All posts by calliagilligan

My Experience as a Junior Maine Guide: Tough but Rewarding

This summer I had the opportunity to participate in the Junior Maine Guide Program (JMG). JMG is sponsored by the Maine Summer Camps Association and Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. A Maine Guide is someone who is legally licensed by the state of Maine to be paid to lead wilderness trips within the state. This can include whitewater rafting, hunting, fishing, kayaking or the most common, recreation. Junior Maine Guide was started by Maine Summer Camps Association with approval from the DIFW. A majority of Maine summer camps offer the JMG program. It’s a four-week ordeal.  For three weeks you learn about how to be a “trip leader” and then you attend a five-day testing camp in Rangely, Maine, where you are tested on skills such as axemanship, wet day fire, first aid, canoeing, and topographic maps. JMG is honestly hard to understand if you’ve never done it yourself, but I’ll try my best to explain the program through my experience. 

I went into JMG with no idea how physically, emotionally and mentally taxing the program was going to be. I’ve been attending my summer camp for five years. When I was 12, I was first introduced to JMG. My summer camp offered one of the JMG programs for younger campers called Junior Maine Woodsmen. I went through that, passed and, when I was 13, I participated in Maine Woodsmen in order to have eligibility to participate in JMG. I passed MW, but then decided to wait a year and do JMG for my last summer as a camper. 

JMG met two activity periods every day. There were five other girls from my camp doing the program with me. It was a lot of taking notes and studying. It was kind of like school in the summer except you were learning to take care not only for yourself in the wilderness but also for a group of younger campers. We had to learn lots of skills for written tests like First Aid and Map of Maine, but the practical tests were the most important. I learned how to swing an ax and build a fire in under 20 minutes with a wet piece of wood. This was all in preparation for a five-day testing camp.

JMG took up a lot of my summer. Every morning I would wake up at 7 am and study. I made an insane amount of flashcards and had my cabinmates quiz me. I once used my best friend as a First Aid dummy to practice. Most free swims and every rest hour, I would study. JMG took a huge physical toll on my body as well. When we first learned axemanship, I woke up the next morning feeling so sore in places I didn’t think were relative to splitting wood. 

I don’t think I’ve ever been more stressed than in the days leading up to JMG. I couldn’t eat or sleep very much. One of the most hyped-up tests for JMG is “Wet Day Fire.” With a wet day, a billet of wood gets soaked in water for 5 minutes. In order to pass the test, you need to split the billet to get to the dry wood, build a fire with it, and get a small can of water to boil over in under 20 minutes. It’s extremely challenging, and its only a minor. What’s scary about Wet Day Fire is it’s the only test where you know whether you passed or failed right on the spot. If you don’t pass, it can shake your confidence for the rest of the testing camp. The day before we left for testing camp, I still hadn’t completed a successful wet day. I went to try one more time before we left. To my surprise, I did it in 13:06, the fastest time out of anyone in my JMG group. This gave me so much more confidence going into what would be the most stressful but rewarding week of my life. 

Onto the fun part! Testing camp. The testing camp is “5 days” but in reality, it’s really only three days of testing. Three days to take 22 tests. We arrived on Monday and set up our camp. We were assigned a campsite, and from then on, you need to set up your tent, chopping block, fire pit and camp kitchen area. Every day, you need to keep your encampment looking as good as it did on the first day; in fact, that’s one of the tests. You are also graded on your cooking. So the first real test is Monday night dinner. At every meal, a tester comes to eat with you. In order to pass cooking, you need to have at least one successful bake, boil, and fry. They grade you basically on whether the meal was balanced, nutritious, complex and edible. They also want you to make sure you’re making good conversation with the testers. What’s good, though, is that if you fail a meal, they notify you and you have a chance to try again on another day.

Monday is not that stressful of a day, but Tuesday is where it picks up. On Tuesday I took lots of written tests, almost every minor expect the ones I needed to study for a bit more, and a couple of written majors. I also took my ax and canoe test. Canoeing, I thought, was very up in the air. In the canoe test, you need to be able to solo a canoe and answer general canoe questions for a tester sitting in front of you while you paddle. I missed a couple of questions, but my canoeing was pretty strong. I really had no clue how it went but because I was so stressed, I thought I failed. My ax test went extremely well. I had the tester who went to my summer camp. My camp has always had a reputation to be bad at ax so my tester was really happy with my skills. 

Tuesday night, we were reminded that Wet Day Fire Testing was the next day. I was so stressed, I cried myself to sleep that night. The next morning, I was a huge bundle of nerves. I barely got through my topographic maps test. The practical part of that test went well, the written did not. There were more tears right before I took my Wet Day because I watched one of my friends not pass hers. When the time came for me to take my test, I was panicking. I took several deep breaths and told myself that I could do it. When the tester said go, I swung my ax and went to town. Wet Day can have a lot of factors that make it really difficult. For instance, if the piece of wood you’re using is riddled with knots, it can make splitting the wood very difficult. Yay for me, that’s how my wet day wood was. It took me a good five minutes to split it, and normally, I could be done with my ax by three. Because of this, I went into panic mode. I very rapidly made wood pieces with my knife but making the wood shavings to start the fire took me a while. Once I had a good fire going, the stupid wind started to put it out. I just kept adding more and more wood until I had a huge fire. By then, someone near me had finished in 18:00 minutes. I was almost about to give up, I had no more wood to put on my fire and I was almost out of time. Luckily, one of the testers came over to me and was really encouraging. He told me that I had enough wood, my water was about to boil. What I needed to do was blow on the fire. That would give it more oxygen and help the water boil over. By then, another tester was over around my fire pit. They said to keep blowing on the fire and be patient, I was still in this. My fire was so hot, I singed my eyebrow. I was blowing on my fire until I literally couldn’t breathe. I noticed the fire had gone out and I looked up, the water had boiled over. “Ahh!” one of the testers yelled. I yelled “Time!” There was a moment of panic because the tester keeping track of time didn’t respond for a second. After what seemed like forever, she said “19:23.” I burst into tears. That was honestly one of the best moments of my life. I looked over to see my counselor had made it to watch the last couple of minutes of my test. The smile on her face made me cry even harder. I had to take a second to just look at my fire because I was so in shock and so proud. One of my friends thought I didn’t pass because I was so close to time and was crying. The rest of that day, I took very few tests, but there were more tears because I was stressed about this one test I was taking, Hiking and Backpacking. 

Thursday was a blur. It was a lot of crying and tests I thought I failed as well as tears of joy when it finally came time for the last campfire. One counselor told us before we left for testing camp, “if you don’t cry at least four times at testing camp, what are you doing?”  I have never been so relieved to be done with anything. I was so happy testing camp was over but so sad the JMG as a whole was too. 

When we got back to camp on Friday, It was so great to see everyone. We talked with one of the counselors who wasn’t able to go to the testing camp and told her all the funny things that happened while we were there. I was also so nervous though because we would know our results until Sunday.

When I woke up Sunday morning, I cried and then nearly threw up because my stomach was so tangled in a knot. I didn’t find out my results until right before I had to go visit my brother at his camp. The JMG counselor had us wait on this deck while one by one we went down and she gave us the news. When she handed me my test sheet she said, “No matter what’s on this, I’m so proud of you.” My eyes went immediately to the bottom of the page where it said, “Retest.” My heart dropped. I couldn’t even really get out tears because I was just so shaken. When the other JMGs were told by our other counselor I didn’t pass, everybody started crying, half out of sadness for me and half out of being scared they weren’t going to pass either. When I saw all of their red faces, that’s when tears came. There were lots of hugs and as I learned about whether the other girls passed or failed. I didn’t really cry more or less. I was genuinely so proud of all of my friends that I watched grow through this experience.

The rest of the day, I couldn’t function. My counselor had to take away the sheet with my test results because I kept staring at it and crying. What was so disappointing was that I came so close to passing. In order to pass, you can only fail 2 majors and I failed 3 and one minor. Two of the tests I failed, I came within 1-1.5  points of passing. It felt like passing was just beyond reach, and I almost had it. 

Over time, though, the tears went away and I realized something really important: how much I grew through this program. I became such a leader and my confidence has gone up. If I hadn’t done this, there was no way I would have been able to write an article about my failures. I learned so much, not just about the wilderness but how to handle failure. Crying and being angry is okay but eventually, you have to pick yourself back up and realize what your experience taught you. No one can take away the fact that I learned how to swing an ax or solo a canoe, and I learned to be independent and responsible, and I learned how to pick myself back up, even after I failed at something that I cared so deeply about. The rest of the summer, I encouraged younger girls to do JMG the next summer. I kept my Wet Day Billets with my times written on them and my compass and name tag displayed on my shelves and I openly talked about what this program has meant to me. 

JMG, pass or fail, is the most rewarding thing I have ever done. I’m so glad that I stepped outside my comfort zone and tried something new. JMG strengthened my love for the outdoors and made me so much more confident in myself. I’m so grateful that I was able to have this kind of experience that you can’t get anywhere else. 

Drama Programs are Growing; Are Budgets Keeping Pace?

By Callia Gilligan

Theater. Whether musicals or plays, theater is an art form, a way of telling a story. Theater can be colorful, sad or happy, include big dance numbers or stay simple with minimal choreography and small casts.

Some say Broadway doesn’t have the same appeal it used to, others say there has never been a better time for it. I think both are true. Playwrights and directors have steered away from the classic sound of Broadway musicals such as those written by Rodgers and Hammerstein or  Stephen Sondheim. Many new and somewhat foreign technical aspects, themes and concepts have been added to Broadway, with shows such as Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, Mean Girls and Be More Chill. These shows have pop-rock scores and are drawing in younger audiences. Are classic musicals fading? Yes. Is Broadway dying? No.

In addition to driving up the box office, these trends in theater have encouraged more young people to participate in their high school drama programs. As a theater kid myself, I think this is great. Drama departments are always better with bigger casts. This however, requires a bigger budget.  If you look at television shows like Glee that are set in high schools, the music and drama programs are often underfunded. But does this reflect real life? Are real high school drama programs underfunded? This got me thinking about our school. Do we have a self-sustaining drama club? What about other schools? Is high school theater on the South Shore adequately funded?

So, I took to the Internet, emailing drama teachers from schools around the South Shore and requesting interviews. Mr. Christopher Lacy, drama club adviser at Norwell High School, is very experienced, having directed 89 shows in 18 years. The budget allocated by the town to the drama program each year is $10,000,  according to Mr. Lacy. “The rest is funded from box office sales,” he said. Norwell does not perform musicals, which are often more expensive than traditional plays, but that is not because of the cost, Mr. Lacy said. “People these days really only know musicals,” he added. “We could do this but we won’t because I am first and foremost an acting coach and non-musical plays are a more effective vehicle for that purpose.”

When asked if the drama club could benefit from increased funding, Mr. Lacy replied, “Of course, more is always better.” Yet, Norwell seems to get by on its budget and box office receipts; the drama club does not conduct any independent fundraising.

Mrs. Gwen Chapman, Director of Fine and Performing Arts in the Pembroke School District, reported that the school committee budgets $9,500 to the drama program each year. This is $500 less than what Norwell is given. How much can you do with $500? A lot. Securing the rights to perform a show varies from $75-$250 per performance depending on the license. If it costs $250 and a high school chooses to perform the show three times, that’s $750 from the budget. That’s before adding in the cost of sets, costumes, pit orchestras, etc.  The majority of the drama budget is spent on the fall musical, which Mrs. Chapman said costs around $13,000 to produce. The drama club holds one large fundraiser every year that raises about $1,000-1,500 and covers 10 percent of the drama budget. Even then, the club is just barely producing one musical. The cost of putting on any additional shows must be funded by ticket sales, Mrs. Chapman said.

Mrs. Anita Levy-Sisk, the drama teacher at Hingham High School, is in a more difficult budget situation. The town does not provide a budget to the drama club, though some stipends are given. The school relies largely on the its box office sales to produce the next show. The fall musical brings in a lot of revenue ($4,000-$6,000 in profits) but they are lucky if their spring play breaks even, Mrs. Levy-Sisk said. The majority of their budget is spent on securing rights for the performances, so the school runs 3-4 fundraisers each year to supplement profits from ticket sales.

Hanover operates on a different model than these other schools. In 2015, the town created the Hanover Performing Arts Company (HPAC). Operating under the Family And Community Enrichment (FACE) department, HPAC centralized production – and funding – for musicals for grades 1-12. This move established drama programs at each of the elementary schools for the first time, and began to develop a foundation for the future of performing arts in the district, according to FACE director Kelly Lawrence.

At the high school level, the drama program is part of the curriculum, meaning, it’s funded by the school budget as other classes are in the school. The Drama Club, which puts on a festival show and spring play each year, is a separate extra curricular similar to The Indian or Robotics Club. The school provides a stipend for the adviser, and the club, like all others, is “supported mainly through fundraising efforts,” Lawrence said. The Drama Club operates independently except for the annual musical, which falls under the umbrella of HPAC. Additionally, the Drama Club receives from HPAC the assistance of a coordinator experienced in stage management and the support of its “infrastructure and resources.” Budgets for school shows are “set depending on the needs of each,” Lawrence said. HPAC is a self-funded division of FACE, Lawrence continued, supported by student fees, ticket and concession revenue and grants for resources used to support all productions. The HPAC coordinator position is funded by FACE, Lawrence said. “At this time, (HPAC) is unable to support that cost without increasing fees to student/families.”

“Our goal is to continue to develop quality programs in all areas of the performing arts to increase our overall budget for the HPAC division,” Lawrence said.

While this model has done a lot for the drama program, I’m concerned about the reliance on fundraising and grants. In fact, when comparing drama programs at the four South Shore districts, it seems that while they’re supported in some way by their towns, they would undoubtedly be able to do more with larger budgets. Concerned with paying off costs and putting on the next show, clubs must spend time planning fundraisers that may or may not make enough money to meet their needs. Theater is so magical for the people involved, and it would be disheartening to think drama teachers are struggling to give this joy to their students. I wanted to know if my friends on sports teams had to fundraise as well. I was surprised that the answer was yes. Perhaps the bigger question we need to ask is not whether drama programs are underfunded, but whether all extracurricular activities could use more support.

HHS Drama Club Earns Trip to State Festival Semis

By Callia Gilligan

The Hanover High Drama Club has a lot to celebrate after reaching the semi-finals of the 2019 Massachusetts Educational Theater Guild Festival. Hanover performed the play “At the Bottom of Lake Missoula,” written by Ed Monk and directed by Mr. Collin Fahey. It is the story of a college student, played by junior Maia Arbia, whose entire family is killed in a tornado.

The Massachusetts Educational Theater Guild (METG) puts on a competition every year of 40-minute short plays. Schools from all over the state perform their plays in front of a panel of judges. The top two schools from  each of  the 14 regional prelims move on to the semifinals, with the hope of eventually making it to the state final.

For the second straight year, Hanover hosted the local preliminary round, a huge ordeal that requires coordination and cooperation from all parties. Kathryn Sheridan, a sophomore who took part in the festival, said that she enjoyed hosting the March 2 prelim, where 8 schools performed. “It’s cool to see people come to our school and perform on our stage,” she said.

Going into festival, there was a lot of anticipation for how Hanover would measure up against strong competition. The Weymouth High Drama Club won the state competition last year, and Hanover was set to compete against them in the prelim. Combining acting, lighting and music in unique ways, Hanover’s performance finished in second place behind Weymouth and advanced to the semifinals.

As you can imagine, Hanover’s accomplishment was huge! Kyle Knight, a junior, was at first shocked to find out they where moving on. “This is the first time for Hanover and it was really cool to be a part of a team,” he said.

After the prelim, Hanover continued to work to perfect the production. The cast worked on their projection, Sheridan said, and keeping “onstage connections with each other fresh.”

The semi-finals were held March 16 at Brockton High School, and Hanover entered the competition ready to take on the challenge.  While Hanover did not advance to the final, several cast members received accolades, including senior Fred Trankels for acting and Peter Bell, James Kadra and Will Nunnery for the accompanying percussion.

The cast and crew deserves a big cheer for all the work they put into this show. Festival is “a chance for drama and theater students to learn from and share with each other,” said Dr. Walsh, HHS Humanities director. ” It’s a day when lots of long-term friendships are made and students get to spend time with like-minded young theater artists.” Congratulations again to Mr. Fahey, Mrs. McEvoy-Duane and the entire cast and crew. 

Gillette Ad on Toxic Masculinity Causes Controversy

By Callia Gilligan

Gillette, a well-known Boston-based razor company, has recently put out a new commercial that does not feature razors. Instead, it draws attention to the idea of toxic masculinity.

If you haven’t already seen the video, watch it here.

What is toxic masculinity? While there are many different ways to describe the idea, at its root it is the notion of what it means to be a “real” man. This could mean not showing emotions, having a belligerent nature or having dominion over things. It is often believed that because the idea of being a “man” is so important, men act hostile or extra aggressive and repress their emotions. The Gillette commercial featured this idea and went into depth about how toxic masculinity influences societal norms for men.

There are many opinions on this commercial. Some say it was a way to call out men and make them feel ashamed. Others argue that it perfectly addresses a serious problem in our culture. Some are angry at the fact that the ad focuses on politics instead of razors. While everyone’s opinion is valuable and deserves to be heard, I’d like to share mine.

I personally thought the commercial was well-done and addressed issues that we as a country face. It talks about how society often uses the phrase “boys will be boys” to excuse aggressive or inappropriate behavior. Not only did it address toxic masculinity, but I thought it did a great job of addressing topics like victim shaming. People, specifically women, go through a lot to avoid getting sexually harassed. We are taught to not walk alone at night, to not wear suggestive clothing,  to train ourselves so we’ll be able to defend ourselves if ever needed. This commercial reversed that by making the point that behaviors such as cat-calling make people feel the need to protect themselves. It drew notice to the fact that this behavior will always be the attacker’s fault, never the victim’s. I also though the commercial did a really could job of addressing the societal norms that men and women are expected to uphold. I feel like some feminists can get a little to obsessed with the adversities that women face and ignore the fact that men can face similar ones.

Many people say that the commercial was unfair because it pointed fingers at men and made them feel poorly of themselves. While I do see where this point was coming from, I would like to draw attention to the decades of commercials that have sexualized or objectified women. Rather than exposing the problems with those conventional ideas, those commercials gave into them, making women feel poorly of themselves.

Overall, whether you liked or disliked the commercial, I think it deserves thought. I feel it calls attention to behaviors and norms in society that shouldn’t exist. It’s important to ask yourself: do you ever see, participate in or experience this behavior? If so, what are you going to do about it?

I congratulate Gillette for acknowledging the power of its media presence. They took a risk, making a commercial they knew might anger some, in order to spark a conversation — and maybe even a change — in society.

YEAR IN REVIEW: Music

By Callia Gilligan

2018 was a long, long year that has finally come to a close. While it was a controversial year for, well, pretty much everything, the music world was thriving. The 61st Grammy nominations came out in December, and there isn’t one artist who doesn’t deserve to win on the Feb. 10 awards show. While I don’t enjoy a lot of the music that is mainstream today, I do love music. I wanted to put together a list of the most enjoyed, played and well-received songs by not only the general population of America, but also students in school.

To put together this list I started with the Spotify app’s “2018 Most Viral Songs” playlist. I then looked at the Billboard Hot 100 song list for the week of Christmas. There were 16 songs that appeared on both lists. I paired the songs into groups of two based on the number of weeks it was on the Billboard 100. I wanted to pair songs together based on their release date, so a song from January wasn’t going against a song from June. The one from January could have easily had a bigger following and I wanted to make it fair. I put eight polls on my Instagram story and invited people to vote for the best song of the pairs. With that, I narrowed it down to the eight best songs of 2018. Here they are, in no particular order:

1)  “Shallow” by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper

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This song premiered with the movie A Star is Born featuring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, who also directed. It very quickly went viral, reaching #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in its first weeks. On my Instagram poll, it was up against “Taki Taki” by DJ Snake. It was a close vote but “Shallow” won with 59% of the votes. Both the movie A Star is Born and the song Shallow have been well-received since their release, and both are worth a watch and a listen.

2)  “Sunflower” by Post Malone and Swae Lee

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Another song written for a movie, “Sunflower” debuted in October, ahead of the December release of Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse. The song peaked at number four on the Billboard Hot 100. The song won its poll against Bad Bunny’s “MIA”  by a landslide, with 86 percent of the votes.

3) “Sicko Mode” by Travis Scott

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This song was a collaboration with the likes of Drake and many others. It spent two consecutive weeks as number two on the Hot 100 until reaching its peak position at number one. In its poll, it beat out “Beautiful” by Bazzi with 63 percent of the votes.

4) “Better” by Khalid

Image result for better by khalid“Better” has spent a total of 15 weeks on the chart with a peak position of number 29. The low peak showed in the poll. It was a close race, topping Halsey’s “Without Me” by only two percent of the votes.

5) “Close To Me” by Ellie Goulding

Image result for close to me ellie gouldingA comeback for the British singer-songwriter, “Close to Me” has spent six weeks on chart. Even though it only reached 57 on the Billboard chart, fans loved it. It won its poll against Silk City and Dua Lipa’s “Electricity” with 64 percent of the votes.

6) “Lucid Dreams” by Juice WRLDImage result for lucid dreams juice wrld“Lucid Dreams” reached number one on the Hot 100. However, it barely beat out Maroon 5’s “Girls Like You” in the Instagram poll, winning 56 percent of the votes.

7) “Better Now” by Post Malone

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“Better Now” has spent 35 weeks on the chart, reaching as high as number three. It won its poll against Cardi B’s “I Like It” with 54 percent of the votes.

8) “thank you, next” by Ariana Grande

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How could it not be here? “thank you, next” is one of Grande’s many viral hits this year. It came in the wake of her short-lived engagement to comedian Pete Davidson. The music video had as much success as the song, parodying Grande’s favorite movies. The song references all of her past relationships and is an anthem to moving on. It’s inspired countless memes and prompted many jokes made by none other than Davidson himself on SNL. It won its poll against “Happier” by Marshmello and Bastille with 71 percent of votes.

What’s Inside the Little Shop of Horrors?!

By Callia Gilligan

Mark your calendars for December 13th, HHS! That date is opening night for our very own production of Little Shop of Horrors. The musical was written by Howard Ashman and composed by Alan Menken, composer for lots of Disney movies including The Little Mermaid.  It is a love story about a young man, Seymour, with a crush on a girl named Audrey. While working in a florist shop, Seymour discovers a mysterious plant that he names Audrey 2.  After the death of Audrey’s boyfriend Orin, Seymour feeds Orin’s body to the plant. Audrey 2 grows more thirsty for blood so Seymour has the task of hunting down more bodies to feed the plant. To find out what happens next, come see the musical!

The musical is directed by our very own Mr. Fahey and Mr. Wade. According to Mr. Wade, Little Shop was chosen because the Hanover Drama program likes to have a mix between older and newer musicals. This particular musical fits the roles of students that were already in mind for the cast.  Emma Gannon plays Audrey,  Fred Trankels is Seymour, Erin Foley plays Audrey 2, Ben Manning is Mr. Mushnik,  Chris Manning plays  Orin, and Elise Falvey, Michelle Sylvester, and Kathryn Sheridan play the Greek Chorus Girls. The show does not have many main roles, Mr. Wade said. In fact, it’s supposed to be focused on the ensemble. The cast loves the show so much and is having so much fun with it.

The musical can be described in many different ways. It has good moral messages about greed and love, but is also described as “darkly humorous” by Mr. Wade, who actually played Seymour once in a school production! The show is fun and timely and both Mr. Fahey and Mr. Wade look forward to it. I know that I certainly am too.

Performances will be held Thursday, Dec. 13, and Friday, Dec. 14, at 7 pm. A Saturday matinee will be held at 2 pm on Dec. 15. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students and senior citizens

Hamilton in Boston Lives Up to Its Reputation

By Callia Gilligan

Hamilton: An American Musical is well known to many people. It has music and lyrics by the genius, Lin Manuel Miranda. He’s composed a ton of musicals and movies like Moana, In the Heights, Bring It On and 21 Chump Street. All of his works are amazing but, I dare say, Hamilton stands out.

Hamilton is about the Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, who immigrated to the colonies, fought in the Revolutionary War, and eventually helped establish the country we live in today. The soundtrack, surprisingly, is a rap-hip hop score, and tells the entire story. The actors sing throughout the show; there is always, music, talking, singing or rapping.

As a musical theater kid, I generally love any musical and I’ve seen a lot: about 20 shows in New York City and five in Boston. I’m very fortunate to get to see the amount of theater that I do. Hamilton tops everything I’ve ever seen. I’ve loved the show since the Original Broadway Cast Recording was released in 2015. It has such an enormous following that tickets are really hard to come by, so seeing it recently in Boston was a dream come true and unlike anything else.

Lots of people share my opinion when it comes to this show. Many celebrities love it, including the Obama family, who invited the cast to perform at the White House. If you haven’t listened to the cast recording, listen to it. It is fantastic and you will become obsessed.  I’m going to touch upon the moments that I felt stood out to me the most in the show.

The show starts out with the number “Alexander Hamilton.” It is evident from the beginning of the show that a lot of the story will be conveyed through body language and dance. There are background dancers that move the set pieces and dance with such raw emotion that it helps tell the story in such an honest, pure form. The number starts out with Aaron Burr, Marquis de Lafayette, Hercules Mulligan and John Laurens setting the scene for Hamilton’s life, explaining how he worked his way out of the Caribbean island where he was born.  Alexander’s first appearance on stage earned actor Edred Utomi thunderous applause. The first line Hamilton sings shows the audience just how ambitious he is. Hamilton sings, “There’s a million things I haven’t done, but just you wait.” The opening number continues to set up Hamilton’s life, getting us up to speed for where the story picks up. We learn that Hamilton’s father left early and his mother died when he was 12. When he was 17, a hurricane destroyed his town. Eventually, after slaving away and writing about his story, he raised enough money to board a ship that would take him to New York. At the very end of the number, Aaron Burr sings, “And I’m the damn fool that shot him.” The line foreshadows Hamilton’s death at the hands of Burr.

After the opening number, the story resumes in 1776 in New York City, where Hamilton meets Burr for the first time. Hamilton talks very fast, providing his opinions on the coming revolution and sharing his story of being an orphan. Burr responds by telling Hamilton to “talk less, smile more, don’t let them know what you’re against or what you’re for.” Throughout the entire show, Burr is very passive aggressive, and rarely says or does anything that benefits people other than himself. He’s often very jealous, and can’t accept that his failures are his own fault. This is first demonstrated in “Aaron Burr, Sir” when he takes Hamilton as stupid for being excited about the war. Nicholas Christopher, the actor who played  Burr, did an outstanding job with both the passive-aggressiveness as well as the moments when Burr shows raw emotion.

Another song that stood out to me was “You’ll Be Back,” sung by King George, England’s monarch at the time of the revolution. It is written like a breakup song to the colonies. The lyrics are hilarious including “I will kill your friends and family to remind you of my love.” The delivery of the song by Peter Matthew Smith was fantastic. It was also the only song I noticed where there was really nothing going on in the background, just King George and the audience.

My favorite parts of the whole show were probably the songs “Helpless” and “Satisfied.” Both tell the same story, in different points of view, of when two wealthy sisters meet Alexander for the first time. “Helpless” starts with Eliza and Alexander meeting at a ball. It cycles through how they write letters to each other and fall in love, and ends with their wedding. “Satisfied” picks up right at the wedding, but rewinds (literally rewinds as the actors on stage do the choreography from “Helpless,” but backwards) to the night when Eliza met Alexander, but from her sister Angelica’s point of view. Angelica, played by Sabrina Sloan, displays her wit and intelligence and her care for others, most importantly her sister. At the ball, Angelica and Eliza notice Alexander and are attracted to him (talk about a womanizer). However, Angelica speaks to him first. The two share an immediate attraction, but Angelica realizes that there is no way she could marry Alexander due to her family situation and Eliza’s feelings for him, so she sacrifices her happiness for her sister. Angelica’s sadness, despair and regret are part of what made this number stand out. You felt so connected to her. This number was also great because of how involved it was. Everyone in the cast was moving and singing, not just Angelica. Really, the whole show is like that; there is always more going on in the background.

The show continues and the plot thickens. Eliza is pregnant, Alexander gets dismissed from the army only to get called back by George Washington; there is just so much to this show! To close Act I, there is a large ensemble number called “Non Stop.” It’s about forming a country and government after the colonies have declared their freedom from Great Britain. At the very end of the song, all the characters sing different versions of their themes that have been recurring throughout the show, all at the same time. The characters have come a long way since the show started. Eliza and Alexander have a baby, George Washington becomes president, Alexander is named secretary of treasury, Angelica moves to London and John Laurens passed away.

To open Act II, we meet Thomas Jefferson for the first time in a large number titled “What’d I Miss?” Jefferson is played by the same actor who performs Marquis de Lafayette, Bryson Bruce. Bruce played the character effortlessly and delivered each line with spunk and personality. The large dance ensemble highlighted the fantastic number.

The end of Act II really caught my attention. The characters’ actions shocked me, for example, when Alexander cheats on Eliza. “Stay Alive Reprise” and “It’s Quiet Uptown” brought me to tears. “Stay Alive Reprise” shows when Alexander and Eliza find out that their son, Phillip, has been shot and dies. Both his parents are right by his side. As Philip dies, the music stops and Eliza lets out this scream and starts sobbing. This moment caught me by surprise as it demonstrated the harsh reality of what happens when parents outlive their children. If I thought I couldn’t have possibly cried more, I was so wrong. After Phillip’s death, “It’s Quiet Uptown” reveals one of the only times Alexander shows true sadness. Death has always haunted Hamilton’s life. His mother died, his best friend died and his comrades die, but he never stopped moving. When Philip died, it was different. Alexander was so upset, he couldn’t work or do anything. It’s the first time we see this kind of sadness from Hamilton. It also shows Alexander and Eliza falling back in love and making up after all the heartbreak they’ve faced.

The show closes with Hamilton’s death. Hamilton dies in a duel against Aaron Burr, his first friend. As the bullet come towards Hamilton, time seems to stop. Hamilton gives a long monologue eventually coming to terms with his impending death. We don’t see Hamilton’s actual death, but we do hear from Aaron Burr about the moments that followed. The last number is a heartbreaking song called “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story.” This number remarks that most of our Founding Fathers have a legacy, but Hamilton never really did. It also really humbles you and makes you realize time flies by so quickly and we all aren’t guaranteed another day.

I’ve seen a lot of theater. I’m a theater kid myself and I can say with absolute confidence, this is the best thing I have ever seen. If you can score tickets, go see it. Make sure you listen to the soundtrack because it is absolutely amazing. You won’t regret it.