'Hamilton' saves the birthday, doesn't disappoint

"Why would I want to go see 'Hamilton' in Chicago?" I asked a couple of months ago as we were talking about the show in the office.

I've seen the original New York cast perform more times than I can count - even if it has been on my TV screen. How could anyone top Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr., Daveed Diggs and Renée Elise Goldsberry, I asked my co-workers.

Lisa, who has been to see the show two times - once for $10 when she won the ticket lottery - assured me I should go.

Fast forward to the end of December when Dan and I are trying to plan something for Ainsley's 15th birthday. She is showing a typical teenage lack of enthusiasm for my suggestions (which, looking back, were probably lame.)

"I don't want to do anything," she sighed, succumbing to the idea this would be her worst birthday ever.

I wasn't having it. I know money doesn't solve every problem, but I figured it could solve this one. So I went online and ordered tickets to "Hamilton" the night of her birthday. We sat just off the aisle, house right, eight rows back. The tickets were not $10. (But since her birthday was on a weeknight, our great seats were the same price we would have paid to sit in the back of the second balcony for a Saturday matinée. Score!)

After a minor discussion about what to wear and whether a backless homecoming dress was the right choice for a January theater outing (maybe significant disagreement is more accurate) we got on the road.

The evening, from that point on, was nearly perfect. There was hardly any traffic on the expressway. We parked right next door to the James M. Nederland Theatre, which is absolutely gorgeous. (Ainsley was glad she didn't wear jeans and a T!) Our seats were awesome. The set was spectacular.

And when Deon'te Goodman walked on stage as Aaron Burr to sing the opening number, I knew we were in for an amazing show.

It's easy to grow accustomed to a particular performer's take on a role and to have trouble accepting someone new. I spent the entire time watching "The Producers" on Broadway wishing Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick still had the starring roles. And whoever played the lead when "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" came to Chicago in 2014 - even though they won American Idol - couldn't hold a candle to Donny Osmond.

Ainsley wasn't born when we went to see "The Producers," but she is still scarred from the disappointing "Joseph" after watching the DVD version with Donny dozens of times. So she, Dan and I were understandably leery.

We were not disappointed once during "Hamilton." The show has a truly talented cast that manages to be true to the original Broadway version while finding little ways to personalize their roles. Dan was particularly relieved that Neil Haskell held his own as King George. I think he might even have been a tad funnier than Jonathan Groff.

Or I might have just been caught up in the show. Hearing the music live and seeing the dancers fill the stage during the numbers is so much more captivating than watching something on a screen, no matter how well it is filmed.

So, just days shy of nine years since "Hamilton" had its Broadway debut, we finally saw the show live. And, to quote our favorite Chicago Cubs coach, Ainsley's birthday didn't suck.

- Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean. Readers can email her at [email protected].

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean