Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Hamilton At the Tonys and the Power of Art

Over in the El family’s Fortress of Ineptitude, we gathered together to watch the 2016 Tony Awards. I can’t say that I’ve ever watched a Tony Awards broadcast before. I’ve caught online clips of opening musical numbers where Neil Patrick Harris has hosted the show. (I think “Broadway Isn’t Just For Gays Anymore” will remain a high point of NPH’s career.) But I’ve never watched the show itself, nor has my wife Andrea or my daughter Miranda.

But we watched the Tonys this year.

Andrea is a big fan of James Corden. That all started with Corden’s two appearances on Doctor Who but then she began following the Late, Late Show With James Corden on CBS. She loves his goofy, happy to be here charm and his gonzo willingness to do anything for a laugh. Like a lot of Corden’s fans, Andrea really loves his Carpool Karaoke segments. Last week the show posted a Broadway edition in the run up to James hosting the 2016 Tony Awards. So she was most interested in seeing her favorite talk show host at work.

Miranda was keen to watch the show as well, mostly to see what she could of a certain musical that has been taking Broadway by storm. I am referring to, of course, Hamilton.

If you told me at any point in my past that the hottest show on Broadway would ever be a musical about the United States’ 1st Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton, well, I might have been intrigued but mostly incredulous. I mean, come on! Really?

Yet such a thing exists and it exists beautifully. It is a true story of American history told through music rooted in hip hop and rap. Conventions of race and gender go out the window in the casting of key roles. Did you know Aaron Burr was black? No, he wasn’t but who cares? Leslie Odom Jr who plays him is and does a great job at bringing Burr to life.

At least, I'm assuming he does. Lacking the significant discretionary funds to pay the sky high prices to see Hamilton, I’m relying on the word of professional play critics and that Odom won a Tony for Best Actor in a Musical, beating out his co-star who plays Hamilton himself and created the whole damn show, Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Lin seems like a pretty cool guy. The aforementioned Broadway edition of James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke? There’s Lin in the front passenger seat, getting down like a boss with James as they perform  selections from Hamilton while Corden navigates the streets of New York City. It is a ride that gets even more awesomer when Jane Krakowski, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Audra McDonald catch a lift. 

I saw Lin do an epic performance on John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight on the importance of the US Congress helping a cash strapped Puerto Rico from declining into ruin. Yes, Lin-Manuel Miranda created a rap about the importance of governmental solvency… and it ROCKED!

There was a clip on You Tube of the Hamilton cast after the curtain call the night Prince died. There, Lin did the opening monologue from Prince’s Let’s Go Crazy which was followed by the cast and the audience dancing like, well, crazy to Prince’s high powered rock epic. In a moment of sorrow over the loss of a beloved creative genius, Lin-Manuel Miranda and the cast of Hamilton found joy in the music to celebrate Prince’s life.

The cast of Hamilton and all the other shows represented at the Tonys found themselves in a terrible conundrum, assembled to celebrate their work on the stage even as the tragic and horrible loss of life in Orlando hung over the proceedings. The darkness was acknowledged and respected by host James Corden at the top of the broadcast and others throughout the show.  The Tony Awards showed why art is important. Art gives voice to our pain even as it lifts up our hopes and dreams in the face of that pain.

James Corden and Lin-Manuel Miranda may have brought my family to the Tonys but it was a good thing to be there. We saw actors we never heard of accept awards for plays we may never see. But we saw men and women who have invested their lives in the making of art, art made of words and emotions, delivered through dialogue and song. It is art that helps us believe that the world can be a better place, not just in an imagined future but even in the present.

As one of the songs in Hamilton goes, “Look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now!”


OK, that’s that for today’s 2nd post. There’s another new post coming up tomorrow but I’m not writing it. Nope, once more, I will be turning over the sacred trust that is I’m So Glad My Suffering Amuses You to my daughter Miranda, AKA future internet star Randie Brooks. Tomorrow, Randie shares some thoughts about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Out of the Shadows.

I’ll be back Thursday when another installment of The Pixar Project as we move forward to Monsters Inc.

Until next time, remember to be good to one another.

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