he told me a story, and it was fan-freaking-tastic.

3) Tom Hiddleston at Nerd HQ / SDCC - Do I even need to explain this? This man is too much, and thanks to the generosity of fellow fangirls, I made it into his super sold out panel at Nerd HQ in 2013. I couldn't keep the stupid grin off my face the entire time. Celebrity-crushing to the max - like honestly, how is this guy real?

Afterwards, the Sis and I chatted with our friend, who had also been inside but in like the front row) about it, and we were just in a surreal daze that it had happened at all. It was the best end to my first SDCC ever.

4) Hugh Dancy / Hannibal at SDCC - The Comic Con gods were kind to us our first and second years at the convention when it came to Hannibal, the Sis & my favorite show (currently) on TV. Our 1st SDCC, we ran into Hugh Dancy in a hallway (the day after the Hannibal panel that we barely made it into), and he was super sweet & stopped for a pic. Our 2nd SDCC, we managed to get wristbands for the Hannibal signing at the Lionsgate booth.

Of course, we fangirled at Bryan Fuller (who is so friendly and warm), but really, the highlight of that signing was our squeeing over Raúl E. Esparza - not over his role on Hannibal (which is great) but over his role as ADA Barba on Law & Order: SVU! To our geeky joy, he was very enthusiastic about that too. XD

5) Harry Potter Studio Tour - Last February, the Sis and I flew to the U.K. to see Tom Hiddleston in Coriolanus (yes, more fangirling) and to realize the dream of going on to Platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross and the Harry Potter Studio Tour. My college roommie joined us for the Harry Potter fun, and we had the best time ever.

We're clearly having way too much fun outside No. 4 Privet Drive.
There was so much fangirling as we entered the Great Hall that all of our first few pictures came out blurry (pic on the left is the 1st pic I took upon entering); our hands were literally shaking from excitement. It was straight up magical.

Bonus: Backstreet Boys because I'm pretty sure this is where it all began, and it was probably the true height of my fangirling. I have the posters and VHS recordings to prove it. Not to mention, I will never not know the lyrics to like 95% of their discography (the 5% being mostly their new stuff). Plus, BSB obsession is what brought me and my best friends together, and even to this day, the shared memories of this time in the late 90s/early 00s have helped me bond with new(er) friends! So when I think about fangirling, I kind of always think of them first & the intensity of my emotions about BSB as a tween, haha.