Broadway NYC 2018: Hamilton, Dear Evan Hanson and Once on This Island

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Well, here I am walking down Times Square.

I got to see a couple of Broadway shows over the last couple of days, and it is interesting because they seem to have a common theme to me.  The common theme that seems to stick out so much is despair, and really, it is a despair that is cause by a breakup in family.

So, in the Broadway show Once on This Island, I witnessed the story of a young orphan girl by the name of Ti Moune. She has two beautiful and loving adoptive parents, but they don’t seem to be enough for her. She has this yearning for something more. Guided by the mighty island gods, she goes on an adventure to find a man that can save her from her poverty and fill the loneliness in her heart. It is a beautiful modern day story telling of Romeo and Juliet crossed with The Little Mermaid.

The story illustrates the reality and the yearning that we all have to overcome difficulties in our lives and have someone to save us. In one of the opening songs, we hear the quote of her adoptive mother and father singing, “I won’t be there to guide your way, to braid your hair or dry your tears as we have done all these years.” Parents realize, too, that sometimes they are not enough for their children. Ultimately, the best thing a parent can do for us is show us the way to God.

NY Times describes it as: “RAVISHING! WHAT A DELIGHT IT IS TO ENTER THE WORLD OF ONCE ON THIS ISLAND.”

The second one I saw was Dear Evan Hanson. Dear Evan Hanson is actually one of the most popular Broadway shows. What is so interesting about this show is that it also begins with a child who has lost his father when he was young. He was seven years old. Throughout his entire life he finds a void.

Dear Evan Hanson is about a high school boy who is trying to fit in only to find that his way of fitting in is not what he expected. One of his classmates, Connor Murphy, struggles with depression and addiction. Connor commits suicide, and Evan is left to pick up the pieces. In one of the most powerful songs in the play, So Big / So Small, Evan’s mother sings to him about how difficult it has been for her to see her son grow up without a father. The song describes the scene of his father driving away in the U-haul truck and his mother comforting him:

That night, I tucked you into bed

I will never forget how you sat up and said

“Is there another truck coming to our driveway?

A truck that will take mommy away?”

And the house felt so big and I felt so small

Evan finds himself taking refuge in Connor Murphy’s family as the family he had always wanted – only to discover that try as he might he cannot be the replacement for their son Connor, and they can’t replace his family. Thankfully the show ends with redemption, but it does show the sad state that so many of our youth grow up in. Will Stone described it as a game changer that hits you like a shot in the heart, and I have to say that it did bring me to tears. It was a beautiful and brilliant story of how we are all seeking to be loved.

Finally, Hamilton is the number one Broadway show about one of our often forgotten founding fathers – Alexander Hamilton. He, too, grew up without a father, and his mother died a few years after he left. The first song opens up in your face with rap lyrics:

How does a bastard, orphan son of a whore and a

Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten

Spot in the Caribbean by providence, impoverished, in squalor

Grow up to be a hero and a scholar?

The musical begins with the company summarizing Hamilton’s early life as an orphan from the Caribbean. After arriving in New York in 1776, Hamilton meets Aaron Burr. The show immediately reveals the ending -Hamilton’s pitiful death shot by Aaron Burr in a heated duel. The play reveals the triumph and fall of Alexander Hamilton as well as his contribution as one of the key founding fathers of America. We see that even though he triumphs politically, his personal life is much more like that of the prodigal son . . . he too is trying to fill a void. The show finishes with the song Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story? sung by the remaining founding fathers.

George Washington and the company sing:

Let me tell you what I wish I’d known

When I was young and dreamed of glory

You have no control:

Who Lives

Who Dies

Who Tells Your Story?

 

President Jefferson:                I’ll give him this, his financial system was a

Work of genius.  I couldn’t undo it if I tried

And I tried.

Washington and Company:    Who Lives

Who Dies

Who Tells Your Story?

 

President Madison:                 He took our country for bankruptcy to prosperity

I hate to admit it but he doesn’t get enough credit

For all the credit he gave us

 

Washington and Company:    Who Lives

Who Dies

                                                Who tells your story?

 

Angelica:                                 Every other founding father’s story gets told

                                                Every other founding father gets to grow old

 

Burr:                                        But when you’re gone, who remembers your name?

                                                Who keeps your flame?

                                                Who tells your story?

One of the things that becomes so evident is that we all have this void that only God can seem to fulfill. As these stories are told in Broadway’s theaters, we see a glimpse into the heart of the American people. We recognize there is indeed a poverty of spirit, a poverty of love, a poverty of loneliness, a poverty caused so often by the breakup of a family, and mostly, a poverty of experiencing God’s love, which no one else or nothing else can fill.

About the Author Fr. Michael Denk

Fr. Michael was ordained into priesthood in the Diocese of Cleveland on May 12, 2007. He is dedicated to helping others encounter Christ through the celebration of the Eucharist, preaching, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, spiritual direction, and prayer.

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I'm Father Michael J. Denk, a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. I am a contributor of content to The Prodigal Father Productions, Inc., a non-profit corporation functioning in accord with the traditions and the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. The corporation and I are separate, it doesn't speak for me, the parish, or on behalf of the Diocese of Cleveland, and I do not speak for it.