Does Hamilton Live Up to the Hype? A (Personal) Post-Show Exploration

So. I saw Hamilton. [sucks teeth] [Opening notes of “Alexander Hamilton”]
♪ It doesn’t feel like it, but Hamilton is kind of old. Almost as old as this channel. I remember back in October 2015 when it was this new
musical that Paige had heard about on Tumblr that she was listening to ALL the time and she got me hooked on it. There are a few Hamilton references
in the videos we made that month. 2015 Sarah: “Paige!”
[“You’ll Be Back” playing in the background] “You have to stop listening to the
Hamilton soundtrack, right now!” 2015 Paige: “Why?” They were largely esoteric when we were making them. But then it exploded into the mainstream in a
way that the majority of stage musicals don’t. Because… that’s how good it is and how
well the concept is executed. When it was announced in 2018 that
the tour would be coming to Tampa, my passion for the show had cooled considerably, settling into a more comfortable
and permanent place in my heart. I had no intention of spending
a couple hundred bucks on tickets, especially for a musical so popular that I knew
I wouldn’t have trouble seeing it sometime over the next 60 years or so that
I’m hopefully on this planet. Or that our…planet exists. [gritted teeth]
Hopefully. But it didn’t stop me from entering the lottery while
it was here, though I was never successful. But the girlfriend was! Theater is becoming a tradition for our England visits
because it’s so easy to see things in London. We entered the lottery for Cursed Child and
Hamilton and she won for Hamilton. We saw the Thursday matinee at the Victoria
Palace Theatre and it was awesome. But… …it was also a bit disappointing. [bewildered]
Why? [Opening beats of “Ten Duel Commandments”]
♪ First off, I want y’all to know that I’m very grateful
and aware of how lucky I was to see Hamilton. Second, I love this show. Nothing is above reproach and
Hamilton has its problems, but this is not going to be the anti-Hamilton hour. [quickly]
This video isn’t going to be an hour– I really admire what Lin Manuel Miranda
has done in creating Hamilton, in terms of both creativity and real-life impact. I understand some people don’t like it
or the phenomenon of it, but frankly, it’s had a huge positive impact, it’s important to a lot of
people, it’s helped the careers of many actors of color, I’m all for education through
inventive and creative means, and people liking a popular
thing does not make them bad. It’s going to save us a lot of time if I
don’t have to preface every sentence with the reassurance that I think the show is
a good, quality show, that I really like. Finally, if you’re debating whether or not to finish this
video because you think it’s just gonna be a white girl
complaining about Hamilton, I promise there’s going to be a positive takeaway. I am not trying to convince you that Hamilton is trash or
that you should swear off your dream of seeing it or even that you should feel sorry for me. That’s not what this video is about. Let’s go. [Opening piano notes of “Satisfied”]
♪ Fandom revolves around mythology, and from its opening number being performed
at the White House back in 2009 to the original cast’s adorable camaraderie, Hamilton is bursting with it. And at the center of it all is Lin Manuel Miranda, who is not only very intelligent,
creative, and compassionate, but very, VERY charming. Lin Manuel Miranda:
“Can Lin Manuel Miranda run for President? [cheerily]
I’d rather do ANYTHING. I’d rather eat this poster board.” There’s no dig or judgement or challenge of
anyone’s authenticity there–it’s just true. He is unabashedly passionate about
what he makes and it’s infectious. I mean–just LOOK at him! [intensely]
Look at him! [intense whisper demon voice]
LOOK AT HIM Back in 2015, I really loved Hamilton. I’d always loved musicals, but Hamilton was the first
time I got to join a fandom for one from the beginning. I listened to the cast album
for about 6 months straight. I devoured the Ham4Hams, the fragments of
numbers that were professionally recorded, the interviews, the live performances. [guilty inhale of breath] [guiltily]
I forced my family to watch these things. The intensity of that original attachment (even having
lessened within the last year and a half or so) resulted in really high expectations for the London cast, even though I knew they were unfair! But knowing it was impossible for them to live up
to my cast-album-fueled fantasy version of the original Broadway cast didn’t stop
me from feeling that way because… Humans are stupid. But I wasn’t a bit disappointed by the West End cast. They were amazing! Our Angelica was Ellena Vincent,
she’s apparently part of the Ensemble. Thank you West End Understudies Twitter because she
was not printed in the program as playing Angelica that night! She sang ’Satisfied’ so well it made me cry. [attacked]
It’s NEVER made me cry before! And Tarinn Callender as Hercules Mulligan. Don’t get me started on Tarinn Callender
as Hercules Mulligan! Oh my god! He was amazing! I realized later it wasn’t because I thought the original
cast was better, but because I felt like I knew them. If this seems like a tangent, [cheesy]
that’s because it TOTALLY is! But if I namedrop ’parasocial relationships’ here, [cheekily]
it makes me 28% more likely to
be considered a “serious” LeftTuber. [rock music playing]
[distorted slowed down voice] Parasocial relationships. Being so immersed in the Broadway production,
I knew who the principal players were. Even some of the ensemble. They were people I admired,
and if I had seen that production, part of my enjoyment would’ve been getting
to see those specific people in person. Jack McBrayer is at least 80% of why I wanted to
see Waitress during that same trip to London. And all of my Instagram
friends are obsessed with it. [nonchalantly]
It was fun. It wasn’t the cast. No, my biggest disappointment was that, uh… I had expected a little more narrative [embarrassed]
cause um… because I’m a f**king story nerd. Something that makes Hamilton different from most
musicals is that it has almost no book, that is, non-musical scenes. But Hamilton didn’t start out as a musical, it was
originally conceived as a concept album. “Thinking of it as a mixtape turned out
to be a real blessing in disguise, because I think if I had thought of it
as a stage piece from the beginning, I wouldn’t have packed the lyrics as tight as I did.” The show is about 2 hours and 45 minutes,
which includes a 15-minute intermission. Most cast albums for shows that
length are a little over an hour. The cast album for Hamilton is 2 hours and 23 minutes. Having seen a handful of musicals by now, my expectation was that about 95% of
the narrative was on the cast album. In reality, it was more like 99%. I refrained from bootlegs and any
kind of real reviews of the show. The former because I thought it might spoil it, and the latter because I thought I knew
everything that would be in a review. [uncertainly]
I was…kind of right, I guess? Ish? [a little frustrated]
But if I had done either of those
things, I would’ve known that the cast album is essentially a straight,
unedited studio recording of the show. There’s very few pauses even in between the music. Even in places where I expected there to be one. There is one scene that lasts a little under
two minutes that is not on the album, uh, and I knew about it before going in. But even if I hadn’t, I don’t think it would’ve been
enough to satisfy the expectation that I had. I like the story a lot and I wanted even more of it,
and I was disappointed when there wasn’t more. I unconsciously idealized the show for
four years based on this criteria, but I also idealized SEEING the show, to a point where finally seeing it didn’t feel
like the gilded reward I’d been promised. [“The Room Where it Happens”]
♪ I wanna be in the room where it happens, ♪ ♪ The room where it happens ♪ Theater in America is hard to access
anyway, but Broadway even more so. For one thing, we’re a big country. Assuming you can’t get to Manhattan
or don’t live in a major city, you might have trouble finding a theater that is big
enough to host something like a Broadway tour in the first place. Even if you do it still costs money, with really good
seats going for probably about $200 at least. Perhaps an even bigger barrier is the one that
prevents people from even looking in the first place: the perception that theater– –Broadway especially– –is only for the upper-class. [overconfidently]
Surely this is an overly simplistic stereotype. [whispers]
It’s not. I’ve read several of the Broadway’s League’s executive
summaries for their annual demographic reports, and there’s not a lot of change from year to year. There’s certainly enough consistency
that I can confidently tell you who the average Broadway theatergoer
has been for the past decade: a 45-year-old college-educated white female tourist who sees 2 or 3 shows a year
(plays a bit more than musicals) with her annual household income of $200,000. [strained]
Hm. From here on out, I’ll be pulling
numbers from the 2017-2018 report. [awkwardly]
So. The idea that Broadway is just for rich people? It’s not unfounded. The average annual household
income of the Broadway audience is… [$222,120] quite high. Is this because of the occasional Bezos skewing
the average with an extremely high outlier? Actually, yeah. The average, or mean, is not really a good
indication of wealth distribution, because of filthy rich billionaires, the number is always
higher than most actual households make. The median, on the other hand, gives a more
accurate representation of typical income. It’s the middle-most value. So when the Census Bureau says the 2017
median household income in the U.S. was just over $60,000 a year, they mean that 50% of the population made
more than that, and 50% made less. [evil chuckle]
You didn’t think you were gonna get statistics
lessons in this musical theater video, did ya? [weird bird shriek]
MATH! The median household income of the Broadway
audience is somewhere between $110-125,000 a year. So Broadway attendees make almost twice as
much as the average American household. The majority of people see
between 1 and 4 shows a year. [a bit sarcastically]
People we can safely assume like Broadway A LOT who see at least 15 performances a year make
up a very measly 5.5% of the audience, but a very respectable chunk
(31%) of tickets purchased. It’s tempting to look at these numbers for frequency
of attendance and annual household income and come to the conclusion that wealthy audiences
are fake fans who only see one show a year. [grumpily]
And they’re just ruining it for the rest of us. But just because we have average numbers doesn’t
mean the two categories can be equated with each other. “But Sarah!” you might say, “you did this earlier when you
outlined the average theatergoer.” Yes, I did. But I didn’t assign any kind of
personality or virtue to that theatergoer. Lemme explain. This report is done so teams can hone their
marketing efforts for the next season. I would be surprised if there wasn’t a breakdown of
how income and frequency intersect in the full report, [slurred]
but I didn’t wanna pay $25 for it and it doesn’t really matter. My point is that frequency doesn’t
determine the sincerity of one’s interests. Someone who sees one show every
two years can care just as much as someone who sees one show every month. And it’s difficult to determine whether the
majority of Broadway’s wealthy attendees would consider themselves fans of the theater or not. As much as we want to place blame,
all we know is that they attend. So while yes, a lot of rich people buy Broadway tickets, we can’t really say if the high prices created
by this mostly affluent audience is due to a real love of theater or indifferent snobbery. Linus: “Uh, I want two tickets tonight for whatever
Broadway show nobody can get tickets for.” Mack: “For whom?” Linus: “Me.” Linus: “I know, I seldom go to the theater.” Mack: “Seldom?” Linus: “Okay, I’m not a theater buff.” Mack: “Buff?” It’s probably both. Regardless, rich people are the
reason prices are so high. They don’t care about paying too much
money for something because… they just can! “In 2001, ‘The Producers’ taught
real-life producers that theater-goers were willing to pay
$500 for a two-plus-hour musical. Since then, more shows have started using
dynamic pricing to charge the most when they expect demand to be strongest.” And then there’s race. [sighs] This last season, a quarter of all tickets
purchased were by people of color. This number has slowly increased
over the last few years, most likely due to the addition of
several shows starring people of color. The obvious answer as to why more people of color
don’t buy Broadway tickets is money. It would be ridiculous to dismiss that, but as
Gene Demby at NPR wrote back in 2016, this explanation is reductive. People of color definitely spend Hamilton
levels of money on entertainment, they just don’t spend it on Broadway. Why? “Theater has a long history of segregated seating
and plays chock full of racist caricatures that meant black folks, in particular,
never warmed to Broadway. It’s hard enough getting comfortable in a social space
when you’re unfamiliar with its rules and conventions. It’s even harder when you’re aware
of how much you stand out.” According to the Broadway League, two-thirds of the
people they surveyed said that a family member had taken them to the theater as a child. Lin Manuel Miranda credits his father’s love of
musicals with his passion for musical theater. It’s cyclical. I’ve seen a lot of people bash Hamilton
for how it fits into this elitist system. The idea being that because it’s
attracted majority white audiences, that everyone involved who speaks to wanting a more
diverse Broadway is a faux-woke hypocrite. Which… [sigh]
[tired] no. That’s not how this works. Hamilton’s popularity led to a scramble for tickets
and huge price jumps due to scalpers. But the rich bought them anyway
because they always have! Many popular shows have gone
through the same thing before it. But Hamilton has unprecedented widespread appeal, meaning that more people are noticing this elitism
Broadway has cultivated for the first time. It’s not Hamilton’s fault at all. But it’s funny how the racially diverse hiphop
musical that wants to change the status quo is the one people like to point to when they want to
shame and call out Broadway’s privileged audiences. [sarcastically]
I wonder why that is? [Piano notes from “Guns and Ships”] ♪ I’m not proud to admit this, but there was definitely a part of me that felt WAY
too smug for managing to get in the door. even though it was entirely luck. I was sullen because I didn’t feel like the VIP
I’d been assured by the mounting hype I’d feel like for getting to see Hamilton– the most popular, exclusive musical of my lifetime. Then that uppity attitude faded into bitterness at
the fact that it was so exclusive in the first place. Premium seats during the 2017 winter holiday
reached over a thousand dollars at the box office. Even just last year, the average tickets
were $286, with a top price $849. We saw it for £10 each, but I couldn’t help
but think throughout the show about what the other people in
the audience must’ve paid to be there. Theater is worth more than the sum of its parts, but when the price for it is as high
as the one Hamilton demands, it’s hard not to assign those parts a monetary value. Is Hamilton good enough to justify spending
hundreds or even thousands of dollars to see it? Honestly? I didn’t think it was. Hamilton is a very, very good
musical, but it’s also just a musical. The choreography, the costumes, and the set are all
excellent, and no one in that cast was anything short of amazing, but compared to the other
non-Hamilton shows I’ve seen, the production itself wasn’t anything mind-blowing. It certainly wasn’t something I
would’ve found worth paying $500 for. Its wild success makes me wonder a few things. Like, how much of the overwhelming positive
response and rave reviews weren’t due to the execution of the production, but to its fresh approach and clever concept. We know the majority of people who are seeing the
most popular, amazing thing on Broadway right now are rich, middle-aged white people. How much of their awe can be attributed to never
having seen actors of color in roles like this before? Or because they’ve literally never experienced rap
or hiphop in a context they cared about? Carvens Lissaint: “Fascinating, the same people who gave me a standing ovation
wouldn’t rise to their feet & scream if I got killed right here.” [crowd clapping in agreement] “Wouldn’t bat an eye if I lived
beneath the gravel they walk on every day. I matter onthe platform, But I’m murdered in the shadows.” [crowd reacts] That was Carvens Lissaint, he is an incredible
Haitian American poet and actor who is currently playing George
Washington in Hamilton on Broadway. Though he will be concluding
his run before the end of the month. He has a book of poems out called “Target Practice,” and his writing was so good that after reading just a few
stanzas, I bought his book and I’m so excited to read it. His website is in the description along
with a great Huffington Post profile. None of this is to say that Hamilton isn’t worth the hype
it’s gotten or that it’s only made it so far because, [fake snooty voice]
“inclusivity is so IN right now.” It’s a high-quality show deserving of praise, and I have no doubt that it will be remembered
as one of the great American musicals, and Lin Manuel Miranda as one of
the great American musical composers. Deservedly so, I might add. It’s nice to see a piece of history happen before
your eyes that doesn’t make you wanna just… throw the planet into the sun! Just chuck it up into there! Boop. But as important as Hamilton is, it’s sad that it
has trouble reaching the people it really wants to. It leaves me feeling, a little bit disillusioned. How could it not? Carvens Lissaint:
“Not a soul looks like me except the mother who
always brings her daughter to the stage door after every performance when there’s good weather. I’m amazed at her consistency. How mom is a boat,
sails her daughter’s dreams to the ends of the earth doesn’t cocoon them but suspends
them in the air to take flight. She asks, ‘Is there anyway I can get tickets?’” [“Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story”]
♪ Let me tell you what I wish I’d known ♪ I feel so guilty about critiquing the Hamilton production. I almost never feel this way critiquing
a movie or a TV show or a book, and it’s because those things are more accessible. And it feels indulgent to get anywhere
near complaining territory uh, for something that so many want
to see but don’t have the chance to. But there are some things I want to go over, not to
hate on the popular thing that everyone loves, but so that you can be better
prepared if you do see it. If you are seeing Hamilton because you think
you’re going to get more explanation or story you will be disappointed. If you’ve listened to the cast album
you already know everything about the story. That’s not what you’re paying for. You’re paying
to see that story performed in front of you. There’s humor, but a very little
bit, and it’s applied delicately. Remember that just because they’re not the
original cast, doesn’t mean they’re lesser. Everyone is there because they
are very good at what they do. The cast album will always tell you the same story every
time with the same words, timing, and inflection. Theater is a little bit different each time
because even if you see the same people, they will always be different
when you see them again. They will move a little differently,
they might make a mistake, they might have a different energy
with the audience or their cast mates. But that’s the wonderful thing about theater. It’s THE thing about theater! *That’s* what people pay for. The living, breathing, different-every-time thing. It’s okay if you like the cast
album more than the show. The cast album makes the show
so much more accessible, and the album is what Lin
originally planned for. I actually think the album tells a more
complete narrative than the show, but that doesn’t make the show bad. You don’t have to see this show unless YOU want to,
and if you don’t, it doesn’t make you a bad or fake fan. But it’s been a few years, and it’s nice that
it’s becoming a little bit easier to see. There are tours in the U.S., the
ongoing Chicago and London shows, and next year we might even finally see that 2016 taped
version of the original cast that we were promised. [dubiously]
We’ll see about that. Theater isn’t the easiest thing to access, but I do
think it can be easier than people generally think. Especially in terms of price. Really good seats could go for at
least $200, like I said earlier. But it is possible to get adequate
seats for as low as $25. When I go to my theater,
(the Straz Center for Performing Arts), I usually end up paying around $35 to maybe $60. It depends on the show and how badly I don’t want
to like, lean forward in my seat the whole time. I’ll be seeing the Percy Jackson musical next
month and probably spending about $50, with the ticket costing $40 and the
fees making up the difference. I bring up prices because I only
recently started going to the theater, because for the longest time,
I didn’t think that I could. I want to encourage you to look and
see what’s going on in your community. Maybe Broadway tours aren’t
geographically an option for you, I mean– obviously especially if you don’t
live in the United States, but… ya know. But there’s still great stuff at community theaters. Just take a few minutes to look after you finish this. So where do I stand on Hamilton? I wish I had been blown away
by it, but I wasn’t this time and that was my own fault partially. It’s not surprising that so many years and so
much talk about it impacted my first viewing. But I can honestly say, I… can’t wait to see it again. It’s only a matter of time. Thanks for watching. [“You’ll Be Back” plays in the background] ♪ Mack:
“The most difficult tickets will
be for a Broadway musical.” Linus:
[shortly] “Kay.” Mack:
[slowly] “That means that the actors periodically will dance about and burst into song.” Hope you all found that interesting and/or helpful. Always want to be interesting and
helpful on this channel. [chuckles] I want to give a quick thanks to Andrea Lausell, Scott Niswander of NerdSync, and La’Ron Readus for providing their voices to
the various quotes that were in this script. Their information will be in the description below. I especially wanted Andrea to voice Lin Manuel
Miranda because she too is Puerto Rican. I thought it was a nice touch. La’Ron Readus does tons of really great reviews, he like, makes two videos a week.
You should definitely go watch his stuff. You all know NerdSync. He was… He was–he played Tim Burton!
In the Burtonmas series. [chuckles] If you’re not already subscribed, I would encourage you
to subscribe. We make videos about media analysis. If you are subscribed and you haven’t
rung the bell please do so down below. Uh, I’ve recently learned that the algorithm basically
is not really showing you guys our videos anymore if you aren’t getting notifications. So if you want to make sure that you don’t
miss any videos you’ve gotta ring the bell. I think that’s about it.
Thanks for sticking around. We’ll see ya real soon. [“You’ll Be Back” plays]
♪ ♪


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