Hamilton vs. Pence

I’ve been obsessed with the musical ‘Hamilton’ for months. A friend of mine played through the entire soundtrack on a recent road trip and I was instantly hooked. Knowing this, my boyfriend surprised me with tickets to a Friday evening showing in NYC for our three-year anniversary.

We arrived at the Richard Rodgers theater around 7:20PM for the 8PM show, and there was already a line sprawled across the entire block. The excitement in the air was tangible as we shuffled into the theater and made our way to our seats.

While flipping through the playbill, I overheard a gentleman behind me saying something about the Secret Service. I’m not usually one to eavesdrop, but I turned around and blurted out “Did I just hear you say Secret Service?!”

The gentleman told us he had just been to a restaurant nearby and Mike Pence turned up. The VP-elect was coming to see Hamilton. My jaw dropped and I immediately scanned the crowd for any sign of Pence (there was none). I was just beginning to think the gentleman was wrong when I heard a huge wave of claps and boos. I knew it must be Mike Pence so I turned on my iPhone and immediately started recording:

After the ‘enthusiastic’ crowd response I thought “wow, that’s crazy”, and figured that was the end of that. Boy, was I wrong!

I’ve listened to the Hamilton soundtrack end-to-end probably around five times. Somehow, I’ve never noticed how politically relevant the lyrics are. But with Mike Pence in the audience, and the audience hyper-aware of that fact, it seemed like every other song had a lyric directed at him.

Here are a couple of lines from the show where the crowd burst out applauding and the actors needed to pause the performance. Note: Mild spoilers ahead for those avoiding the Hamilton plot:

  • Hamilton & Lafayette greeting each other on the battlefield:
    • “Immigrants. We get the job done.”
  • King George III after America wins the Revolution. Props to the actor for handling a hard situation (four interruptions in one song!) like a champ:
    • “What comes next… Do you know how hard it is to lead?”
    • “You’re on your own, awesome, wow. Do you have a clue what happens now?”
    • “Oceans rise, empires fall. It’s much harder when it’s all your call”
    • “When your people say they hate you…”

After the show was over, the actors skipped the usual curtain call and came together as one to make an announcement. The actor who portrayed Aaron Burr, Brandon Victor Dixon, made a speech to Pence directly in a statement that has since gone viral. The unconventional curtain call was the cap to an undoubtedly unconventional show.

Being in that audience was one of the most surreal experiences I’ve ever had. I was devastated by the outcome of the election, and ‘Hamilton’ was something that reminded me about the greatness of our nation and the diverse entity it has evolved into. Seeing the ‘Hamilton’ cast collide with our new administration in such a raw and serendipitous way was... surreal. That’s the only word I can think of to describe it.

I feel very fortunate to have been in that audience and to have seen first-hand the intense collision of these two worlds. I knew in the moment I was witnessing something the world had to see. And I have to echo Michelle Obama’s sentiments when she said “[Hamilton] was simply… the best piece of art in any form that I have ever seen in my life.