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    Another Reason for March Madness: Hamilton

    Photo By Christopher Turner

    By Dr. Tim Seelig

    Oh, yes, it’s here.

    The earth shook on March 10. Most of the residents of our fair city probably didn’t know what caused the tremor. Regardless, it registered at least a 5.7 on every Broadway lover’s Richter Scale. What was it that made the earth move under our feet? Was it the Final Four? Of course not. It was Hamilton. The musical opened to previews kicking off five months of 8 shows a week! OK, that’s 17,600 audience goers per week. Over the five-month run, 352,000 patrons will have seen Hamilton. That’s a lot!

    Yes, I hear the three of you fellas reading this that refuse to be lumped into the stereotype of “show queens.” It’s absolutely fine for you to stay in the Broadway closet. There is no judgment whatsoever if you would rather lip sync to your Grease cast recording in private—replete with hair brush microphone and poodle skirt hidden away in a trunk for such special moments. For those of you too young to know what Grease is, stand on a chair, put on your green face paint and knock yourselves out defying gravity.

    Even though most of my early experience singing took place in church, I did have some exposure to show tunes early on. Back then, of course, the plots were much more sanitary. In fact, I won the 4th grade talent show in 1961 singing The Sound of Music. I was obviously ahead of my time, since the musical opened on Broadway in 1959 and would not become a movie until 1965.

    So, back to Hamilton. Don’t stop reading! This is not going to be yet another review. Dan and I were lucky enough to see it on its second night here in San Francisco. What? How? Well, as a person working for a non-profit arts organization, I was able to procure the two seats before the lines of overnight campers around the block, tens of thousands of people on hold, and the scalpers started their work. We felt so lucky.

    You know, things like this sometimes bring out the best and worst in people. As we entered the theater, we did what everyone does: 1- used the restroom; 2- purchased a nice cocktail that you can take in with you; and 3- took a picture in front of a Hamilton sign, which I immediately posted Facebook.

    By the time intermission hit, I powered up my phone and saw the very first response. It was a short one. It was simply “1%.” And another, “Take good notes, I’ll never get to see it.” Ouch. Bitter, party of one.

    OK, that’s the worst in people. I am so far from the 1% category as to be laughable. I repeat, I work in gay, non-profit arts organization in San Francisco, for heaven’s sake. “I’ll never get to see it” is just throwing a pity party without balloons or candles! I’ll not join in singing “Happy Pity Party” to you, that’s for sure. You will see it—if you want to (and are a little patient)!

    The good in people far outweighed the bad, of course. There were the scores of people who were excited and happy for us, even if a little “jelly.” The big question from everyone after the fact was, “Is the hype true?” I am usually a person with lots of words. I only have one word in response to that question. “Hell, yes.” OK, two.

    I just hate it when people have a life-changing experience and when asked about it they say, “Oh, I just couldn’t put it into words.” Or worse, “You wouldn’t understand!” Seriously, it’s not Burning Man!

    Hamilton may not be life-changing, but it is most definitely a game changer. Everyone on the planet already knows that you are watching a musical set in and around 1776, but they are rapping. That can’t work! But oh yes, it does—and how. In the opera world, the rap is just “updated” recitative. Your ear adjusts very quickly, and you are totally sucked in. Actually, you’ll be sucked in and blown away at the same time! Ponder that for a minute.

    Is it a phenomenon? Well, there is a “12 step program for your new obsession” on line. That is not a joke. There really is.

    Lessons learned from seeing Hamilon:

    • Don’t be mean to people who get to see it.
    • Be patient. You’ll see it one day.
    • Listen to the soundtrack (for those of you who have not already memorized it).
    • Support your local arts! You might be surprised to find that some of the best music, theater, and musical theater are happening right here under your nose—not imported from anywhere.
    • Go on Goldstar and play theater roulette! You’ll find live arts can be less expensive than a reserved recliner at the local movie theater once you add in the popcorn, soda and Raisinettes.

    It’s March Madness for sure—and April Madness through August Madness, too! Hope you’ve enjoyed me not throwing away my shot, otherwise known as “What Hamilton Means to Me,” or “What I Did with My Summer Vacation $.”

    Dr. Tim Seelig is the Artistic Director of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.