History is brought to life with ‘Hamilton’

The Cullens outside the theatre in Chicago where “Hamilton” played in May 2017.



In May 2017 our kids treated us to a performance of the hit musical “Hamilton” when it played in Chicago. It was the greatest entertainment experience of my life. Even better than “I Remember Mama” staged by St. Mary’s High School in 1967.

I thoroughly enjoyed “Hamilton” even though I only understood about half of what went on. If you’re one of the very few people who are unfamiliar with the play, it’s a musical about the origins of our nation through the view of founding father Alexander Hamilton. It’s fast-paced and since it’s all sung — there is no spoken dialogue — mostly in rap music, it may be hard to understand the first time through. It’s not unlike watching an opera. You get the gist of it, you just don’t understand it all.

“Hamilton” needs to be experienced more than once. We would have liked to see it again, but it only plays in big cities and the tickets are expensive and hard to get. Each of our kids has seen it on stage three times. Bridget saw it with her friend and Storm Lake native Maya Peterson in New York City (where Maya was working as a nurse) with the original Broadway cast, including Lin-Manuel Miranda in the lead. Bridget saw it twice more when it played in Chicago, where she lives. Justin also saw it with us in Chicago, plus Washington, D.C., and San Francisco.

So when it showed up on Disney+ streaming service last weekend, we were all in.

Mary and I got to listen to it again, and aided by closeups of the actors, I was able to get a much better understanding of the songs. I’d watch it again just to see King George.

Miranda is the creator and lead in the musical, but Jonathon Groff, who plays King George, steals the show, even though he’s only on stage twice for less than 10 minutes. Enunciating oh so precisely, he sings that “When push comes to shove, I will kill your friends and family, to remind you of my love.” He brings down the house.

“Hamilton” is more than just a musical. It’s an educational experience of the most important time in our nation’s existence, based on the authoritative 2004 biography of Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2011 for his biography of George Washington.

It costs $6.99 to subscribe to Disney+ for a month, but in addition to watching “Hamilton,” you can watch all sorts of other offerings and then cancel the service if you don’t want to continue.

Unfortunately, the St. Mary’s 1967 production of “I Remember Mama” is unavailable on video.

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