Arts & Entertainment Tuesday: Hamilton

Hamilton

The Private Bank Theatre

18 West Monroe Street

Chicago, IL 60603

Music

I originally purchased these tickets back in November, when the block of dates were released.  I was really excited because this musical had great reviews, it was really popular, and tickets were hard to come by.  It has received accolades from regular people, celebrities, and the former President himself.  It won 11 Tony Awards (that would be the Broadway theaters and plays equivalent of the Oscars).   I wanted to experience this for myself to see if it was worth all the hype.

According to an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Lin-Manuel Miranda had read a biography on Alexander Hamilton on vacation once, which inspired him to write songs about Hamilton’s life.   Correction: he was inspired to write rap and hip-hop songs based on Hamilton’s life.

A hip-hop musical instead of the traditional show tunes, you say?  Definitely intrigued!  Miranda states that he wrote the songs he “dream casted” with his favorite artists, such as Common, John Legend, Busta Rhymes, Rakim, Big Pun and Eminem.

Hint:  I’m a big fan of all of them too! I was really hearing the influences in the songs.

The “Cabinet Debates,” come in the form of rap battles, and the debate between Hamilton and Jefferson, complete with mic drops.

Venue

So the date had arrived and we showed up at the Private Bank Theatre.   I had been there before when it was the Bank of America Theatre when I saw Book of Mormon.  When I had bought the tickets, there was a note stating that the view may be obscured.  Usually that meant a support post, or position of the seats in relation to the stage may not allow complete viewing of the stage.  I had tickets like this before (in other theaters) but never really had any issues.  When we saw Book of Mormon there, we didn’t have any issues either, so I thought to give the seats a try.

When we got to our seats, part of our view of the stage (the upper part of the stage) was blocked by the level above us.  I didn’t realize how significant it would be until during the show.   When some of the actors went to the second level of the stage, you could only see their boots (unless you ducked your head, then maybe you could see the rest of them.   Though I could see most of the action on stage, I wasn’t able to fully appreciate some of the choreography.  I had a friend that had seen this show in the balcony, and she had said that she was able to see everything.

Pro-tip:  for the Private Bank Theatre, try to get seats that are not directly under the upper level – try to sit in an open area or sit in the balcony if possible.

Cast

From what I had read in various articles and interviews, Lin-Manuel Miranda wanted to have a minority cast portray the founding fathers, as he felt that the audience would have a better connect with the characters this way.  For me, it was like thinking-outside-the box.  Like with Allegiance, Miranda had brought minority actors to the forefront to showcase their talents.  I really liked that idea, and the choices were far from disappointing.

For example, the performer for George Washington is Jonathan Kirkland.  He was tall (almost towered over the other cast members). His voice was deep and resonant (but not too deep), yet he still had an authoritative vibe to him (which is how I would envision a General or President of the United States).

There was also Ari Afsar, who plays Eliza Hamilton.  In the Playbill, she was in the top 36 finalist on Season 8 of American Idol.  It reminded me of when Jennifer Hudson didn’t win American Idol but was in Dream Girls and won an Oscar for it.  Ms Afsar wasn’t in the top 10 and she ends up on Hamilton (and her voice is not too shabby either!)  Talk about a pleasant surprise!

Choreography

The stage also had moving parts – it looked like two concentric circles.  At one point,  there was a flashback scene, and as the actors moved backwards, so did the floors.  From my vantage point, I wasn’t able to really see the full extent of the movement and choreography of the set (refer to above under Venue).  The choreography was mostly hip hop and modern dance.  If it weren’t for the costumes, one would forget that this was all taking place around the time of the Revolutionary War.

Educational Value

Speaking of time periods, for a Broadway musical, how accurate was the story?  Well, the play was based off a biography of Andrew Hamilton by Ron Chernow.  In 2015, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Ron Chernow with the History Maker’s Award by the New York Historical Society as “their exceptional body of work offers a truly fresh perspective on American history.”  Also because their show, “humanizes a legendary New Yorker and shed light on the complex history of America’s founding era, making it accessible and compelling for today’s audiences.”

There are educators who have their students come up with similar rap battles for projects.  The students were able to connect to the history through the music and made them more passionate about learning more about Alexander Hamilton and the Revolutionary War Era.

Conclusions:

Overall, the play was entertaining and it kept me engaged the entire time.  Despite some of the viewing issues, I would highly recommend seeing this play.  I would even see it again (this time I will try to get seats without the viewing obstruction or sit in the balcony).

References:

http://www.hamiltonbroadway.com/#chicago

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lin-Manuel_Miranda#2015.E2.80.9316:_Hamilton

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamilton_(musical)

http://blacktiemagazine.com/society_2015_november/New_York_Historical_Society_Annual__History_Makers_Gala.htm

https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2016/03/14/how-teachers-are-using-hamilton-the-musical-in-the-classroom/

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/how-broadway-sensation-hamilton-is-inspiring-nyc-students/

Meal Prep Monday: Trader Joe’s Lemon Rosemary Chicken

It’s been a while since I had made anything with Chicken.  I had also read a LOT of good reviews for Spatchcocked Lemon Rosemary Chicken from Trader Joe’s. So, I decided to try it out.

The directions were pretty straight – forward. Heat up the oven to 375 degrees.  Place the chicken in a shallow baking pan. Roast for 60 to 75 minutes, as directed. 

When finished, I let it cool enough for me to handle.  I deboned the chicken (because they look at you funny if you go full-on Cave(wo)man in the office cafeteria).  I then placed some steamed asparagus with a medley of sweet potatoes. Bam! All done!

I hope that you found this easy,  too!

–Maeven

Meal Prep Monday:  Balsamic Beef with Rosemary

I wanted to try something that would allow me to use my new dutch oven.  I had one before,  but it got lost in one of my moves. I also waited for a good sale before purchasing another.  Well,  the stars and planets aligned and I was able to get the brand I wanted.  Now to christen it with its first roast!

I was able to find most of the ingredients, with the exception of the coconut aminos. It was so weird, because these last few weeks, I saw them in almost every store I shopped at. I go shopping this week and they are no where! 

I gathered my ingredients together as the oven was warming, and the pot was heating up. I patted dry the meat and seasoned it with salt and pepper. 

I added coconut oil and let it melt in the hot pan.   Once it was melted and warm,  I put the meat in tho brown.  Cook on both sides for 5 to 7 minutes.  

Then, I added the chicken stock,  vinegar,  fish sauce and rosemary. Cover and leave it in the oven for three hours.  When done,  you can either slice it thinly,  or shred with two forks. 

Pair with a salad or steamed vegetables. I paired it with some potatoes. 

Recipe can be found here: 

http://stupideasypaleo.com/2017/03/10/balsamic-beef-rosemary-recipe/

Meal Prep Monday: Pre-Marinated Bulgogi

Another busy weekend in the works and the temptation to blow it off is high.  However, while shopping I did find some pre-marinated, thinly sliced ribeye steak (also known as bulgogi). In addition, they also had pre-made vegetables to go with the bulgogi. I already had the rice, so Korean BBQ it is!

I heated up a grill pan on medium – high fire.  Spray on some canola oil and place the marinated pieces on. Cook for a few minutes on both sides until done. Transfer onto a plate. 

Continue with all the pieces are done.  Serve with rice,  pickled daikon, seasoned vegetables.  

Another quick and easy meal prep in the books!

–Maeven

EDIT:

If pre-marinated Bulgogi isn’t available by you,  the recipe can be found here: 

http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/basic-bulgogi

Meal Prep Monday:  Pork Ragù over Creamy Polenta

I have to admit, this weekend, I was so busy, I wasn’t even sure if I would have time to make anything new to showcase.   With some improvisations on this recipe, I was able to finish this in reasonable time.

Where I improvised on the recipe was on the pork shoulder – I didn’t have one, and I didn’t feel like going to the store to get one.  I did have a pound of each ground beef and ground pork though.  Knowing that Ragu is just a fancy word (loosely translated) for meat sauce, I felt that this could be a good substitution.

First I took minced garlic and diced onion and placed them in a hot pain with oil.  Stir until the onion wilts. Add the ground beef and pork and cook until browned through. Once the meat is cooked, remove as much of it from the pan and leave the oil behind. 

Add the tomato paste to the remaining liquid and combine.  Add the wine and cook it down until half of it is left.  Add the tomatoes, crushing them with your hand as you add them.  Replace the meat into the pan.

Since we are not using the pork shoulder but ground meat, I omit the water, but still added the thyme, rosemary and bay leaf.   I continue to simmer for about a half hour.

While that was simmering, I prepared the polenta.  At first, I wasn’t so keen on making it, but its pretty simple and fast.  Just whisk it into some boiling water, then when it thickens, add the butter and grated Parmesan cheese.  When done, I spooned some in each of my containers. 

When the meat sauce was done, I spooned that on top of the polenta. (Be sure to pick out the bay leaf before enjoying.)

Well, that was it – all within a half hour and with a delicious aroma filling the house too!

–Maeven

Recipe:  http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/pork-ragu-creamy-polenta

Meal Prep Monday: Teriyaki Lettuce Wraps

Sometimes you need a meal that you can enjoy warm or cold – teriyaki lettuce wraps  is one of those meals.

First, I took chicken breast and cut them into cubes that were about a half-inch to an inch big.  Then I placed them in a bowl and marinated them in Trader Joe’s Soyaki marinade overnight.

In the meantime, I had prepped some bean sprouts, sliced some cucumber, onions and mushrooms.
I also made some rice noodles as well.  Boil some water, add a little bit of salt, then the noodles.  They are cooked within a few minutes.

After the chicken was done marinating, I heated up a pan and added some canola oil.  I stir fried the chicken with sliced onion until done.


When finished, take some lettuce leaves (such as butter lettuce or romaine lettuce), place some rice noodles, followed by the chicken/onions, and top with veggies.  If desired, you can add some sauce, such as this:


It was easy, quick and healthy!  I hope that you will enjoy this as much as I have!

–Maeven

Recipes:

https://www.blueapron.com/recipes/korean-chicken-lettuce-wraps-with-pickled-daikon-radish

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/214722/pickled-daikon-radish-and-carrot/

http://www.food.com/recipe/korean-bean-sprouts-137030

 

Meal Prep Monday: Bool Kogi Rice Bowl

I was shopping at Trader Joe’s and found the Bool Kogi – Korean-style marinated boneless beef ribs.  I just LOVE, LOVE LURVEEE Korean BBQ, specifically Bulgogi, so I decided to give it a try.  

It looks like this can be placed on an outdoor grill,  but after some online surfing,  some were cooking it in a grill pan or wok – I can definitely work with that!

First,  I prepared the rice.  You can pair this with any type of rice, such as brown,  wild,  or purple really.  However,  it has been a while since I made sushi rice, so I just made that.  

I heated up a grill pan and prepared the beef that way. Once the beef was finished, I placed it in the container on a layer of rice.  Then,  added sautéed spinach and pickled carrots & daikon. 

Voilà, my very own “almost bibimbop” bowl!


Did you try making Bool Kogi also?  How did it turn out? Please share in the comments below.

–Maeven