I remember it well. That moment in my 20s when someone put me down for loving hip hop music.
I was in London circa early 2000s and was in the back of a cab squished in between two newfound friends I met at a networking event. The night was young and we were enjoying life like your typical bunch of 20-somethings.
It was during a conversation about music that I mentioned how good a certain hip hop artist was and why her new song was a hit.
The girl on my right laughed and said, “Oh, so you’re still listening to teenager music?”
I was taken aback. In my little universe of being Filipino, music is ageless. We don't judge you if you prefer ballad over rock, or jazz over folk. I grew up listening to, and singing along with, Patsy Cline followed by Naughty by Nature, with a little bit of everything in between.
But because I was a teen when Janet Jackson, Bel Biv Devoe, Boyz II Men and Tupac were topping the charts, I have a special place in my heart for urban music.
When the musical Hamilton started getting rave reviews, I got excited, too. Here was a show that – on the surface – had something I can connect with. But because it was only showing in the US at the time, I had no way of knowing for sure.
This month, against all odds, Hamilton is showing at the Lyric Theatre in Sydney. Thanks to how the local government, so far, has managed the pandemic, I was one of the packed audience who watched a preview performance last night. And while musical afficionados have their own reasons why they love Hamilton, there are eight reasons why anyone with a Filipino heritage will appreciate the musical even more. Here they are.
- Parallels with the Philippine revolution
The musical is set smack bang in the period when America was trying to find itself. From its liberation from the British Empire to the founding of the constitution, I couldn’t help but think of Philippine history and that tumultuous time when Filipinos revolted against Spain only to find itself trying to figure out what to do with its newfound independence (and American rule).
- The dance choreography
While I know 99.99% of the songs from Miss Saigon or a few songs from The King and I, I’d be hard-pressed to remember any of the ‘movements’ from either musical. Yet I caught myself watching some of the dance moves from Hamilton and saying, “Hey, I know that!”. The dance steps are so familiar that I can only imagine how much of a blast everyone from the Hamilton cast had learning the moves.
- There’s a Filipino in da house!
Okay, so you know I have to mention #PinoyPride here. One of the main cast members, Marty Alix, is Filipino. He plays two roles in the musical and do both of them justice. So proud to see him onstage doing his thing.
- A diverse cast
I’ve been to so many events that began with “I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we gather today…” but for some reason, it never really hit home until last night when I saw a musical with three cast members of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds. I was over the moon seeing representation from not just one but a multitude of cultures (the cast boast artists with Jamaican, Samoan, South African, Nigerian, Italian, Japanese and Egyptian backgrounds).
- Brent Hill as King George III
Acclaimed actor and musical theatre performer Brent Hill was perfectly cast as King George III. He reduced all of us to tears of laughter when he was on stage.
- The ‘telenovela’ beats
We love our drama and Act 2 delivered in spades. Watch out for those moments when you find yourself reaching for a tissue as the main characters play out the most poignant scenes of the show.
- The ‘kilig factor’
Who needs the Abrenica brothers when you’ve got Lyndon Watts (playing Aaron Burr) and Victory Ndukwe (playing Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson) in the building? Their vocal chops, dance moves and good looks amped the ‘kilig’ factor of the show.
And for the gents, it would have been very tough to pick only one of the Schuyler sisters.
- Immigrants, they get the job done.
Finally, I was waiting for the scene when this infamous line was uttered and the show didn’t disappoint. It seems like such a trivial thing but the acknowledgment of the role that immigrants play in the birth of a nation was a surreal moment. And yes, opportunity knocks once, at best, for many migrants so 'My shot' (as in that famous line, "I am not throwing away my shot") was one of the songs that stayed with me long after I left the Lyric theatre.
Besides all that, there’s plenty to love about the musical. It deserves all the awards and adulation it has received since it started playing on Broadway. Lin-Manuel Miranda and the whole creative team that brought Hamilton to the stage elevated the experience for the contemporary theatregoer. The entire cast of the Sydney production makes this a must-see.
Where: Sydney Lyric Theatre, 55 Pirrama Road, Pyrmont (Star City)
Tickets: From $70 - $250 (bookings until September)
Warning: Don't buy tickets from unofficial ticket sellers. Go to the official site for more info https://hamiltonmusical.com.au/tickets/
Photo credit: Michael Cassel Group