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January 13, 2017


We’re back from our trip to Chicago to see Hamilton with my brother and sister-in-law who stood in line all day to get the tickets. We went with my nieces and also my sister-in-law’s brother and his wife, and it was a great day. We woke up early because we were excited and also because we had signed up for turns in the shower at specific times before 9:30 am, when we left for the suburban train station. We rode the train downtown, stopped for lunch, and were at the PrivateBank Theater a few minutes before the doors opened at 1 pm for the matinee. I was using my toucan-head cane, so the ushers showed our party of six to the elevator (four of us sat in pairs elsewhere in the theater). Our seats were in the middle of the mezzanine, which is a great place to watch a musical.

We had played the “Hamilton Mixtape” in our car on the way to Chicago, which made me eager to hear the songs performed as I knew them, and we were not disappointed, even though the cast members are all different (some of us had to be repeatedly cautioned that singing along was not allowed).15826393_10210391490376673_8772496147252254963_n

Some of our favorite moments from seeing the show:
–Hamilton intercepting Jefferson’s handshake in “What Did I Miss?”
–Every time the King comes onstage everyone starts laughing and no one stops until after his exit; he is the mad king we rebelled against.
–During “I’m so blue” in “What Comes Next” he stomps and the light goes blue.
–Madison is a repeater of phrases and a yes man, and this gets increasingly funnier.
–The dancing during the “Reynolds Pamphlet” is ridiculous and it makes the whiplash that follows much worse.
–Hamilton is so small, and when he tries to climb onto the soapbox during “Farmer Refuted” it’s great.
–In “Non Stop” when he sings the “one more thing!” line it seems completely gratuitous and then he starts miming another monologue to the court while Burr sings.
–In “Your Obedient Servant,” Burr sends Hamilton one piece of paper and then Hamilton sends back about a hundred and the dancers carry each one individually to Burr until he has a huge stack.
–“Talk less, smile more” in the “Room Where It Happens” is delivered with the most insanely over-the-top Burr imitation motions.
–When Hercules Mulligan is revealed during the second act, he suddenly swings down from the rafters and bursts onto the scene.
–The “Southern Motherfucking Democratic Republicans” lead a little parade.

To top off our great day we went to dinner at an Italian restaurant and afterwards I did a double-take, looking at one of the servers. I asked Eleanor if she thought it really was, and we weren’t sure, but then my brother finally went over and asked her if she was one of the Starkids–Rachael Soglin, who played Jasmine in Twisted and Emberley in Firebringer. It really was her, and she signed Walker’s Hamilton program!

As one of our last holiday events, after we got back home, we had a poetry reading. I read a Maggie Smith poem (author of the increasingly famous “Good Bones”). This one is about a mother, contains several very familiar Ohio references, and begins with an image of cornfields that made me sing a line from Oklahoma (“the corn is as high as an elephant’s eye”):

Home-free by Maggie Smith

There’s no rhyme for how high the corn should be
in September, but I can see it, and I’m telling you

it’s up to my chest, maybe even my neck—
it’s hard to tell from the road—and it’s brown,

and judging by the sibilance when the wind
rubs the husks together, it must feel like paper.

I didn’t see myself living among husks. I didn’t
see myself here, not once I’d left my mother

and father’s house. Not Ohio, not round on the ends,
not high in the middle, not where some creeks

are called cricks. I always thought I would leave,
home-free, and go anywhere: land of silver

mesquite branches, land of dry riverbeds
with stones a horse could spark its hooves on.

Not here, not knee-high by July, not in the heart
of it all, not where some cricks are creeks:

Alum, Big Darby, Blacklick. I didn’t see myself
raising children here, raising as if they could

levitate if we focused our attention. I didn’t
see myself dying in my hometown, not a few

miles from where I was born, not surrounded
by my children, their feet planted on the ground.

I can see them. They’ll say they always knew
where to find me. They’ll say I was always here.

Maybe a lot of the people who find themselves in Ohio always thought they would leave. I certainly did, and yet here I am after two decades, still singing “Don’t Let Me Die Here” by Uncle Bonsai.

Have you lived anywhere for two decades or more, and do you like where you live?
Have you read other poems by Maggie Smith?
Have you seen Hamilton, or do you want to?
Are you a fan of the Starkids?

25 Comments leave one →
  1. K D permalink
    January 13, 2017 3:45 pm

    “…or do you want to?” YES

    • January 13, 2017 3:54 pm

      Chicago tickets are available, if you buy them months ahead. To sit in the mezzanine next September you would pay $147/ticket.

  2. January 13, 2017 3:49 pm

    LOVE how much fun your family has doing cool things. Treasure that.
    To answer your questions:
    No, yes – NC is ok but I could easily leave. I would be shocked if stay long…
    No – but I will.
    No, and I do want to!
    Nope, but only because I ‘ve never heard of the Starkids. I’m sure I’m missing something.

    • January 13, 2017 3:56 pm

      I linked to the Starkids production of Twisted, which is available on YouTube. It’s my favorite of their shows, after the “Very Potter Musical” youtube videos that made them famous (Darren Criss played Harry Potter).

  3. January 13, 2017 4:35 pm

    So glad you all had such a good time!

    I lived in southern California for over 2 decades and thought I would always live there. then My husband and I moved to Minnesota and we have lived here for a little over 2 decades now and will never move back to California. We had the chance to leave Minnesota a couple years ago and decided we like it here too much to go anywhere else. It’s home.

    • January 13, 2017 5:44 pm

      That is such a climate change! I can deal with cold weather a little better now than I could when I first moved here, but it’s the main reason I still don’t like Ohio–too cold too long.

  4. January 13, 2017 4:50 pm

    Funny but true: Because you’ve written about previous Chicago theater experiences, I wondered if our families would bump into each other this winter break.

    We loved Miguel Cervantes and Joshua Henry, but, yes, Alexander Gemignani’s King George sparkled.

    Related: Have you heard or read the interviews with Wayne Brady? He will assume the role of Burr next week, and he positively bristles at the suggestion that his casting seems odd.

    The story of how we got our tickets is pretty pedestrian, by the way: Tried off and on throughout the day when they first went on sale. Opened my computer that evening to show my husband how wonkily Ticketmaster was behaving and BOOM! In. Four tickets, Orchestra Rear Center. Have not had the same luck trying to get more for another day that we are all available, so I’m glad I didn’t throw away my shot.

    If you’re looking for a non-musical reason to come back, the Chicago premiere of A Disappearing Number (TimeLine Theatre) is wonderful. A play about math — and love and interconnectedness. Enthusiastic thumbs up from all of us.

    • January 13, 2017 5:48 pm

      We couldn’t believe the actor’s name was really Miguel Cervantes! And yes, the adult kids read about Wayne Brady, and told me who he is (I had no idea).
      Thanks for the tip about A Disappearing Number! We plan trips with my brother six months to a year ahead, especially with the schedules of all the adult kids now (my oldest niece works at NASA part of the year), so we’re not planning another one until possibly next winter, as we’re going to Spain together this June.

  5. January 14, 2017 2:29 am

    I agree with Care about the cool things you do with your family! :–)

  6. January 14, 2017 3:36 am

    What a lovely post and sounds like a lovely family time. My daughter is obsessed with Hamilton. She’d be so jealous. She can sing most of the songs way down under here in Oz.

    • January 14, 2017 9:23 am

      We have all been singing the songs since October 2015, right after the soundtrack was released briefly for free download–both my kids started listening to it and then shared it with us.

  7. January 14, 2017 5:07 pm

    What a fun post to read! I’m living vicariously through others’ seeing Hamilton live experiences. I only recently became a fan, after seeing the PBS Great Performances show in October. After that I downloaded songs and became obsessed. Now my five-year old loves it too – well, mostly some songs from the first disc. Although I worry about the curse words! But I figure he’s too young to understand them and some of them are sung/rapped very fast anyway. (See how I rationalize listening to them in his presence?) Anyway, I’m glad you had a great family weekend.

    • January 14, 2017 10:25 pm

      I rarely worried about my kids picking up curse words from me; public school exposed them to a lot more of that than I ever could. Your 5-year-old will inevitably pick up a phrase like “Motherfucking Democratic Republicans” and shout it with glee when your mother-in-law is present.

  8. January 14, 2017 5:34 pm

    What a great day: a train ride, food and theater!

    • January 14, 2017 10:28 pm

      It was a great day, start to finish! We had a long time to visit and play games on the train; there was a lever that changed them from all facing the same way to facing each other. We had to rotate, though, because we are all very long-legged and the only way we could face each other was by alternating legs and getting up to stretch occasionally.

      • January 14, 2017 11:29 pm

        Whoa. I have never heard of rotating seats. I guess I don’t ride the train enough!

        • January 15, 2017 8:54 am

          Hmm, I may not have put that right. We had to rotate in and out from the seats that the lever made face each other, because there was very little legroom.

  9. January 14, 2017 7:54 pm

    How wonderful! I WILL see that play one of these days!

    • January 14, 2017 10:28 pm

      You’ll find it wonderful. We tried not to think too much about the future of the American form of democracy while watching it, however.

  10. Karen K. permalink
    January 16, 2017 3:57 am

    So jealous that you were able to see Hamilton! I shouldn’t complain because my daughter lives in New York and I usually go see at least one show every time I visit her — we stood in line once for the Hamilton lottery when she was a freshman and didn’t get tickets, but it was still great fun. And I’ve never been disappointed with any of the NY Broadway shows — they’re always high-quality. I guess I’ll have to wait until the excitement dies down and I can actually buy a ticket without planning months ahead to visit her.

    I’m glad you had fun in Chicago, the weather in January can be brutal!

    • January 16, 2017 9:33 am

      You may have to wait another four years before the excitement dies down enough that anyone can get tickets to Hamilton without planning for months ahead. The hype is deserved!
      The weather was brutally cold, and my sister-in-law’s brother and sister-in-law are from Dallas, so they were feeling it extra, although all of us were feeling it (I had on leather gloves, but even so, the little finger on the hand holding my cane got so cold it was red and numb by the time I got inside the theater). We were just glad it didn’t snow; we had multiple contingency plans for getting to Chicago in case of snow.

  11. January 16, 2017 11:28 am

    I saw Hamilton and I loooooooooooved it (of course)! I’m glad that it’s got other locations now and will soon be on tour, so that more people can see it. It’s such a terrific show and I know it’ll have a superlong lifespan. I’m imagining listening to it, or going to see it, with my little godson someday, and that idea makes me happy.

    • January 16, 2017 12:24 pm

      Yeah, it made me happy to see it with my kids and my brother and his family.
      We missed my mother, who was probably the only 80-something-year-old-woman listening to the music in the hospital last winter. I missed her especially on Angelica’s “rewind” song, because she asked me why the rewind noises were at the beginning of that song, on the soundtrack, and would have liked to see the action.
      My favorite moment was catching sight of Eleanor’s and Walker’s faces when Hercules Mulligan is revealed in the second act; they were very surprised, in an excited and joyful way, at his manner of bursting onto the scene.

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