Our California Adventure: Top 10 Highlights

I considered writing a full trip recap here, but it was a long weekend and there’s so much to say, so in the interest of keeping readers, I think this is going to become a Top 10 instead.

(Note: This is not a ranking. It’s just 10 things in no particular order that really stood out to me from our Disneyland Resort/Universal Studios Hollywood trip.)

1. The Disneyland Hotel

The Disneyland Hotel is an absolute delight. For those of you who have never seen it, there are three towers: Fantasy, Adventure, and Frontier. (We stayed in Frontier tower, but we spent a lot of time in Fantasy tower as it is the main building and houses food and merch options as well as the front desk.)

We were fortunate to get a pool view room (check out that monorail themed pool!), with a great view of Fantasy tower. The rooms are simple but beautiful, with dark furniture, intricate designs on the carpet, and the most beautiful headboard ever…

Overall, my fiancé Hunter and I were quite impressed with the Disneyland Hotel, which has a lot to offer its guests, including a very short walk to Downtown Disney, which is a gateway right to the parks!

2. MaxPass

MaxPass was the real MVP of our trip. At only $10/person/day, it’s an absolute bargain to get unlimited photo downloads and the ability to book FastPass on our phones instead of running back and forth to kiosks. With MaxPass you can book a new FastPass every 90 minutes regardless of whether or not you have a FastPass already booked. You can also hold FastPass selections in both parks simultaneously, which ended up working out really well for us on our park hopping days. It was a fun system to play with and we hit very few snags.

Also, did I mention unlimited photo downloads? For $10/day? So worth it to, at the very least, get our ride photos!

3. Holiday Overlays

I am obsessed with Disneyland’s holiday overlays, specifically Haunted Mansion Holiday and Small World Holiday.

Haunted Mansion Holiday doesn’t feel like an overlay at all, it feels like its own stand alone Nightmare Before Christmas attraction, and I was pleasantly surprised. Hunter is a HUGE Mansion fan, and I was worried about him not seeing Disneyland’s Mansion in its organic state, but after our first ride through, we were completely blown away. While we definitely want to see Mansion without the overlay sometime, this is the ride we ended up visiting the most over the course of our trip because we enjoyed it so much. And as an added bonus, we got to see Hatbox Ghost!

Small World Holiday was quite possibly my favorite part of Disneyland. The facade all decked out for Christmas brought me to near tears every time I saw it. Inside the attraction, it’s Christmas as well, and as the children sing a blend of the Small World song and Jingle Bells. I’ve always loved the addition of familiar Disney characters in Disneyland’s Small World, and it was fun seeing my fiancé’s face as he recognized the characters peppered throughout the attraction. Overall, just like Mansion, I think Small World lends itself very well to a Christmas overlay.

4. Disneyland Food

I’ve heard it for years — Disneyland food is superior theme park food. And it did not disappoint. We ate at Blue Bayou (shoutout to the gumbo!), Wine Country Trattoria, Lamplight Lounge, Cafe Orleans, and Steakhouse 55, which were all spectacular in their own way. At Cafe Orleans, I had my personal favorite meal of the trip — the Monte Cristo.

We also had some great quick service experiences, most notably Bengal Barbecue. While it had a long wait, my fiancé said the wait was justified and the food was fantastic. We didn’t do as much eating as we wanted (we ran out of time to try the Festival of Holidays booths), but the eating we did do was great. And in true Disney fashion, the allergy accommodations we needed were all met beautifully.

Oh, and the churros? Magnificent.

5. Attractions & Lands That Surprised Us!

My fiancé mentioned multiple times how surprised he was that he loved Disney California Adventure. When I last visited Disneyland (five years ago!), I remember saying the same. DCA has gone through a lot of changes since my last visit, but I ended up truly enjoying everything I experienced.

Paradise Pier was one of my favorite parts of DCA on my last visit, and the transition to Pixar Pier seems to flow way better than I expected. While I didn’t experience the attractions here thanks to a morning migraine, I had Hunter go off on his own for IncrediCoaster and Mickey’s Wheel of Death — er, Pixar Pal-a-Round, and he loved both of them. I got to soak in the atmosphere of Pixar Pier, which I enjoyed way more than I expected to.

Another breakout (ha) surprise for us was Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: Breakout. From Rocket setting the scene for us in the office, to the soundtrack, to the scenes opening ahead of us on the attraction (including the thematic inconsistency of looking out over HollywoodLand when the doors open up), Mission: Breakout is just so fun. Of course Tower of Terror will always be a classic, but Mission: Breakout had us laughing the entire time and we truly enjoyed it.

6. Cast Members and Team Members

We encountered some amazing cast members at Disneyland — most of whom wanted to know all about my job making magic at Walt Disney World (they also wanted to know about the similarities and differences between our parks). We also had cast members going above and beyond for us in little ways when they noticed Hunter’s first visit button and our Happily Ever After buttons. The cast out there was so kind and genuinely friendly, which is what we expected of course but we were still very happy with our experience.

But where we found some truly stand out employees was Universal Studios Hollywood.

We were fortunate to be accompanied by our friend Eric on our Universal day. Eric is a Universal Hollywood team member and therefore was an excellent guide for the day, making sure we did literally everything we wanted to do. He also introduced us to some amazing team members, specifically the team at Guest Relations who hooked us up with all the different buttons we could ever possibly need (below is just a few of them).

We were truly impressed with both Disneyland’s Cast Members and Universal’s Team Members, and each encounter made our trip that much better.

7. Universal Hollywood Shows/Entertainment

Both Hunter and I were completely blown away by the entertainment at Universal. Of course, the stand out is Waterworld, which combines a great cast, crazy stunts, and special effects to bring guests into the world of making a movie come to life. We also throughly enjoyed the Special Effects show (and its little nods to our Orlando favorite, the Horror Makeup show). We were also pleasantly surprised by the incredible talent of the Frog Choir and Beauxbatons/Durmstrang performers in Hogsmeade.

Universal Studios Hollywood entertainment is top tier for theme parks. If you ever find yourself in the LA area, I encourage you to check it out!

8. The Studio Tram Tour

The Studio Tour was definitely the highlight of our Universal day. It’s an hour long tour, but the guide takes you through tons of movie sets, pointing out all the different movies and tv shows that have been made right there in front of you. We saw sets from Hairspray Live (which was filmed right there on the lot), The Good Place, Bates Motel, and War of the Worlds, just to name a few.

I can’t say enough about how much I enjoyed the tour. It’s hard to explain without actually seeing it, so again, if you find yourself in the LA area, definitely check it out.

9. Escalators

It’s probably impossible to visit Universal Studios Hollywood without mentioning the escalators. The park is two levels, and to get to the Lower Lot, you have to take not one, not two, but FOUR ESCALATORS. The escalators are time consuming but they’re also awesome for seeing the incredible views surrounding the park.


Jumping back to Disneyland…

There is so much snoap at Disneyland. There’s the expected snoap on Main Street during the nighttime spectaculars, but we also saw snoap in Frontierland and Grizzly Peak, which was unexpected but very much welcome! It really set the mood for the holiday season!

Honorable Mention: How Easy Park Hopping Is at Disneyland!

When we first arrived at the Disneyland Resort, I walked Hunter over to the gates of Disneyland and then had him turn around so he could see the gates of DCA. We both had a good laugh, because we’re very much used to the long commutes between parks at Walt Disney World. But park hopping between Disneyland and DCA is so easy, as the park entrances are so close together. This made our trip planning very easy, as we didn’t have to plan out a ton of time to move between parks.

There were so many things we loved that didn’t make it into this post, but there were also so many things we didn’t get to see. I think it’s safe to say that we’ll start planning our next Disneyland/Universal Studios Hollywood trip very soon!


An open (love) letter to Stranger Things at HHN28

Over the past four weeks, I have walked into the Upside Down twenty times.

When Universal Orlando and Halloween Horror Nights dropped the preliminary announcement that Stranger Things would be a house for HHN 28, my fiancé and I decided to sit down and watch the Netflix hit for the first time. And from episode 1, we were absolutely hooked. We blew through both available seasons in less than two weeks. We bought the merch (thank you, Target!) in preparation for our Unmasking the Horror tour, ready to see the house lights on in hopes of being able to push ourselves to go to the live house. And we rewatched the show leading up to October 5th, the first time we got to actually step into the world of Stranger Things.

The Stranger Things house is an absolute masterpiece. The creative team did an incredible job setting the scene from the moment you walk through the first freezer flaps — the long hallway with the elevator at the end puts you right into Hawkins Lab, where you know there’s got to be a demogorgon lurking right around the corner. From there, a few quick turns and you’re at the show’s opening credits, cleverly projected up onto the wall. Some more freezer flaps and off you go into Hawkins, Indiana, where you’re greeted by the spinning tire of Will Byer’s bike.

For a Stranger Things fan, (as weird as it sounds) walking into the forest where Will Byers disappeared was a dream come true. The first time I saw Castle Byers I squealed. The casting of the “kids” was better than any of us could have ever expected. The details in the shed were spot on to the show. And then we were walking into the Byers house, where the living room was covered bottom to top in Christmas lights, and black paint from Joyce painting the alphabet dripped from the walls. When the house was live, Joyce chopped at the wall with an axe as the demogorgon flexed out the wall behind her. And don’t even get me started on my man Steve Harrington wielding his infamous barbed wire covered baseball bat in the kitchen!

Down the hall we encountered Will’s room, where “Should I Stay or Should I Go” blared on repeat in time with the flashing lights (I danced through this room every single time). And from there we had our first encounter with the Upside Down as Nancy screamed for Jonathan. Next up, Hawkins Lab, the portal to the Upside Down, which was full of floating ash so you knew the Upside Down had truly taken over. Then it’s on to Hawkins Middle School, where the hallways led to pitch black and we encountered our final demogorgon in the darkness of Eleven’s mind. It was all just. so. cool. I left the house grinning ear to ear every time.

So why am I writing all this out?

Those of you who know me know that I was adamantly against Halloween Horror Nights, not because of the content but because I thought I would never be able to get past my anxiety and claustrophobia to bring myself to go. But my fiancé convinced me to give the Unmasking the Horror tour a try last year. It changed my perception of the event in small instances, but overall it was still a no for me. I blamed the tight hallways and jump scares that flared my claustrophobia and anxiety. It was overwhelming even with the lights on. This year, though, Stranger Things changed everything. We started with the Unmasking tour, and Stranger Things was the first house. From the moment we walked in, I knew I had to fight down my anxieties and figure out a way to get through this house.

As we waited in the queue later that evening when the event was live, I was shaking and I felt like I was going to be sick. What if the scares really freaked me out? What if my anxiety took over and I needed to bail? Luckily I have the most incredible fiancé in the world, and though he was fighting his own anxieties, he built me up to a point where I was able to walk through the house, and from that moment on I was completely hooked.

Stay and Scream… my anxiety was already a mess but this guy got me

through it 🖤

We ended up buying Frequent Fear Plus passes right off the bat and planned to put them to good use — between a few Stay & Scream nights and a few nights of going over for an hour or two after work, we definitely got our use out of the passes. And while I can’t say that I’ve totally been bitten by the HHN bug just yet (I only did Stranger Things and a handful of scare zones, didn’t venture into the other houses), I can definitely say that I’m looking forward to an early Unmasking tour and Frequent Fear Plus for HHN 29.

So thank you, HHN 28, for being my first Halloween Horror Nights. And especially thank you to the incredible cast, crew, and creative team of Stranger Things for bringing Hawkins and the Upside Down to life and allowing me the opportunity to walk through a total of twenty times. Thank you for giving me a tangible way of experiencing one of my favorite shows here in the real world. I will forever treasure the smell of fog and the feel of freezer flaps and SIF and whatever they used to make the upside down come to life.

Oh, and a BIG thank you to Universal and Netflix for Stranger Things Day, where I was able to walk through the house eight times and plaster all my belongings with “I found Will Byers” stickers.

Ultimately, I am forever grateful for HHN 28 and the changes it brought to my theme park life. I truly hope HHN 29 brings back the Stranger Things world, but I can’t wait to see what other fears I’m able to overcome moving forward knowing what I could handle at 28.

December 31, 2016.

It’s the end of another year.

I’m reading blog posts from December 31sts past, and to be honest, I don’t have a whole lot to say right now. I’m sitting here drinking 16 ounces of coffee in preparation for my 11 hour NYE shift tonight at my dream job, where I’ve been for about half of this year. The waiting game (which feels like forever ago but was really only about eight months or so ago)  was hard. Really hard. But it paid off. I love my job and I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else right now.

I’m ringing in 2017 with the knowledge that I get to stay with this dream job until June. I’m not sure where life will take me after that, but I hope I get to stay in close proximity to where I am now.

I usually spend these NYE recaps write big paragraphs about things that happened over the course of the year. But I’m shifting this blog a little bit, content wise, and I think I kind of want to just leave this short and sweet.

2016 is the year I got my dream job, a job I never thought I could handle, and yet it’s turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life.

2016 brought me immeasurable happiness, but also at times immense sadness. Pools of sorrow, waves of joy.

2016 pushed me far beyond my comfort zone so many times. It brought me to a new state, far from home, far from the lifestyle I’d gotten used to. And I’m so happy to be where I am.

For all of the years I’ve been “working on myself,” 2016 is the year I learned the most about what I can handle, what I want moving forward, and what I need to do for myself.

While 2016 has taken so much from humanity as a whole, through great tragedies and injustices, it’s also been a year of beautiful things. I implore you to find that beauty in your own life.

In summary, 2016 was a rollercoaster. Highs and lows, ups and downs. And here we are at the end of it. 

Who knows if 2017 is going to be better? We don’t know. The internet keeps yelling about how 2016 was the worst, with all it took from us. We have no idea if 2017 will be the change we need.

 But in my mind, here’s what 2017 is bringing as it comes in:


And at this point, I think that’s all we can ask for.

For everyone celebrating the end of 2016: Please be safe, be kind to those around you, and take care of yourself. No matter how you’re celebrating.

Happy New Year, everyone. See you in 2017. 🙂

Orlando, I love you (Or “My First Week”)

It’s been a bit of a week.

Yesterday marked my first full week living in the Orlando area. If all had gone according to plan, I would have had my first day of training yesterday and would currently be sitting in training and not sitting in my apartment. But, as I think weve all learned this week, sometimes things don’t go according to plan.

After an awesome few days of settling in and spending time with new and old friends, I was gearing up for my first offical day of work at Disney World, Traditions. Traditions is Disney’s company orientation, and one of my fondest memories from my first program.

However, I received a phone call from Casting on Friday night telling me that there was a delay with my background check. They requested that I not attend Traditions or my first day of training, and that I wait to hear further information. Because of the weekend, there was no movement; however I was able to speak with an area leader who assured me that this would all get straightened out. 

And in the midst of allof this, two tragedies happened not far from where I am now living.

On Friday night, singer Christina Grimmie was shot and killed while signing autographs after a concert. While I was not an active fan of her music, the senseless, horrific shooting, which took place in Orlando, broke my heart. From what I know, she was a beautiful human, inside and out, taken far too soon. Waking up to that news shook me, but I decided to go to Epcot to take my mind off of it (Casting had provided a two day park hopper pass to anyone whose background checks got delayed, as a courtesy). I also wanted to get out of the apartment and not think about the fact that I wasn’t at Traditions. My friends were amazing and worked so hard to keep me positive, and we had a fantastic day.

I got home late Saturday night with every intention of sleeping in on Sunday morning. However, Disney had other plans and I received a call at 8 AM from Deployment asking why I wasn’t at work. I explained the situation with Casting and they said they’d have a leader call me (which is why I got to speak to my leader yesterday).  As I tried to fall back asleep, I took a quick scroll through Twitter. I saw a tweet saying something about the shooter having an assault rifle; my sleepy brain thought “The guy who shot Christina Grimmie had an assault rifle? That’s insane!” I fell back asleep with no knowledge of what actually happened in the early hours of Sunday morning.

I woke up a couple of hours later to a bunch of texts and messages asking if I was okay. I quickly jumped on Twitter and got an idea of what was going on — a man had shot up a night club. After I assured my family and friends that I was okay, home safe in my apartment, more details began to emerge. I read through countless tweets, Facebook posts, and news stories detailing the horrific events of what happened in Pulse. I checked in on Facebook to put my loved ones’ minds at ease. Everything became a blur of sadness, anger, and horror. I didn’t think it could get any more senseless. And then it. did. The guns were purchased legally. The victims were attempting to enjoy an awesome night celebrating their heritage and pride. 50 lives were cut short. Many others are suffering from injuries. The shooter is dead. But so are 50 people who did not deserve to die. I’m crying just typing this out.

Even though I haven’t started working yet, I am proud to be a part of the Disney family. I went to Magic Kingdom yesterday for the sole purpose of hugging a friend who was supposed to be at Pulse Saturday night (he ended up staying late in the parks instead). I saw the cast and guests being kind to one another. I witnessed pure joy during the Frontierland Hoedown. I’m so proud of the strength and togetherness of where I’ll be working. 

And last night, I came home and watched the Tony’s with close friends. We laughed, cried, and sang together. We listened to James Corden’s dedication to Orlando and felt the pride and strength of our new home. We listened to Lin Manuel Miranda’s sonnet in pure silence, understanding the magnitude of what happened in our city. And at the end, we all hugged. All day today, we’ve wished each other “be safe” in all of our travels and adventures. I have a feeling we’ll do that for a while.

As I sit here waiting for a call from Casting telling me when I can work, I keep reminding myself that I’m here, I’m breathing, I will start working soon, and everything will be okay. I’m focusing my “day off” energy on remembering the victims, especially those who were a part of the Disney family. My thoughts go out to the families and loved ones of those who were taken too soon.

I want to say something profound about gun control, but I just don’t have the words. I’m sad. I’m angry. And something needs to change, soon, America. We can’t keep seeing tragedies like this. We just can’t.

(I realize how selfish this post is. How many times I’ve said “I.” But I needed to get my thoughts out.)

Orlando, I love you.

Graduation Day

I’m not really one for ceremonies.

However, sometimes in life we have to do things we don’t really want to do. So tonight, I’ll cross the stage at Sprague Field at Montclair State University and officially earn my masters degree.

I’ve been cleaning out my bedrooms at my parents’ houses in preparation for moving to Florida next week. Having been settled in each of these respective bedrooms since childhood, I’ve amassed an embarrassing amount of “stuff.” However, going through this “stuff” has afforded me a trip down memory lane.

I recently found my graduation cap from high school. Both the cap and the gown were white, and I remember the hunt for the perfect white dress to wear under my white robe. I have no idea where that dress is now — I donated it when I gained the “freshman 15” (okay, more like 45) and realized I could no longer fit into my high school clothes. 

I also remember the ceremony. It felt so huge, so important. I would be leaving Whippany to live elsewhere for the first time in my life. Central Pennsylvania felt so far away, but after a few breakdowns over the summer after graduation, I faced my fears and made my way to college. At the time, my major was education, and I was proud to start my journey toward becoming a teacher (a journey that I abandoned a year and a half later).

I also recently found my regalia from my undergraduate graduation. College graduation. Another huge event on an unseasonably warm December day in 2012. By the point I reached graduation, I was jaded. I was done. I couldn’t get out of Lock Haven fast enough. The ceremony flew by, as everyone said it would, and two days later I left Lock Haven for good. Though Lock Haven, and LHU, were my home for four and a half years (by senior year I was living there all year ’round), my last semester was so draining that I couldn’t wait to leave. After four and a half years, and two changes to my major, I graduated with my BA in English.

Yes, my life is an Avenue Q song.

What do you do with a BA in English?

What is my life going to be?

Four years of college and plenty of knowledge

have earned me this useless degree.

So, what DO you do with a BA in English?

Apply to grad school, apparently.

During my last semester of college, I realized that all along I should have been a communications major. So I started applying for communication graduate programs… and for Disney Internships.

Yep, my first attempt at a Disney Internship came right after I graduated from Lock Haven. 

I don’t talk about it much, because obviously it didn’t lead to good news at the time, but it’s okay. Everything happens for a reason.

So anyway, I applied for grad school. I got accepted into Montclair State University’s Public & Organizational Relations program and, in September of 2013, I started my master’s degree.

And here I am today, two and a half years, one Disney College Program, and a lot of stress later, graduating at 7 pm tonight with my masters. Another ceremony. Another big event. Another recognition. 

And a week from now, I’ll start my journey to Florida to begin my dream internship in guest relations at Walt Disney World. 

And yes, this post is a retrospective about my graduations. But I want to leave you all with one of my favorite Walt Disney quotes:

“Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious…and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

Congratulations to all of my fellow 2016 graduates. 

Now I have to go figure out what the heck to do with my hair for the ceremony tonight…

The waiting game is over!

Hello, my name is Caitlin and I will once again be a Disney cast member!

I received the call on Wednesday. I’m going to be working in Magic Kingdom Guest Relations!

A couple of months ago, I wrote in this space about breaking out of my comfort zone and applying for guest relations. As time went by after my phone interview, I felt more and more confident about my abilities for handling a guest relations role. When my dashboard changed to “interview stage” a few weeks ago, my heart soared — I had made it through a rejection wave and onto the next step! But GR doesn’t have a second interview, so I had no idea what it actually meant to be in “interview stage.” 

Turns out it was a good thing, though, and on Tuesday night, my dashboard changed to “post-interview.” I knew from being in the Facebook groups that the people who ended up in “post-interview” for GR were receiving offers, so on Wednesday morning, I waited anxiously for my phone to ring.

Around 10:30 AM, I was sitting at my desk at work when I received the call. After going through some background information and housing information, the recruiter, Marcie, offered me a role — guest relations at Magic Kingdom. I was in absolute shock. Not only did I get the role of a lifetime, I got placed in the park I wanted! (She did mention that it’s possible the location can change before I arrive depending on staffing needs, but for now, it’s MK.)

Interestingly enough, I still haven’t heard back from the Disney College Program. Today is the last day to hear back, though, so I’m sure I’ll hear something soon. Either way, though, I’m going to Florida — there’s no way I could turn down that internship offer!

So I’ll leave right after Memorial Day to start my drive to Florida. I have a lot to do in the next month and a half, but I am very much looking forward to this new adventure. I know guest relations will have its challenges, but I’m ready to face them head on. 

I’m going to work in the most magical place on earth, and I couldn’t be happier. 🙂


Finally in “The Room Where It Happens” (Or, “I saw Hamilton!”)

Sometime in the fall of 2015, I read on twitter that Lin-Manuel Miranda would be releasing the soundtrack for his newest musical, “Hamilton,” a rap/hip-hop musical about one of America’s lesser recognized Founding Fathers. While history never quite interested me as much as I wanted it to, I knew Miranda’s music from “In the Heights,” and figured that this history musical may not be so bad. 

I decided to give it a try, mostly thanks to the fact that it was free on Amazon Prime Music.

Upon first listen, on a cold and dreary drive to Montclair, I realized that I had grossly underestimated this musical.

Though it took a few straight listens to understand everything that was going on (the words move SO FAST and at first I had a hard time keeping up), I ended up hooked. I made it my mission to learn every word to every song. I listened to “Satisfied” over and over again until I could spit Angelica’s rap flawlessly — an impressive feat for a nerdy white girl. I’ve listened to the soundtrack so many times, and yet I still find myself crying during “One Last Time” and the finale.

In October, I started bugging my mom about tickets. “We need to see this show. And we need to get tickets NOW.” My mom kept brushing me off until I finally got her to listen to the soundtrack — but it was too late. Tickets were already sold out through June. But by some miracle, my mom was browsing the resale tickets and ended up finding us some, er, more reasonably priced seats. Sure, they were all the way up in the top of the house. And sure, they were for April 9th, which felt like forever away. But I got a call one late October morning — “We’re going to see Hamilton!”

Fast forward to last week. News started circulating on social media that Jonathan Groff, who played King George III (flawlessly, I might add) would be leaving the show. I frantically read throught articles until I found an end date: April 9th. I couldn’t believe it. Jon Groff, or Groffsauce as he is affectionately known on social media, has been one of my favorite actors since I saw him in the OBC of “Spring Awakening” in 2006. By some kind of fate, the tickets we had bought to “Hamilton” months earlier ended up being for the same night as Jon Groff’s final performance.

I’ll spare you all the story of trying to get through midtown traffic and trying to park last night, but finally we made it to dinner with enough time to eat and get to the theater. Even standing outside in line, I could feel the energy — not just from the audience, but from the theater itself. There’s a certain buzz around the Richard Rogers theater that I’ve never felt at any other Broadway theater. Once we got inside, the ushers efficiently got everyone into their seats (shoutout to the amazing usher in the upper mezz, house left, who got the entire mezzanine to shut up so she could tell everyone where the restrooms are). 

(For anyone who does not know the show, or does not want spoilers, now may be the time to stop reading. You’ve been warned. I’m gonna talk about the show now.)

It was easy to tell that much of the audience knew it was Groff’s last show. When the pre-show announcement, narrated by King George III, started, it was met with thunderous applause. 

From the opening notes, the audience was very clearly ecstatic. Each of the main characters received applause and cheers as they walked onstage. For the most part, we got the original cast. However, Andrew Chapelle was in for Okieriete Onaodowan, who plays Hercules Mulligan / James Madison. I also didn’t notice until I looked at the Playbill that there was a swing in for Charles Lee, usually played by Jon Rua. As it usually goes with understudies and swings, the replacements made no notable difference in the show — they were wonderful in their roles. (And I was looking at the understudy list — Chapelle understudies pretty much all of the main male characters, so good for him!) The entire show is perfectly cast, of course. But one of the most important casting decisions is the Schuyler sisters, and I think the casting directors nailed in. Renee Elise Goldsberry (Angelica), Phillipa Soo (Eliza), and Jasmine Cephas Jones (Peggy) have a relationship that translates so well on stage. The three of them together were one of my favorite parts of the show.

But more on the cast later.

If you’ve listened to the “Hamilton” soundtrack, you’ve probably notice the drastic emotional difference beween Act 1 and Act 2. Seeing the show, that difference is even more pronounced. Act 1 is fun, action packed, high energy, and ultimately, happy. The ambition of the revolutionaries, choreography of the war scenes, and intertwined Schuyler sisters plot lines make you think that nothing is impossible. Act 2, however, is darker, both in lighting and context. It carries more heavy elements. And it’s poignant.

Of course, there are exceptions. There’s a moment in Act 1 that’s not on the soundtrack — when Hamilton finds out that his best friend, John Laurens, died in a shoot-out that happened after the war. The scene, which comes right after “Dear Theodosia,” is a sad and dark moment in an otherwise light and fun act. Hamilton asks Eliza to read him the letter from Laurens’ father, and then tells her he needs to get back to work, which leads into “Non-Stop.” The scene shows a moment of sad vulnerability that we don’t get otherwise from Act 1 Hamilton.

In Act 2, we see much of Jefferson’s comic relief (“Can we get back to politics?!”). I only saw one little problem with this — the comedic elements and energy in “The Reynolds Pamphlet” seemened to lessen the powerful opening moments of “Burn,” Eliza’s poignant and haunting solo. Phillipa Soo, who plays Eliza, managed to rein the audience back in, though, and you could hear a pin drop by the time she got to the second verse. She also commanded the audience during the finale; I for one was in tears through her entire performance.

Briefly, I want to write a bit about my personal favorite moment of the show. Ever since I first listened to the soundtrack, I’ve felt a connection to “Helpless” and “Satisfied,” and specifically the different perspectives. The way these numbers are choreographed, especially the rewind, makes the numbers even stronger. The whole show was well done, but those two numbers stood out to me (and not just because they’ve been my favorite from the start).

One thing I noticed is that Lin-Manuel Miranda plays the role of Alexander Hamilton so well that I found myself having to work my brain to separate the actor and the character. I’ve always felt negatively toward the actions of Act 2 Hamilton, but watching the physical changes as he becomes more and more important changed the whole dynamic. I found myself wishing for Hamilton to fail. Whenever he tried to speak to Eliza during “It’s Quiet Uptown,” I got angry (I’m pretty sure I audibly scoffed when he said “I know I don’t deserve you, Eliza”). This, of course, is a testament to Miranda’s writing. I went from loving Hamilton to hating him, despite knowing the story as well as I do. The story felt fresh and new to me, despite the fact that I’ve listened to the soundtrack hundreds of times.

And, of course, we have to talk about Jonathan Groff. The man had the audience going crazy from the moment he set foot on stage. He didn’t move around much during his numbers, but he didn’t need to; his delivery brought the house down. I’m not sure which of his moments were out of the ordinary because it was his last night, but there was a moment between “I Know Him” and the beginning of “The Adams Administration” where he got Leslie Odom Jr (Burr) to crack up — he ended up sitting off to the side of the stage and the cast seemed surprised (and yet not at all surprised) that he was there. He also got a little dance solo during “The Reynolds Pamphlet” That left everyone in fits — and contributed to that energy that muddled the first few moments of “Burn.”

It was Groff’s last performance, so obviously the cast woould honor him. However, after curtain call, the Schuyler sisters led a quick rap about BCEFA (Broadway Cares, look it up, it’s awesome), and moved into the cast singing something along the lines of “We’ve loved sharing our time with you” as everyone turned to Groff. Emotions ran high as Lin brought out a king’s robe…

Groff got a huge round of applause, tons of cheers, and a hug from his BFF…

Although Groff’s successor is likely incredibly talented and will succeed well, there’s just something about Groff and the way he performs King George III that’s so uniquely his own. I’m sure it’s sad for this cast to lose him.

I’m losing steam as I write this post because the show is so great that it’s hard to remember eevery single moment I wanted to write about. Overall, the show was just as amazing as I anticipated. It surpassed every single expectation I had, and I now have visuals in my head for whenever I listen to the soundtrack. This show has made history in so many ways, and I have no doubt it will continue to do so for quite some time. 

And for everyone who has asked, yes, it is absolutely worth the hype it’s getting.