“Rewind, rewind, rewind” interrupts the set. The lights distort, the tables change, the dancers seem to retreat. Didn’t we see these movements in the previous song “Helpless”, about how Eliza Schuyler fell in love with Alexander Hamilton?
Yes, you did. And now you’re watching it all over again – this time, from the perspective of your older sister, Angelica Schuyler.
“Satisfied” is an extraordinary moment for “Hamilton”, cinematic in its conception and execution. With a series of brief but powerful scenes, the flashback reveals that Angelica also fell in love with Hamilton.
But the cameras that expanded her palpable chemistry also captured Eliza’s passionate face. And after an internal turmoil over family duty and society’s expectations, Angélica chooses to break her own heart and introduce Hamilton (Lin-Manuel Miranda) to her sister (Phillipa Soo).
The 5 and a half minute song is visually, lyrically and technically complex, with Renée Elise Goldsberry at its literal center. The actress, who won the Tony Award for this performance, was part of the original castes of Broadway and Broadway – who now see her work preserved on the screen in a film version that is now being broadcast by Disney +.
“There was always so much pressure and anxiety until it was over,” recalls Goldsberry of his time off. “Nothing is more powerful than live theater, but the most beautiful thing about being filmed is that you can take the time to really see how many levels of narrative are going on.”
Before the release of the film “Hamilton”, Goldsberry was thick when nailing the number, unpacking its layers and seeing himself perform it for the first time.
“Satisfied” is complex in the techniques it requires of its executor. How did you learn that?
It was part of the hearing, which I wasn’t even going, actually. The phrase they put in for people to come in was like Nicki Minaj, and I just didn’t think anyone was going to hire me to be so fabulous. I was about to say no to myself and not go, but the night before the audition, I heard the demo of the song and I was like, “Oh my God, I have to know what he’s saying, so fast; I have to go home and have this song on my lips. “
So, the way I learn lines is an understanding of the thought process; that’s why I’m good at playing a lawyer who says rational arguments and bad at playing a doctor who says all this medical jargon that I don’t understand. I did that old thing I used to do as a child, where I kept rewinding several times to learn a lick. And then, by the grace of God, I suddenly understood.
I joined that audition and did it once. After a few questions, [director] Tommy [Kail] he slid a glass of water at me before doing it again. So they gave me that amazing song, and I had that incredible, but very scary, responsibility to be worthy of it. I still struggle with it. Lin told me on the phone the other day, they were more protective of that song then something. Even watching the movie, I’m still like, “Am I worthy of this wonderful and wonderful moment?”
What is the most difficult component of playing this song?
There are things that are technically challenging in this number: in addition to the words, there is movement and the fact that we are doing the previous number the other way around all the time. There were many things to juggle, but it was never difficult, it was all intellectual. Even rap was relatively easy. The most challenging part of singing is the final toast.
This is surprising. Because?
This is an extremely well-written song. Each word is created to analytically lead this woman to an emotional decision that changes the lives of these three lives. That decision was such a monumentally painful and beautiful thing to do, the moment I reached the moment when she makes that decision, I was so devastated that it was difficult to sing that toast. She is in conflict because, clearly, she wants to be close to this guy, she recognizes his brilliance, but she understands that Eliza is the right person. So, I imagine that this woman has to make a toast to this community, despite the pain she felt.
I was always worried that, in one way or another, I wouldn’t be able to live up to the brightness of the end of this song, because emotionally, I was just trying to manage it. Maybe it took me until Broadway to feel good about it.
Renée Elise Goldsberry, in the center, plays Angelica Schuyler alongside Phillipa Soo, on the left, and Jasmine Cephas Jones.
How did you finally do that?
I came to understand the love triangle, whose focus is not Alexander Hamilton – it is Eliza. Music values brotherhood rather than romantic love. At the end of the song, that beauty would influence me to make that choice every night, not because this character was so big and wonderful that she could choose, but because she knew that that was what Eliza – who is kindness and strength – would do in this situation .
I heard someone say once that the first act is the act that younger people understand, because it is the bravery of the revolution and, you know, all the love! And the second act is the act that older people understand, with all the loss and the battles that are not in the field, but in the mind and in these political games.
I totally agree with that, except for this “Satisfied” moment. It is in the first act, but it is this woman who, in a song, has to fall madly in love and give up another more important love. She makes that mature and wise choice without the benefit of a lifetime. My hope is that the people who watch this film will recognize this generosity in letting go, and how much there is to gain by loving in the most difficult way.
What came to mind while watching “Satisfied” in the film?
Seeing this from the audience’s point of view for the first time, I realized that there was an entirely different level of narrative, separate from me. I mean, Howell Binkley’s lighting design!
And Andy Blankenbuehler’s brilliant choreography, which I always saw only in my peripheral vision. It’s a huge number with the whole company on stage, killing it and basically going back in time with their bodies, and I’m in the middle, talking like a deer in the headlights to the audience about an explosion of things that I have to grab immediately. I am very grateful that he made my job easier.
Renée Elise Goldsberry won a Tony Award for her performance in “Hamilton”.
(Theo Wargo / Getty Images)
Was there a movement that was difficult to master?
Chris Jackson [who plays George Washington] and I have a little [dance move] we do, but I’m not looking at it. It happens during “Helpless” first, and then when we do it again, I’m hitting and looking at the audience. So I had to trust that he wouldn’t step on my dress!
The whole company is trying to take care of me because of this very fast rap. Someone has to turn around, someone has to take the glass, all this has to happen, but at the same time, it’s like, “Leave Renée alone because she has to rap!” It was always funny whenever something went wrong at that moment, because people felt so bad.
This song is long and lyrically dense. Any tips for those at home trying to win you over?
The trick to any fast rap is to mark when to breathe and, while you do that, just remembering: “I have to stop and breathe here, and then I’m fine. That’s how much time I have to go before I breathe again, so if I don’t stop here and breathe, I won’t do that. “
Because sometimes you don’t breathe just because of what happened before; sometimes you need a breath to do it as you continue, sometimes you breathe as far as you should go, to what extent it still exists. I think this is also the biggest lesson in life: recognize when you need to stop and breathe.