The mob had clogged the sidewalk outside the Richard Rodgers Theater an hour and a half before the show had even started: Ticketholders eager to get in, fans across the street or outside the stage door waiting for their favorite actors, and a fair share of curious onlookers, arrested by the crowd and the parade of black SUVs, wondering what the big deal was.
They were all there to witness a landmark moment for the Broadway smash “Hamilton.” Lin-Manuel Miranda, the show’s creator and star, played his final performance in the show July 9, as did two of his co-stars, Leslie Odom, Jr. and Phillipa Soo. Hundreds of Hamilfans turned out to celebrate the hip-hop founding-father bio-musical that had become an unlikely pop culture behemoth, attracting enthusiasts from the Obamas to J.J. Abrams, winning 11 Tony Awards and serving as a cultural standard-bearer for the power of diversity.
In the ticketholders line were the people who had gone to extremes or paid thousands of dollars just to see the production that night. One attendee said she’d paid $3,500 for the chance to catch the show a second time before the original cast left, while others in the line had camped out overnight for cancellations. Here and there were the lucky winners of the day’s ticket lottery. “I’m the unicorn!” one of them declared happily.
Across 46th Street, a fan had painted a giant bust of Miranda in costume as Hamilton, propping it up for display against the Church of Scientology. A couple of scalpers hawked tickets, going for anywhere between $2,000 and $600.
In the theater, the audience — which included Secretary of State John Kerry, Jennifer Lopez, Jane Fonda and Spike Lee — seemed to savor every moment. Immediately upon Miranda’s entrance for the show’s opening number, “Alexander Hamilton,” the audience stood for an ovation that lasted a full minute.
As the evening went on, the performance packed an unusual wallop. The emotions in “It’s Quiet Uptown,” the musical’s second-act song of devastation and reconciliation, seemed particularly profound for Miranda and Soo, and the rapt crowd hung on every word, only rustling to get out the tissues for a house-wide case of sniffles.
The song was pretty potent for the folks onstage, too. When it finished, actor Okieriete Onaodowan was so choked up that he had a little trouble delivering his subsequent lines. The audience chuckled sympathetically.
In a curtain call live-streamed on Facebook, the four exiting cast members — Miranda, Soo, Odom, Jr. and ensemble member Ariana DeBose — bowed together, and Christopher Jackson, the actor who plays George Washington, gave the emotional Miranda a playful push forward to receive one last surge of applause.
Miranda didn’t say any special words, but the orchestra had a surprise prepared for him. Midway during the curtain call, the band, led by music director Alex Lacamoire, played a snippet of the theme from “The West Wing,” in a nod to the political TV series that Miranda has acknowledged as one of his major influences in the creation of “Hamilton.”
Outside it had begun to rain, but that didn’t deter the fans clustered under awnings or clumped under umbrellas. Miranda obliged them by making an appearance atop the marquee of the theater, waving and pausing to hold his hand over his heart. Then it was off to the after-party at the R Lounge, the third-floor boite with a spectacular view of Times Square. Miranda wore a shirt with a black-and-white image of Muhammad Ali on the back.
At the party, Javier Munoz, Miranda’s alternate in the title role and the actor who will take his place in the production, described watching the show that night. “I was all over the place,” he said. “I was watching from the sound booth, I was watching from house right on the stairwell, I was watching from the stool on stage left that’s become my spot.”
He’s been involved in the production since the beginning, and has played Hamilton once a week since the show began performances. “We’ve been through so much together, and there’s a sentiment that we all feel that none of us are the same. For the better,” he said. “To grow in that way, with each other, it’s a celebration. And it’s very emotional. It was absolutely beautiful to watch these moments tonight and remember everything that went into building each one of them.”
Miranda moves on to work on a string of projects including Disney’s upcoming sequel to “Mary Poppins,” not to mention all those new production of “Hamilton” around the country and in London. Soo will star in the Broadway-bound musical adaptation of “Amelie” and Odom, Jr. has just released a self-titled solo album. As for Munoz? As of July 11, he’s Alexander Hamilton seven times a week.