The World Turned Upside Down

The World Turned Upside Down

I’m not a big fan of musicals or hip hop. Hamilton is an exception to both for me. After hearing the Hamilton soundtrack, I knew that I wanted to see the show if at all possible. I stood in line for over two hours back in November and was lucky enough to secure four tickets to the April 5th show of Portland’s three-week run.

Our tickets were in the second balcony of the Keller Auditorium, more commonly referred to as the “nosebleed” section. It would have been nice to have a better view of the actor’s faces and expressions, but their voices and the music and the sheer energy on the stage made me forget about that by the end of the first song…

Aaron Burr: What’s your name, man?
Entire Company: Alexander Hamilton!!

The words in many of the songs fly by so quickly in the hip hop cadence that you can’t possibly pick up on all of them. Reading portions of Hamilton the Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter prior to seeing the show was very helpful.  The words to each song are included, along with lots of backstory information about how the play came together. I’m fascinated by the creative process, and I loved the glimpses into Lin-Manuel Miranda’s notebooks that the book provides. And the photographs from the original Broadway production are wonderful!

And now, back to the show…

The staging was very straightforward. No elaborate set changes or special effects. I think this was an excellent choice, as it allowed us to focus on the characters, the music, and the story.

The traveling cast was fantastic. Joseph Morales was solid in the lead role, the voice of Shoba Narayan (Eliza) was a thing of beauty, Nik Walker dominated the stage as Aaron Burr. Ta’Rea Cambell was perfect as Angelica; so many words, so little time. Comedic relief was provided by Jon Patrick Walker as King George: “…and when push comes to shove, I’ll send a fully armed battalion to remind you of my love!”

And then there was Fergie L. Phillipe as Hercules Mulligan (and James Madison). One of the things I loved about the play was being introduced to historical figures that I have never heard of. Hercules Mulligan (1740 – 1825) was an Irish-American tailor and spy during the American Revolutionary War. He was one of the first to join the Sons of Liberty, a secret society formed to protect the rights of the colonists. Alexander Hamilton became acquainted with the Mulligan family shortly after his arrival in New York City. He came to share their views and soon joined the Sons of Liberty. Following the war, Hercules and Alexander became founding members of the New York Manumission Society, an organization founded to promote the abolition of slavery.

The power of Hamilton comes from its songs. I can’t pick a favorite, but Hercules delivers some of the best lines in “Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down).” Hamilton is speaking to his friend Lafayette as they prepare for the Battle of Yorktown in 1781. Mulligan joins them on stage…

To my brothers’ revolutionary covenant
I’m runnin’ with the Sons of Liberty
and I am lovin’ it!

See, that’s what happens when you up against the ruffians.
We in the shit now, somebody gotta shovel it!

Hercules Mulligan,
I need no introduction,
When you knock me down
I get the fuck back up again!

I did need an introduction, Hercules, and now I have it, thanks to Hamilton. Learning about Hercules Mulligan has given me more appreciation for all of the personality types and skill sets that were required to pull off the American Revolution. Not just the brilliance of the Founding Fathers, but also the passion and commitment of everyday people. The world has never been the same.

A few final lines from “Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down).” The Battle of Yorktown has been won, and the British soldiers are being escorted out of town. As the retreat, they are heard singing an old drinking song:

The world turned upside down.
Down, down, down.
The world turned upside down.