It took my wife, Laurel, and I three nights to finish watching Hamilton on Disney+. One reason is that the show is long. Another is that when two 71-year-old people watch Hamilton at home, there's a lot of pressing the stop/start button.
Thankfully, we weren't watching on Broadway. If we talked through a live performance like we did through the streaming version, we would have been thrown out of the theatre pretty damn quickly.
Here's some of what you would have heard if you could have been a fly on the wall of our TV watching area.
Laurel: Stop the recording.
Laurel: Don't ask why, just do it!
Me: OK, OK. There, now what?
Laurel: Can you understand what they're saying?
Me: Once in a while. How about you?
Laurel: I have no idea what's going on. They talk so fast.
Me: Yeah, it's a rap cadence. Our ears aren't adjusted to it.
Laurel: For sure. OK, let's keep watching. Press play.
Ten minutes later...
Laurel: I've got a question.
Me: You're not supposed to talk during a movie. Oh, wait, we're at home. All right, what is it?
Laurel: Did Aaron Burr want to be in the room where the affair happened?
Me: Jeez, no! Are we watching the same Hamilton?
Laurel: Don't be sarcastic. Just answer the question.
Me: OK, do you remember how Hamilton was working away at his desk, and his wife wanted him to do something with her, but he said he'd got to finish a bill about something to do with the national treasury that Jefferson and Madison said didn't have a chance to pass in Congress because he doesn't have the votes, and then later Hamilton goes off and talks with Jefferson and Madison, during which Hamilton agrees to have the capitol on the Potomac, and also gives the south some other stuff that I couldn't quite understand, then we learn that the bill passed with Hamilton getting what he wanted and Jefferson and Madison getting what they wanted, because they'd worked out a backroom deal, and so Burr was wishing he could have been in the room where all that conniving happened, though I admit that Burr may have wanted to be in other rooms also, which helps explain why he ended up running for Congress so he wouldn't always be on the outside looking in, anyway, that's what I think is going on but I can't be completely sure since I'm only understanding about 20% of the words.
Laurel: Well, you're understanding more than I am.
Me: (wordlessly presses "Play" with an inner smile on my face, because now I'm contemplating a career as a 71 year old white guy rapper, since I can understand more of Hamilton than my wife)
Seriously, though, or even more seriously, since the dialogue above is close to what actually happened with us, Laurel and I enjoyed Hamilton a lot.
We grasped more of the second act than the first act. Maybe our ears had started to get used to the rapid fire speaking and singing, or maybe the second act has more actual talking. Regardless, Hamilton was highly entertaining and inspiring in equal measure.
It was quaint to be brought back to a time when having an affair could disqualify a man from becoming president. (At least, that's what I think happened with Hamilton; can't be sure, given how much of the lyrics I failed to grasp.)
After we finished watching, I fired up Google to see whether other people had the same problem with understanding the words of Hamilton that we did. The first and only link that I looked at was customer reviews of Hamilton from the Detroit Theatre. Apparently these were touring shows, with a different cast from the Broadway production.
But some of the reviews echoed our Disney+ experience, word-comprehension-wise.
I'm 39 and definitely not losing my hearing; however, I was in the upper deck and could understand about 25% of what was said. The song tempos are relatively fast and I'm sure the actors were enunciating their lines, however, it didn't definitely sound that way. Much of it sounded like gibberish. My father (71 years old) understood about 5%. It became a material part of our experience - too bad! I encourage a headphone option.
Lots of hype around the show maybe raised expectations too high. The show was good, but not spectacular. Hard to follow the rap pace, plus the phrasing used in rap, so the story gets lost.
My husband and I were excited to see Hamilton in Milwaukee. Our seats were excellent, but when a play’s story is dependent on the audience understanding what the actors are singing, it fell short. My husband understood nothing and I struggled to pick out words. Very disappointing.
The main complaint is that I concentrated very hard to hear what was being sung and still could only understand about half so I barely followed.
While the show was unique and dancing exceptional, the audio was not. I was sitting in orchestra section and could not understand the dialogue being sung. It was loud enough, but spoken so rapidly, it was like listening to another language. I actually dozed off a few times during the show from boredom. Certainly not your typical musical, but not for audiences over 35 unless you are really into rap music and can understand the almost incoherent verbiage.