There are few (if any) Broadway productions that have aroused a sensation quite like Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton. First opening back in 2015, it didn't take long to draw attention thanks to Miranda's In The Heights-built reputation and rave reviews, and before long it was breaking box office records – but eventually it became much more than just a successful stage musical, and instead became recognized as a pop culture phenomenon.
It's been an exciting development to watch from even an outsiders perspective, and now it's even more widely appreciated thanks to the taped performance landing on Disney+. The moment has offered the original cast of the show a special opportunity to reflect on it, and on a recent taping of The Kelly Clarkson Show the actors did just that. Asked by the titular host when they realized that Hamilton was "huge," Renee Elise Goldsberry said,
I always felt when we were looking out on 46th street – do you remember how that was? There was a sea of people like as far as the eye [can see]. It’s crazy to think about now when the streets are so quiet comparatively. Before the show we had our Ham4Hams, they would pack for a lottery ticket. Then even after the show they would stay. Even if they didn’t have a ticket they would just come sit outside of the stage door and do sing-a-longs… It was mind-blowing. You could not see anything but people all the way down 46th street.
The "Ham4Hams" that Renee Elise Goldsberry refers to were mini-performances that Lin-Manuel Miranda would give to potential audience members who put in for the ticket lottery before each show. It was so hard to purchase tickets and Hamilton was so popular that, as the actress said, people would flood the streets.
And after watching the performance on Disney+, can anyone blame them? It's an impressive enough show by itself, filled with brilliant songs and excellent performances, but the experience of seeing anything live adds a whole new layer to it.
As for the sing-a-longs Goldsberry refers to, those weren't possible because the ticket lottery crowd was full of people who had already seen Hamilton and were trying to catch a second performance. The original Broadway cast album for the show was released about seventh months after opening night, and it was an instant success – further expanding the reach of influence for the production. It was because of the soundtrack's success that Jasmine Cephas Jones recognized just how "huge" it had all become, saying
There was this moment I think we were on the charts next to Fetty Wap and I was like, ‘This is crazy to be in a piece of theater that has crossed over into pop culture in a way that’s never ever been done before.’ You know, that was mind-blowing to me.
Not only has the Hamilton album been certified Platinum six times over, it is the best-selling cast album of all time, and it won the Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album.