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156: Unabridged Discusses HAMILTON

Episode graphic featuring a gold star on a red background. The text reads Hamilton: The Movie Discussion, Episode 156

In this episode of the Unabridged Podcast, Ashley, Jen, and Sara take on the musical phenomenon that is Hamilton. After sharing their Bookish Check-in, each host discusses her Hamilton history, and then they explore together favorite songs, most emotional moments, and favorite scenes. They end the episode with the Give Me One segment, each describing one thing she wants to accomplish in the new year.

Bookish Check-in

Ashley - Fredrik Backman’s Anxious People

Jen - Nancy Jooyoun Kim’s The Last Story of Mina Lee

Sara - Lindy West’s The Witches Are Coming

Mentioned in Episode

Jeremy McCarter and Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton: The Revolution

Ron Chernow's Alexander Hamilton

Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds's Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism, and You

Robin Roberts interview on Disney Plus

Give Me One - Something to Accomplish Before the New Year

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Bookish Check-in

book cover of Lindy West's The Witches Are Coming

Sara said, "I am reading Lindy West's The Witches Are Coming. I spoke about her most recent book a little while back, it is called S-word Actually. And it's actually the real S word. But we do not like to put explicit on our podcast. So, I will just go with S-word. I knew that I really liked that. She read that one on audio, and so I decided that I wanted to read something else of hers, I just really enjoy her. She's just so intelligent, and I just enjoy her delivery so much. I like the way that she can talk about controversial things, hard things, but also she can sprinkle in really hilarious and, you know, in the grand scheme of things inconsequential things, but she has an opinion on it. So, I started this, and like I said she reads the audiobook. What I find, especially with her, is I don't agree with everything that she says, but I so appreciate her perspective. And what I've learned, especially doing the podcast and reading more broadly and having conversations about books and things with people is that I have really learned to appreciate perspectives that are maybe not necessarily my own, but also give me a chance to reconsider how I view the world. And I think she does a really good job of doing that.

"In this book she talks about it's a lot of political stuff, and if you are not into politics, it's probably not for you. It is not a bipartisan book. It is very, you know, she is a proud feminist. She's a proud Democrat. And she does not waver in that, but I just really appreciate her perspective and her humor, and she's just so smart and she knows her stuff. So, if you enjoy nonfiction and if you enjoy hearing other perspectives that might be the same as your own or different, I think this is the book for you. Sgain, I just cannot say enough about how smart she is and also how unapologetic she is and I really admire that in people—being able to say what you feel and believe with conviction and unapologetically. So I really enjoyed it. I just finished it so that is Lindy West's The Witches Are Coming."

Ashley said, "So I just started Fredrik Backman's Anxious People. This one is his newest and was made available on the ALC program with I was really excited to see it on there. I've been anticipating getting to it. I absolutely love all the books I've read of his. I think that he has his finger on the pulse of what makes people human and the ways that we can and cannot connect to others because of that. I just think he's really insightful, and I'm always moved by his books.

"I will say on the podcast way, way, way back in the very beginning, one of our very first episodes was my first one of his to read, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry, I think it was our first. Very first. It's in the vault. Thank goodness. It has terrible sound quality. But anyway, I have a warm spot in my heart for that reason, as well, because that was a new author for me that the podcast opened up. But anyway, I really love Fredrik Backman.

"In this one, you know about two major events. The first event was 10 years prior, and it took place when a teenager saw a man on a bridge, getting ready to jump. The teenager tries to intervene, the man and the teenager have a conversation. The teenager thinks the man is going to step back and the man jumps. So that really impacts the teenager's life. And then you fast forward to 10 years later to the present time. The teenager is now in his 20s. He's a cop, and he works with his dad, who is also a police officer. It's the two of them. And there is a bank robbery gone awry that results in a hostage situation. So those two things are happening kind of at the beginning of the story and the hostage situation, you can tell right away that none of it was planned as things are unfolding—that it wasn't anticipated by the bank robber that that would come about. But it was kind of a moment of panic. And so it leads to this, and they're in this tiny town. So, it's something that is totally different for them as police officers than what they're used to navigating.

"What I really love right at the beginning is—Jim and Jack are the father and son—and I love seeing right from the start the dynamics between them and the ways that they care for each other. But they also struggle with their relationship as all people do. I just think that's what he does so well, is drilling down to these moments that happen and then unpacking all the things that that shows about people and about society. I just love that. I'm here for that. So again, that's Fredrik Backman's Anxious People. I haven't read or haven't listened to very much of it yet, but I am really enthralled with it and see a lot of unfolding that similar to what I've learned from his other work."

Jen said, "So I am reading Nancy Jooyoun Kim's The Last Story of Mina Lee. This is a buddy read. So, I'm under deadline here. But this one it is really, really good. So it starts with Margo, who is Mina Lee's daughter. And Margot is helping her friend Miguel move. On the way to his new town, they're going to stop and see her mom. She has not been able to get a hold of her mom for a couple of weeks on the phone, and so she's a little worried, but she doesn't really think much of it. When they stop by her mother's apartment, they find her dead on the floor. So, obviously Margot is very upset and is dealing with the natural grieving that's happening, but then she also realizes that there are things about her mother that she doesn't know.

"So her mother had immigrated to the United States in her 40s from Korea, and Margot never knew her father. She doesn't really know anything about her father, and is curious both about her mother's past and about some things that are unexplained in her mother's present. The story alternates between Margot's sort of investigation and Mina's story in 1987. Right after she had moved to the US when we sort of see things unfolding and we start to understand, you know, who Margot's—I have a guess who Margot's father is—who Margot's father might be and how she's adjusting to the life in the United States. So it is just really, really compelling.

"I think it also says a lot of really interesting things about the immigrant experience. Mina, when she dies, so she's much older, still does not speak fluent English, but she had for one of her jobs to learn Spanish. So she talks a lot about the language that she wants to pick up and which language is more important and that process of learning any language. And there's a lot for Margot—she felt like her childhood was very lonely growing up only with her mother and comes to realize that her mom was also very lonely. Margot is exploring the reasons for that. So this is just it's a very quotable book: I find myself marking all of these quotations that are just expressing these really complex ideas about what it means to be an American and what it means to be an immigrant and just how that has changed, or maybe not changed since 1987. So, I'm about halfway through. There's still a lot of the mystery to unfold, but I'm really enjoying that reading experience."

Main Discussion - Hamilton: The Movie

Ashley said, "So I am the newest of the newbies to this and was so excited when it came to Disney+. I was so far behind that I remember at some point making some passing comment about like, What is this, like, what is happening? And my partner being like, Have you had your head in the sand for a year? Because, he was like you've had all this time to figure out that this thing is happening? And it'sright up my alley. So then he was like, How did you totally miss that this movement is happening? It's a phenomenal show, and you just have no idea. And I had no idea. So that's okay, that happens with pop culture. I'm glad that I finally came around.

"So, I was really excited when it came to Disney+ and then still had not prioritized watching it. I have very little kids, and we are you know, navigating the pandemic. And so three-and-a-half hours was hard to come by. So, I was very thankful and excited to have this episode because that helped me to make time for what was a phenomenal show. S

"My overall impression was that it lives up to the hype. I think that it's been a long time since I've seen any live theater, like a lot of people, and even watching it on the screen, it just reminded me of how immersive the live experience is, and how musicals are so phenomenal because they stay with you. I've only seen it the one time. I haven't been listening to the soundtrack over and over. But a lot of the lyrics are still in my mind. It's just that really immersive experience, which, especially these days, I can really appreciate. So yeah, I thought it was phenomenal. I am looking forward to talking about some favorite parts.

"But I think overall, I was embarrassed by how little I knew about the time period. I learned a lot of things. I did a lot of googling while we were watching things. I was like, Is that true? That happened? And just had no idea. You know, I for one thing, I had no idea about the timespan of a lot of what happened. So when the Declaration was signed and how long a lot of that struggle continued after, I just really knew very little about that. It made me realize that I haven't read—I often learn about history through literature. It made me realize that I haven't read a lot from that time period. So yeah, that was really fascinating. And then I just absolutely loved all the music and the way that things were put together. All of that was just awesome."

Sara said, "I loved it so much. And I feel like Ashley was referencing me about the soundtracks because I revealed right before we started that I've listened a lot. You know, I had heard Jen rave about it, and I heard a lot of people at work rave about it. The thing is, it felt really inaccessible to me because my husband is not someone who's going want to go to the theater, he's not going want to go to New York City. So, we probably wouldn't take a family trip to do something like that. I just didn't pay much attention to it because I just felt like it was kind of out of my reach.

"So then when it came to Disney+ in July, I was so excited because I love theater, and Jen had raved about it so much. I just I love the actors who are part of the original cast. So, I was so excited. I absolutely loved it. I've watched it three times all the way through and listened to the soundtrack probably six times all the way through. So, I feel like—I told Jen and Ashley awhile back—that I feel like when I listened to the soundtrack, it's like listening to an audiobook and it really helps.

book cover of Ron Chernow's Hamilton

"I think that listening to the soundtrack helps me better understand the play when I'm watching because sometimes I don't catch all the lyrics when I'm watching the the actual stage show. But in the the soundtrack, I do catch all the lyrics. And I listened to it so many times. I understand it. So I just I think it's fabulous. I love it. I also did not know a lot about the history which is incredibly embarrassing, I didn't know a lot about Alexander Hamilton, and I too was Googling to see what was true and what was not. I just thought it was amazing.

"So, my overall impression is that it is fantastic. I feel like really, you know, connected to the original cast. Like I just can't imagine watching it without the original cast now. I think because if I'd gone to see the stage show and hadn't seen it with the original cast and also hadn't watched it over and over in such a short amount of time, I would not feel that way. But now I just I mean, it's all those people, I need to see all of them. I just watched it over the weekend and I could have watched it right from the beginning. Because every time I watch it, I see something different. And so anyway, I loved it. I think it is like an incredible piece of art. So, that's all I have to say. I'll just stop gushing."

Jen said, "Well, I love it. Obviously. I talked about it and am mildly obsessed. I'm not mildly obsessed. I'm obsessed period. So my history with it is I became really fascinated by the footage of Lin-Manuel Miranda performing the first song from the show, Alexander Hamilton, when it was still supposed to just be a mixtape—the Hamilton mixtape—when he performed it for the Obamas. And that was all he had was this single song and this loose idea that he might make a mixtape out of it. And so I watched that footage on YouTube pretty obsessively for a while and was like, you know how on YouTube, there are always the suggested videos. So, then I would watch all the suggested videos, and I was like, I really need to learn more about this.

"So I was looking back in my orders, and I ordered the book, Hamilton:The Revolution on June 12, 2016. And that is what really started my obsession. So, I remember I sat down with the soundtrack on my phone and the book in front of me that has all the lyrics because I wanted to know every word, and Kirk, my husband, saw me and he became intrigued. So then he became obsessed. And then the boys saw us, so they wanted to read it, which, you know, there's some issues with that, but they love it too.

"For our anniversary, my husband surprised me with tickets to go see the show on Broadway. So Kirk and I went to see the show on Broadway, which was absolutely phenomenal. We did not see the original cast, and I had those same nerves because I thought you know, I—by that point, I don't even know how many times I've listened to the soundtrack by that point—and I thought, I don't know if I'm going to be able to hear someone else's voice, someone else's rhythm, someone else's emphasis. But it was brilliant. It was amazing. I will say I didn't love all of casting. There were a couple characters, I will not name names, who the actors I did not love. But just the experience was so amazing. And being in that space and being able to see what they were doing with the stage and the choreography. And the clever way they use that central—there's a rotating panel on the stage—the clever way they use that. The way they use the costuming and the way the dancers just become a part of the story of it, I just think is brilliant. So there's so much you can get from the soundtrack, but you can't get all of that until you see it.

"So, then we took our boys to see it at the Kennedy Center. Again, that was another new cast. And it was also just as amazing, and it's so interesting that the characters are so rich that I think they can withstand multiple interpretations. So, I think that's a really amazing thing when you think about Lin-Manuel Miranda, his brilliance that he was able to create these characters you can bring to life in so many different ways. So, then of course I was so excited when I saw it was going to be on Disney+ and I think watching it with the close ups and with Tommy Kail, the director's, knowledge to have little moments to picked up with the camera. There are little subtleties that it's hard to see. You know, we're not super wealthy people. So we did not have close seats. So there are things you miss in the back of the theater, you get the scope of it, but not the details. So to have the opportunity to see that is remarkable. I think we're so fortunate to be able to watch this, and I love hearing the actors talk about the fact that they're so glad more people can see it. That it's more accessible that it's not when it is on Broadway. And it's very expensive. And if you can't travel, you can't get there. And so I just think it's an amazing thing that they agreed to have it filmed and to have it put on Disney +, so that everyone can enjoy it. So sorry, that was really that was a long monologue, but I've been waiting for this."

Give Me One - Something to Accomplish Before the New Year

Each of us shares something we hope to accomplish before the new year! Listen to the episode to find out what each of us picked!


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