My love affair with live performances began before I was born. My parents took me, in utero, to an Edgar Winter and Leon Russell concert. My mother was the children’s choir director at church. She starred as Nancy in a local production of Oliver! when I was in elementary school. My dad gave me his old turntable and a bunch of James Taylor, Beach Boys, and Johnny Cash records when I was in junior high, and I dreamed of seeing them on stage. In high school, I went to every concert I could. My love for Broadway musicals is well documented. It started when I was a little bitty thing. My momma took my brother and me on long car trips to Tennessee to visit her family, and she’d play cast recordings of musicals on the tape deck. Hours upon hours of Andrew Lloyd Weber, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, Gilbert & Sullivan, George Gershwin… those dudes raised me. In high school, I cried when my mom surprised me with tickets to see the Les Miserables national touring company when it came to Little Rock. Just a few years ago, I cried when I got to see the newest Les Miz production at my beloved Arkansas Repertory Theatre (so I’m a big crier). I’ve dreamed of visiting New York City and the Great White Way as far back as I can remember, though the furthest I’ve ever travelled north of the 36*30’ was one weekend spent visiting my uncle in Chicago.
1,300 miles between me and Patti LuPone, y’all.
Last fall, not even six months ago, I heard about a new little show called Hamilton. The story of one of the least-known founding fathers, written and composed by, and starring a guy who used to play on The Electric Company. Sounds lame. Except, when I read more about it, it sounded the opposite of lame. A bunch of old, dead, white dudes played by young, exceptionally talented people of color. A story about the American Revolution told using hip-hop and rap which are, in and of themselves, revolutionary.
And then I listened to the Original Broadway Cast Recording and I was a goner. From the first line. I fell in love. Hard. It is sung-through, like some of my favorite musicals, which means that virtually everything in the stage production is there on the album. Which in turn means that I could listen to the whole show and “see” it in my mind the way I used to do with Cats and Phantom and Jesus Christ, Superstar. A few weeks into my obsession, the kids got hooked. My 1st grader came home from school talking about how she told her friends all about Hercules Mulligan- a tailor who spied on British officers for George Washington. My 3rd grader has a crush on John Laurens, a man after her own tender heart, who worked tirelessly to abolish slavery almost one hundred years before the Emancipation Proclamation. My 6th grader walks around the house rapping with a French accent, thanks to the Marquis de Lafayette. These men who shaped our country, and the men and women who sing about their lives, are shaping my children’s view of our shared history in a way that has never happened before. The icing on the cake, though, was when my husband walked in from work one afternoon singing, “…history has it’s eyes on you…” We are, all five of us, total and complete suckers for this thing Lin-Manuel Miranda built.
My Tennessee roots run deep. My father’s side of the family has lived in the South for generations. My mother’s mother’s side has whole towns and counties named after her family. The one standout was my mother’s father- a (gasp!) Northerner. Born and bred in Walton, New York, my Grampa was as pedigreed a Yankee as there ever has been. His New England relations run clear back to the 1600s. It just happened that he had the good fortune of falling in love with a Southern Belle and spending the rest of his days below the Mason-Dixon Line.
When I was born, my Menga & Grampa bought a US Savings Bond, payable three decades later. Because of that Bond my grandparents bought me 32 years ago, my husband and I will be heading to the Big Apple in less than two weeks.
Jeremy & I have never, in almost eleven years of marriage, spent more than three days apart from our three Bees. Not once. We never even got a honeymoon. We’ve had short weekends in Memphis, or sent the kids to my mom’s house for a couple of days, but never longer than three. Last fall, because of some leftover insurance money I received when my dad died, we took a family trip to Disney World to celebrate our ten-year anniversary- something my Daddy would have absolutely loved. And now, thanks to my New Yorker grandfather and his Tennessee bride, JB & I are finally going on a honeymoon. Four days and three nights in the City that Never Sleeps. I’m terrified. And beyond excited.
“But Stephen Colbert said that Hamilton is sold out until 2018,” you say. Yeah. It totes is. I mean, I got enough money to buy super cheap (CRAZY SUPER CHEAP, thanks, Southwest!) plane tickets and to book a hopefully-not-murdery hotel room near Times Square, but uh, this girl can’t be paying no kinda $800 per ticket! So here’s the catch. There’s a secret. I can’t say what it is yet, because I don’t want to sound 100% crazy, but there really is the possibility that JB & I will get to see Hamilton IRL. Even aside from the #Ham4Ham lottery that bazillions of people enter on the daily. And, on the (very real) chance we don’t get tickets? Hello, we’ll be in NEW YORK CITY. I’m sure we’ll find a way to occupy our time. Thanks to some serious google power, I have found the address where my great-great-great-grandparents once lived in the- get this- Hamilton Heights neighborhood in Harlem. Down the street from where Ham himself used to live. Maybe we can visit. If not, I hear the New York Public Library is free. Plus, my precious husband has promised me we can go see Les Miz (which is RIGHT NEXT DOOR to A.Ham) and I can’t even talk about how many boxes of Kleenex I’ll need just to make it inside the door of the actual Broadway theatre where I’ll actually be seeing Les Miserables which is something I’ve actually dreamed about since I was like 9.
It’s gonna be great.
Oh! We even have our own hashtag:
follow the fun at #anniversARyNYC & #NYBees
You know I’ll be blowing up Twitter & Instagram & Periscope &… 🙂