Spoiler warning: The following story contains spoilers for “Hamilton” – the Broadway show and the version now filmed in streaming on Disney + – including details of the ending.
Although the recording of the cast of “Hamilton” has 46 tracks, it purposely does not encapsulate all the auditory moments of the musical. So even the most experienced listeners on the album were surprised by some “new” moments from the film, released on Disney +.
“As someone who grew up ONLY listening to albums from the cast (we don’t have money for many Broadway shows, like most people), these retained moments were REVELATIONS for me when I finally tried them on stage, years later”, Lin-Manuel Miranda explained in a Tumblr post four years ago. “’Hamilton’ is sung and I wanted to have at least ONE revelation reserved for you. I stick to the decision and I think the album is better for her. “
What did the recording miss? The lyrical, but significant, red-capped transition between “You will return” and before “Man of the right hand”. The tragic death of John Laurens (Anthony Ramos), who pushes Alexander Hamilton to work “Non-Stop”. The dark cry of Eliza Hamilton (Phillipa Soo) over her son’s body.
And that throaty, tear-filled sigh from Eliza that closes the entire show.
Over the years – and especially in the days since the film’s release – viewers have speculated what the final moment means.
“I heard all these theories,” said Thomas Kail, who directed the show and the film, to The Times on Thursday. “I am very pleased that this is generating conversations, that people are thinking and talking about it.”
Shortly before, the program’s action jumped to 50 years after Alexander’s death. Eliza lists just a few of her achievements at the time: interviewing everyone with whom her late husband fought alongside, raising funds for the Washington Monument, speaking out against slavery, and establishing the first private orphanage in New York City.
The final “Hamilton” moment is at the center of numerous fan theories.
(Neilson Barnard / Getty Images)
In the last few seconds, she approaches the lip of the stage. With a spotlight shining on her, she looks at the audience and sighs.
A popular interpretation is that Eliza, now 97, died and saw the face of God. Another is that she saw Alexander’s face. “Oh, I can’t wait to see you again / it’s just a matter of time,” she sings just before that moment.
Another guess has to do with the group, which stands behind it and asks: “Are they going to tell your story? Who lives, who dies, who tells their story? Miranda – as himself, writer and composer of this show! – then takes Eliza’s hand and guides it to the lip of the stage. And when you look outside, you realize that it is indeed the answer to these questions; it was she who lived, died, who told the story of her late husband.
In this theory, what she sees is Hamilton himself: the three-hour musical that tells his story and the exhausted audience who just learned about him. And that sigh is Eliza’s realization that everything was possible because of her work to preserve his legacy. (After all, the program title could be referring to it too, not just Alexander.)
So, which explanation is correct? Years after “Hamilton” debuted on Broadway, Miranda remains a mother in a definitive response. “The sigh is the sigh is the sigh”, he recently said on Twitter. “I love all the interpretations.” (While also kindly pointing out that a particular reading can be more difficult when he is not playing the role.)
Kail reminded The Times how the ambiguous moment – which was not in Miranda’s original script – emerged. “It came from a conversation that Pippa and I had when we were still off Broadway, [rehearsal] room or technology, and it was once that I knew what that final light would be.
“I remember that it was important for me to have a moment at the end of the show when the music and the lyrics are resolving this long past, which has reached another place. Pippa is so thorough, intelligent and precise that it was a very fun conversation. Of course, we would only do it if Lin was okay with it, as he was. That speaks to Lin’s generosity – he was thrilled that this was the final moment of the show. “
Phillipa Soo originated the role of Eliza Hamilton.
(Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)
Many fans are probably as surprised to see this moment as fellow Soo actors in 2015. “It’s not something we talked about with the rest of the company; it wasn’t like we had a big cast meeting or something. It was something we talked about, and then she started doing it, ”said Kail.
“I think everyone was experiencing this together on stage, as well as the audience. And it evolved – she tried different things and then we talked about it, like any other time. “
Since Soo left production in 2016, and with the opening of simultaneous performances all over the world, many actresses have played the role of Eliza. Kail spoke with the various artists about how to understand and execute this sigh.
“Other Elizas have their own real version and are linked to the artist,” he explained. “Our performances are not recorded – legally – but if you combine all the last moments of the elizas, against each other in a super cut, they will be related, but very different. This is the beauty of the interpretive nature and philosophy behind theatrical production: it is always a little different, and each actor will stand out.
“We are not a group that tries to replicate or just imitate what happened before; we like to leave the space for who the actor is and where they intersect with the role. Even if they have the same physical block, choreography or moments to play, the role is their interpretation. This moment of Eliza is, in a way, a crystallization of that, even the last few seconds still very similar. “
Is there a definitive explanation for the sigh? “There is an answer, but I don’t know if I’m really interested in sharing it, because I love the conversation,” said Kail.
“And whenever I find something, I don’t know if I’m so interested in what it was supposed to be. I like, as an audience member, to absorb and listen to all the talk about it, and sometimes it’s not always particularly rewarding to know what it was. It’s like, ‘Oh, this is stupid.’ “
The answer, ultimately, is in Soo, who originated the role of Eliza. “She is the holder of this flame and if she wants to share it, I support it,” said Kail. “Pippa can do what she wants! But it won’t come from me.
Soo answered the question a little in 2016. “It always changes,” she said. “For me, the moment always belongs to all of us in the entire room. It is the culmination of the whole experience that we just had as an audience, as a cast, as characters.
“People think, ‘Is Eliza going to heaven? Is she seeing Alexander? Is she seeing God? What is it?’ And it’s the type of all those things, ”she continued. “Sometimes it is literally: I look and see the audience, and that is what it is. But I think that the idea of transcendence is present in all of this, whether in Eliza’s or Phillipa’s mind, both are the same thing, which is beautiful at that moment. “