The Story of Tonight (Or, a Night in June): The Tale of a Hamilton Lottery Miracle

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Maybe you’ve heard of a little musical called Hamilton?

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If so, congratulations on being alive and aware of your surroundings! But also, chances are pretty high that you knew about it long before I did. Because, up until March of this year (yes, I said THIS year), I had no idea what Hamilton was.

(To be clear, I’m talking about the musical. I knew who the actual Alexander Hamilton was. Thanks, guys.)

I kept hearing the name being spoken and seeing it everywhere online, but I didn’t know or understand why it was popping up so much and what it meant. (Sort of like how I have no idea why Pokemon has suddenly become a thing again.) Honestly, I really didn’t want to find out because I had been in such a dark place and didn’t feel like I had any room for anything else in my life as I continued to struggle through the grief of losing my sister. It took several people in my life making honest, “time out of their day” efforts to tell me about it and demand that I listen to the cast album for me to finally cave and find it on Amazon Prime.

It took less than a week for me to purchase the double CD of the cast album from Barnes & Noble. (That means I paid FULL PRICE for it, you guys.) And it took maybe one more week after that before I was entering the lottery for tickets on a daily basis. My plan for the ticket lottery basically went something like this:

  1. Enter on all the days when I didn’t have a work event or concert/rehearsal that I absolutely could not miss that evening.
  2. Hope that if I won, traffic would magically not be an issue and that I’d be able to make the drive from Chester County, PA to New York City in time to actually see the show.
  3. Assume my friends and family members would totally understand if I had to bail on plans with them because I won tickets to Hamilton.

Alas, I have yet to actually, personally win the ticket lottery. But on June 10th, a magical Friday toward the end of the school year, I was inside my lesson room when I heard my friend (and co-worker) Jacki yell from her classroom outside my door.

“OH MY GOD!!”

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The series of events that happened in the next five minutes is now one of Jacki’s “favorite memories of anything ever”, according to her. After I warily asked her what she was shouting about from my desk, she screamed that we (we had made a pact with each other that if we ever won, we would take each other) had won the Hamilton ticket lottery. I started shouting variations of things like “No we didn’t!” and “Shut up!” and “WHAT??” We both ran to each other and straight up collided in the doorway that separates my room from hers. We stepped on each other. We tried to hug, but it was a comical disaster of flailing limbs.

And then, we remembered that we actually had to accept and pay for the tickets…and make the drive up to New York. She went to her computer to pay our $20.00 as I frantically ran back into my room to get my bag. We flew out of our classrooms, ran down the hall to ask our principal if we could leave work right then (during dismissal), and then ran back down the hallway and out to my car to begin our journey north.

You guys, forgive me while I disrupt the narrative of this post for a moment to back up a bit and point out how incredible is it that the events of this day actually happened:

Jacki and I had actually both forgotten to enter the lottery when it opened that morning. (I know, what? How?) It was the end of the school year and things were as hectic as they always are at that time. I was sitting in Jacki’s classroom when she suddenly remembered and reminded me to enter as well. When the email was sent to Jacki letting her know that she had won the lottery, she happened to be sitting at her desk, with her computer on and her phone in her hands, because she did not have choir rehearsal or dismissal duty that day. And I happened to be in my lesson room on the other side of one wall, as opposed to elsewhere in the building (or worse, in another building on campus).

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So relieved that we made it onto the train in time!
That evening’s show was at 8:00PM (and not at 7:00, as some of the other evening shows are). We left work around 4:10, sat in a standstill traffic jam for upwards of 30 minutes before even getting out of Pennsylvania, and somehow made it to the Secaucus Junction train station in North Jersey about six (SIX!) minutes before the 7:13 train left for Penn Station in New York. We arrived at the Richard Rogers Theatre with just enough time for me to run to the bathroom and make it back to my seat moments before the orchestra played their first notes and Leslie Odom Jr. walked out onto the stage.

It was the two days before the Tony Awards and there was NO INSERT in the program. Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr, Phillipa Soo, and Ariana DeBose were all still in the show. (And Daveed Diggs and Renée Elise Goldsberry.)

I mean. C’mon.

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And we watched it all from the front row. FOR $10.00 EACH.

As I lifted a hand to wipe away my first tears of the evening, Lin-Manuel Miranda looked down and locked eyes with me. (I’m pretty sure I gasped.) Leslie Odom Jr. looked me right in the eyes as he sang the beginning of “Ten Duel Commandments” (and I couldn’t help mouthing the words along with him). Rory O’Malley spit on us. Phillipa Soo looked down at me multiple times, and then again during the curtain call. And as the cast sang “It’s Quiet Uptown” (and I cried so hard because of what that song means to me and what it has done for me and how it has helped me heal a little in the short time I’ve known it), I caught Lin-Manuel Miranda’s eyes again.

For the entire time we were in those amazing seats in the front row, looking up at the magic happening on that stage and listening to the beauty coming from the pit beneath it, I felt happier than I had in months. And I felt a level of gratitude only rivaled only by that which I have felt for everyone that has been so good and kind to my family and me this past year, as we’ve walked our own versions of “the length of a city”.

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After the show, I nervously crept my way down our row of seats toward the center of the stage, where Alex Lacamoire was speaking to other audience members with so much kindness and patience. I worked up the nerve to introduce myself to him and thank him for the beautiful orchestrations he created for this show.

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Just one music director hanging out with another. You know, no BFD.
We walked out of the theatre and onto the crowded, excited streets in a daze of sorts. We looked at the crowds outside the stage door and then at each other. It was after 11:00PM and we still had the long drive home ahead of us. Neither one of us had eaten anything since lunch. Though the urge to stick it out at the stage door was strong, the urge to end the evening on the incredible high we were both feeling (and get some food in our stomachs) won out and we made our way down 8th Avenue until we finally found a place that was still serving food. (Seriously, midtown. WTF?)

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No burger has ever tasted this good.
By the time we made it back to PA, it was close to 3:00AM. (Totally worth every yawn and every mile, y’all.) To this day, Jacki and I still randomly look at each other and say things like, “Remember when we went to see Hamilton??” A very large part of my brain still has a hard time believing it actually happened and I still feel this incredible sense of appreciation for the luck we experienced and the way things worked out for us that night. In my next post, I’m going to attempt to put together some thoughts about why this show means so much to me and how thankful I am for the genius (and generosity) of Lin-Manuel Miranda. But for now, just remember:

“Everything is legal in New Jersey.”

PS. Since I felt so fortunate to get to experience this show “for a Hamilton”, I sent a few more Hamiltons to two great organizations that Lin-Manuel Miranda has spoken about and advocated for in the past – Graham Windham and the Hispanic Federation. Please check them out (and help them out if you can); both organizations are doing some pretty awesome work!

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