Hamilton

Standard

Unknown

I’ve finally seen it. After months and months of hearing and reading all the hype about the theater sensation of the new millennium, I finally went to see Hamilton.

My husband had surprised me on Mother’s Day with tickets to the play at Chicago’s Private Bank Theater. Our seats were fantastic – dead center and so close I could see the actors spit. My hubby took a photo of me with the stage as a backdrop and sent it to our kids with the quip: “Mom in the third row center for Hamilton: What a waste!”

See, I had been somewhat indifferent to the frenzy that had surrounded the opening of Hamilton. For one thing, the subject matter did not really interest me. A play about the life of Alexander Hamilton, one of our less vaunted Founding Fathers? Yawn. I also was not sure about the rap and hip hop infused nature of the music. I love all the traditional old musicals, such as My Fair Lady, West Side Story, etc. So I didn’t think I would enjoy a more modern twist.

Furthermore, people’s insistence that I just had to see the play, that it was the greatest thing ever, made me stubborn about not wanting to join the bandwagon. With so much hype, I just couldn’t imagine enjoying it to the level at which everyone seemed to regard it. Indeed, as the play opened, the audience roared with expectation, and I wondered whether they were just responding to the hype or had already spent thousands of dollars on repeat viewings of the pricey play.

I really enjoyed the play. I found the music and lyrics creative and fun, at turns funny and plaintive. The choreography and the characters, the costumes, the comic appearances of a snarky King George: all were well done. And I loved that the closing number was an emotional and subdued one rather than the bombastic, glittery finales of most Broadway musicals.

Yet I wouldn’t say Hamilton is the best musical I have ever seen. While I got the gist of the theme as being about an improbable hero, I found the story less than compelling. I realize that the author, Lin-Manuel Miranda, was working within the limits of real history. And I did appreciate the underlying messages of inclusion and of fighting for one’s ideals – particularly in the current political climate that exists in the U.S.

I think my enjoyment was hampered in part by all the hype. The way the audience reacted to certain characters appearing on the stage was over the top. It was as if they were all in on a joke to which I wasn’t privy. I felt more like I was at a showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show than at a Broadway musical. And the underlying insistence from everyone I knew that I just had to love it put me off a bit.

Still, I’m glad I was able to see the musical sensation of a generation. I have no doubt that in many ways, Lin-Manuel has opened the genre of the Broadway musical to further invention and creativity. Perhaps he will also be responsible for keeping the genre alive for the millennials coming of age in the next decades.

Have you seen Hamilton? I’d love to know what you think.

Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing

Standard

Unknown

Watching the hit TV series Scandal is one of my guilty pleasures. One of the things I love best about the show is the music, which consists mainly of 1970s soul. On the most recent episode, the main character, Olivia Pope, keeps having flashbacks to the moment she was abducted and to the song that was playing on her stereo at the time: “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing” by Stevie Wonder.

The irony of that song choice is not lost on the audience, and it struck me in a rather personal way when I thought about it after watching the show. Worry is one of my constant companions. Whether it be about all the things I have to do before my senior’s high school prom and graduation, helping my eighth grader juggle three sports and demanding schoolwork, or whether my college senior is safe down in Austin, Texas, where one university student was recently murdered and another succumbed to a poison gas leak – I can’t seem to turn off the anxiety.

I will wake up in the wee hours of the morning with a palpable sense of dread, and the wheels in my mind will start spinning. Even my dreams reveal my worry wart nature. I usually dream of being unprepared for something: a class I have to teach, a party I’m giving etc. I worry about everything from looming deadlines to my kids’ safety to the possibility of getting cancer. Ironically, all this worry is what will probably make me sick.

There are numerous passages in the Bible that discuss worry. Mostly they say not to do it. St. Paul, for instance, exhorts believers, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Phil. 4:6) In the gospels, Jesus is continually telling his followers, “Do not be afraid.” I just have a hard time following this advice.

Maybe the reason I like escapist entertainment like Scandal is that I’d rather watch the trials and tribulations of fictional characters than dwell on my own. Enjoying the love triangles, political intrigue, and danger, as well as the funky soundtrack, sure beats waiting for the other shoe to drop.

 

Scary Sixties Music

Standard

images

When I think of popular music from the 1960s, bouncy, happy tunes come to mind: “Help Me, Rhonda,” “Twist and Shout,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Most of us think of the Sixties as a simpler, more innocent time in the world of music.

The other day, though, I heard the old Monkees TV series theme song and was a little creeped out with the following lyrics:

“Any time
Anywhere
Just look over your shoulder
We’ll be standing there”

Unknown

Can you imagine Mickey Dolenz peering in your window at you? I shudder at the thought.

Hearing those lyrics reminded me of a Beatles song from the Sixties called “Run for Your Life.” It’s a bouncy little ditty, so I never really reflected on the lyrics. Here are some of them:

“I’d rather see you dead, little girl, than to be with another man.
You’d better keep your head, little girl, cause you don’t know where I am.
You better run for your life if you can, little girl,
Hide your head in the sand, little girl
Catch you with another man
That’s the end (uh), little girl.”

And I thought Eminem’s spouse abuse raps were bad!

For some reason, there were lots of songs about death back in the Sixties (apart from Vietnam War protest tunes, that is). The song “Leader of the Pack” is about a boy from the wrong side of the tracks who dies tragically in a car crash. And “Ode to Billie Joe” features both suicide and infanticide.

But the ultimate creepy song that haunted the Sixties for me was the ghostly “Laurie” by Dickey Lee. If you haven’t heard it, give it a listen.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M0N4nyYS5aA&list=RDM0N4nyYS5aA#t=113

So next time you go romanticizing the feel good songs of the 60s, remember: “Strange things happen in this world.”