Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
By Jesse Lawrence

7: years since creator Lin-Manuel Miranda performed the opening number of “Hamilton” at the White House and I became obsessed with the show.

17: how many months it’s been since it opened Off-Broadway.

0: the number of times I’ve seen “Hamilton.”

I’ve been infatuated with theater since I first heard the original cast recording of “Wicked” in a friend’s car in elementary school. I spent the rest of my adolescence begging my parents to take me to shows in the City, dabbling in school musicals, and watching the Tony Awards year after year.

In 2008, a little show called “In the Heights” swept the awards and I would watch their performance repeatedly on YouTube for weeks (okay, years) after. I was inspired by Miranda’s acceptance speech when he won for Best Score of a Musical, which he gave in the form of a freestyle rap. I knew then that I had to see anything he created.

I never ended up seeing “In the Heights,” and it still haunts me to this day. Soon I started hearing about what was then known as “The Hamilton Mixtape,” which was still being workshopped. I promised myself I would see it if it ever became a full-scale production. After all, I was ahead of the curve, wasn’t I? Who else was going to want to see a hip-hop musical about the Founding Fathers?

I was taking summer classes in the City in 2014, spending all of my money getting discounted tickets to Broadway shows, when I found out Lin would be starring in a production of “Tick, Tick… Boom!” at New York City Center. I rushed to get tickets. It also starred Karen Olivo (from “Heights” and a Tony-winning performance in “West Side Story”) and Leslie Odom, Jr. (a recent Tony winner for — you guessed it — “Hamilton”). That week, the cast of “Hamilton’s” Off-Broadway run at the Public Theater had been announced and I could not contain my excitement. I sat in the dark theater, waiting for my favorite composer to walk onstage, physically shaking.

I met all three of the actors that night at the stage door. Lin was as kind and wonderful as I had imagined, I was able to congratulate Leslie on “Hamilton’s” upcoming production, and gush over Karen’s work. I met Lin again that fall, three months before his show opened at the Public, at an event at the United Palace of Cultural Arts in his neighborhood of Washington Heights. I told him how excited I was to finally see the show after hearing about it for years.

image2 628x1115 Young and Hungry: For the Love of Hamilton
Image courtesy of New York Natives, photographer Hayley Watkins

And then…nothing. I wasn’t able to get tickets to “Hamilton’s” run at the Public, and by then it had already become a sensation. The show transferred to Broadway and the “Ham 4 Ham” ticket lottery, which awards $10 front-row tickets to the lucky winners, always had hundreds of entries. Any tickets that went on sale were way out of my price range.

When the original cast album was released, I resolved not to listen to it and instead to wait until I saw the show to experience all of the music for the first time. All of my friends thought I was crazy, but I held out for almost a year after the show had opened. After the Tony Awards on June 12th though, when “Hamilton” won 11 awards out of a record-breaking 16, I couldn’t resist any longer.

I was terrified that the show might have been hyped up too much and I would be crushingly disappointed. Absolutely not. It’s just as brilliant as everyone says and I haven’t listened to anything else since.

Lin-Manuel Miranda and several other leading cast members exited the show on July 9th — another Broadway original cast slips by me. I haven’t given up hope yet though. A friend of mine has won the lottery 3 times so it must be possible. I will still enter my name everyday, and will continue to do so for as long as it takes, even though Lin will be long gone.