Thursday, May 26, 2016

'Hamilton' Sing-Along newest phenomenon

"Hamilton" sing along members after show

It was bound to happen. With prices for tickets to Lin-Manuel Miranda's record-breaking hip-hop musical Hamilton: An American Musical soaring into the stratosphere and availability of same sinking into the abyss of hopelessness, die-hard aficionados have decided to stage their own impromptu sing-alongs to show their fanaticism for the show.

Using technological aids such as a video projector, microphones and a sound system, the organizers of this unusual program splash the lyrics onto a screen while the fans sing along with the original cast recording. The lyrics largely keep time with the music, but few of the singers need the captions for they drop verse with uncanny accuracy perfected by countless times of having heard the work on their handheld devices. Think of it as karoake on steroids.

Sign-up sheets list the titles of songs and the names of the characters in each. As they arrive, attendees, who are invited by emails, are urged to sign in for any and all songs they care to sing along to, allowing them them the opportunity to imagine what it would be like to be on stage. Their singing is roundly drowned out by the audience members who gleefully join in. 

The roles in Hamilton specifically call for non-traditional casting of African-Americans, Latinos and Asian-Americans as the founding fathers, all of whom the historic record shows were well-connected and prominent male businessmen and planters. The singers who came out for the first of these Hamilton sing-along sessions were mostly young women, shattering yet another barrier of traditional casting the Broadway musical playing at the Richard Rodgers Theatre has yet to break.

Mindful of copyright infringement, the organizers were careful not to charge admission or to benefit financially from the gathering of fans. They hold a five-minute bathroom break between acts and even provide attendees with free cream puffs so they wouldn't be famished during the three-hour long event.

This kind of spontaneous outpouring of fan support is reminiscent of the 1975 film The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when midnight shows on Friday and Saturday nights would bring in gleeful participants who wanted to take the movie into the realm of participatory viewing. To that extent water guns became the source of showers and newspapers were whipped out as impromptu umbrellas during a rainy scene on the screen. Rice was thrown during the film's anticlimactic "wedding scene." Eventually, movie theaters got into the act, selling "kits" of water guns, newspapers, rice and more to eager movie goers.

The record breaking Hamilton, which won the Obie Award last year for Best Musical (off Broadway) along with seven Drama Desk Awards, a Grammy Award for Best Theatre Album and a Pulitzer Prize, received 16 nominations for the Tony Awards this year - the most ever - and is the heavy favorite to win top honors at the ceremonies to be held this next month in New York.

Miranda's previous Tony Award winning show of In the Heights (2007) - Best Score and Best Musical - and  Tony-nominated Bring It On: The Musical (2012) never gained this kind of momentum. Now, it seems, Hamilton is set to become even more of a cult phenomenon and can only grow larger as time goes on and demands for tickets continue to spike for its rabid, yet frustrated fans. Who would imagine that a Broadway musical would generate such interest? 

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