The Journal Gazette
Saturday, November 23, 2019 1:00 am

He left his heart ...

San Francisco trip helps settle a tuneful debate

Frank Hill

This diatribe is about music. Not country music...though I like it very much. No, this is an attempt to reconcile my opinions regarding the musical “Hamilton” and the performances of Luciano Pavarotti.

For more than two years I have doubted the appeal of “Hamilton.” The length of time I have doubted the show coincides with the length of time my wife has doubted me.

I have zigged and zagged, faked illness and threatened to tell Brad Pitt my wife's real age ... anything to make her back off of her demands that we go see “Hamilton.” Two years ago, in Chicago, I was especially graceful in dodging the national tour's stay in the Windy City.

Recently, in San Francisco, I was so weakened by walking up and down hills, back and forth from here to there, that “Hamilton” and I collided. Or you could say my spouse finally won – but that implies I was defeated.

What concerned me about Mr. Hamilton and his friends was rap. I assumed I would not understand most of the lyrics ... kind of like listening to Bob Dylan's vocal performances.

That was partially correct. I did not understand some of the lyrics. However, I did understand most of them and – for me this is really the key – the choreography, the staging and the costumes were very impressive. Also impressive was one of the minor characters, the king of England. I would discuss the red-headed female dancer but Becky might read this.

While on the airplane returning from San Francisco the day after seeing “Hamilton,” several movies were available. I selected “Pavarotti,” the 2019 film directed by Ron Howard.Why? Pavarotti sang primarily in the Italian language. For me that is even more difficult than the language I heard in “Hamilton.” Ah...but wait! I do understand and love the beautiful music and that wonderful voice of Mr. Pavarotti.

Experiencing two excellent musical productions, one live and one on film, in less than 20 hours led me to attempt comparisons. In art, unlike sports, that may not make sense so I'll be quick.

Pavarotti could not dance like the cast in “Hamilton.” One point to “Hamilton.” The “Hamilton” cast, though excellent vocalists, did not demonstrate an ability to sing like Pavarotti. Only one-half point to Pavarotti because, in fairness to the “Hamilton” cast, each was limited by the demands of the creators. The music supporting Pavarotti's performances is superior to the music in “Hamilton.” Again, only one-half point to Pavarotti because he did not write the music for the operas.

That leaves a tie. One point each for “Hamilton” and Pavarotti.

I dislike ties, so I have improvised a tiebreaker by inviting some late competitors, kind of like in presidential campaigns. The winner came close to being the Grand Ole Opry. Why? Well, George Hamilton IV performed there and it has “Opry” in its name. Hamilton and the Opry combined. Who or what could be better? The final tiebreaker could. That is who.

The winner is Roy Orbison. Honorable mention goes to both Roy Rogers (because he could yodel, ride a horse and was King of the Cowboys) and to Willie Nelson (because he sang about The Red Headed Stranger).

As for you husbands who have not attended “Hamilton” with your wife, go. You will enjoy it. Just pretend you do not notice the red-headed dancer, who, my wife insists, will forever be known in our household as the red-headed stranger.

Frank Hill is a Fort Wayne resident.

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