Whit’s End: Seeing ‘Hamilton’ will mean more to me than getting to see great theater
Post Independent Features Editor Carla Jean Whitley will continue her coffee shop listening series next week. March’s stop is in Rifle, and Whitley will continue to travel throughout the county, with a different stop each month. Her hope is to make it easier for you to share your comments, ideas and concerns with the PI.
Stop in, buy yourself a cup of coffee and pull up a seat!
Where: Whistle Pig Cafe, 121 E. Third St., Rifle
When: Tuesday, 7-9 a.m.
Why: Visit tinyurl.com/picoffee for a more detailed explanation
Questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ve spent weeks (perhaps months) thinking about what it will mean when I see “Hamilton” in Denver. I’ve attempted to write columns to explain. There are a lot of ideas swirling through my head as the date printed on my ticket approaches.
But sometimes it’s best to put these things simply: I wish I could share this experience with my sister.
Cristin was a diehard theater fan. After she died last January, I saw more than one of her favorite Broadway actresses express their sorrow at her demise. She moved to New York in October 2004 because she had to be closer to — and part of — this art form.
She worked in the industry in every way she could find. As an usher, Cristin was able to see her favorite shows multiple times over. While working in box offices, she was able to serve as theater patrons’ first impression. She always aimed to put people at ease and was eager to share the stories portrayed on stage. (Except for “Stomp.” She didn’t see the show until I insisted upon it, even though she’d worked at Orpheum Theatre for ages. Cristin complained about it for years afterward. I still don’t know what there is to complain about. It’s percussion! And dance! These are the best things!)
I’m nowhere near the theater fan my sister was, but I’ve seen more shows than most, thanks largely to her influence. I was late to the “Hamilton” bandwagon, but Cristin had secured her ride years earlier.
In the final months of her life, we often exchanged “Hamilton” lyrics via text message. We anticipated the release of each new track from “The Hamilton Mixtape.” We were quick to discuss the significance of lyrical changes and compare each song to the musical from which it drew inspiration.
One of those songs was Kelly Clarkson’s cover of “It’s Quiet Uptown.” The song portrays one of the musical’s most emotional scenes, when Alexander and Eliza Hamilton mourn their oldest child’s death. Hamilton fans lost their minds upon this version’s release.
Although I understand the appeal, it was one of my least favorite parts of the cast recording and mixtape. I was initially drawn to the show’s more lyrically complex moments.
Then my sister died.
In the months that followed, I listened to little but the musical and the mixtape. I’m not sure why. Maybe my inclination toward this material was because I knew how much Cristin loved it. Maybe it’s because of the themes that run through the show, and the several characters who die far too young. Or maybe it’s just because it’s good writing.
Whatever the case, I vividly recall driving to Cooper Mountain last February. The mixtape and “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda’s commentary were my soundtrack. Kelly Clarkson broke into “It’s Quiet Uptown,” and my tears came down.
Truth be told, I can’t listen to the song without becoming emotional. I’m listening to upbeat rap now, rather than the song I’m writing about. Miranda’s writing portrays a vivid picture of a couple in mourning, and it’s cathartic. It reminds me of my sister and creates an outlet for my tears. We’ve now lived 14 months without her, and I still think of Cristin every day.
I wish I could tell her how excited I am to finally see this musical. But if she’s somewhere that allows her to know what’s happening with the people she left behind, she knows. And she’ll know I’m crying for her, again, and thinking of her, always, during “It’s Quiet Uptown.”
Carla Jean Whitley will see “Hamilton” Saturday at the Denver Performing Arts Center, and she’s not likely to shut up about it for a few weeks. If you didn’t get tickets, you can enter the show’s daily lottery for $10 tickets at hamiltonmusical.com/lottery.