Song of the Day #2,857: ‘The Room Where It Happens’ – Leslie Odom Jr. & Hamilton cast

hamiltonI mentioned last week that Lin-Manuel Miranda jokingly regrets giving two of the best songs he’s ever written to Leslie Odom Jr.’s Aaron Burr. Here’s the second one.

In ‘The Room Where It Happens,’ Burr watches from the sidelines while Hamilton, Jefferson and Madison make a deal behind closed doors. Known as the “Dinner Table Bargain,” the agreement moved the nation’s capital to Virginia in exchange for the federal government assuming state debts.

In Hamilton, this song marks Burr’s shift into more ambitious political territory, even as Hamilton is becoming more Burr-like in his negotiations.

The song itself is an extravagant blend of sounds and styles, and the big show-stopper in the more downbeat second act.

[BURR]
Ah, Mister Secretary

[HAMILTON]
Mister Burr, sir

[BURR]
Didja hear the news about good old General Mercer?

[HAMILTON]
No

[BURR]
You know Clermont Street?

[HAMILTON]
Yeah

[BURR]
They renamed it after him. The Mercer legacy is secure

[HAMILTON]
Sure

[BURR]
And all he had to do was die

[HAMILTON]
That’s a lot less work

[BURR]
We oughta give it a try

[HAMILTON]
Ha

[BURR]
Now how’re you gonna get your debt plan through?

[HAMILTON]
I guess I’m gonna fin’ly have to listen to you

[BURR]
Really?

[HAMILTON]
“Talk less. Smile more.”

[BURR]
Ha

[HAMILTON]
Do whatever it takes to get my plan on the Congress floor

[BURR]
Now, Madison and Jefferson are merciless.

[HAMILTON]
Well, hate the sin, love the sinner

[MADISON]
Hamilton!

[HAMILTON]
I’m sorry Burr, I’ve gotta go

[BURR]
But—

[HAMILTON]
Decisions are happening over dinner

[BURR]
Two Virginians and an immigrant walk into a room

[BURR AND ENSEMBLE]
Diametric’ly opposed, foes

[BURR]
They emerge with a compromise, having opened doors that were

[BURR AND ENSEMBLE]
Previously closed

[ENSEMBLE]
Bros

BURR
The immigrant emerges with unprecedented financial power
A system he can shape however he wants
The Virginians emerge with the nation’s capital
And here’s the pièce de résistance:

[BURR]
No one else was in
The room where it happened
The room where it happened
The room where it happened
No one else was in
The room where it happened
The room where it happened
The room where it happened
No one really knows how the game is played
The art of the trade
How the sausage gets made
We just assume that it happens
But no one else is in
The room where it happens.

[BURR AND COMPANY]
Thomas claims—

[JEFFERSON]
Alexander was on Washington’s doorstep one day
In distress ‘n disarray

[BURR AND COMPANY]
Thomas claims—

[JEFFERSON]
Alexander said—

[HAMILTON]
I’ve nowhere else to turn!

[JEFFERSON]
And basic’ly begged me to join the fray

[BURR AND COMPANY]
Thomas claims—

[JEFFERSON]
I approached Madison and said—
“I know you hate ‘im, but let’s hear what he has to say.”

[BURR AND COMPANY]
Thomas claims—

[JEFFERSON]
Well, I arranged the meeting
I arranged the menu, the venue, the seating

[BURR]
But!
No one else was in—

[BURR AND COMPANY]
The room where it happened
The room where it happened
The room where it happened

[BURR]
No one else was in—

[BURR AND COMPANY]
The room where it happened
The room where it happened
The room where it happened

[BURR]
No one really knows how the
Parties get to yesssss
The pieces that are sacrificed in
Ev’ry game of chesssss
We just assume that it happens
But no one else is in
The room where it happens.

[BURR AND COMPANY]
Meanwhile—

[BURR]
Madison is grappling with the fact that not ev’ry issue can be settled by committee

[COMPANY]
Meanwhile—

[BURR]
Congress is fighting over where to put the capital—

[Company screams in chaos]

[BURR]
It isn’t pretty
Then Jefferson approaches with a dinner and invite
And Madison responds with Virginian insight:

[MADISON]
Maybe we can solve one problem with another and win a victory for the Southerners, in other words—

[JEFFERSON]
Oh-ho!

[MADISON]
A quid pro quo

[JEFFERSON]
I suppose

[MADISON]
Wouldn’t you like to work a little closer to home?

[JEFFERSON]
Actually, I would

[MADISON]
Well, I propose the Potomac

[JEFFERSON]
And you’ll provide him his votes?

[MADISON]
Well, we’ll see how it goes

[JEFFERSON]
Let’s go

[BURR]
No!

[COMPANY]
—one else was in
The room where it happened

[BURR AND COMPANY]
The room where it happened
The room where it happened
No one else was in
The room where it happened
The room where it happened
The room where it happened

[BURR]
My God!

[BURR AND COMPANY]
In God we trust
But we’ll never really know what got discussed
Click-boom then it happened

[BURR]
And no one else was in the room where it happened

[COMPANY]
Alexander Hamilton!

[BURR]
What did they say to you to get you to sell New York City down the river?

[COMPANY]
Alexander Hamilton!

[BURR]
Did Washington know about the dinner?
Was there Presidential pressure to deliver?

[COMPANY]
Alexander Hamilton!

[BURR]
Or did you know, even then, it doesn’t matter
Where you put the U.S. Capital?

[HAMILTON]
Cuz we’ll have the banks
We’re in the same spot

[BURR]
You got more than you gave

[HAMILTON]
And I wanted what I got
When you got skin in the game, you stay in the game
But you don’t get a win unless you play in the game
Oh, you get love for it. You get hate for it
You get nothing if you…

[HAMILTON AND COMPANY]
Wait for it, wait for it, wait!

[HAMILTON]
God help and forgive me
I wanna build
Something that’s gonna
Outlive me

[HAMILTON/JEFFERSON/MADISON/WASHINGTON]
What do you want, Burr?
What do you want, Burr?

If you stand for nothing
Burr, then what do you fall for?

[BURR]
I
Wanna be in
The room where it happens
The room where it happens
I
Wanna be in
The room where it happens
The room where it happens

[BURR]
I
Wanna be
In the room where it happens

I
I wanna be in the room…
Oh
Oh

I wanna be
I wanna be

I’ve got to be
I’ve got to be
In that room
In that big ol’ room

[COMPANY]
The art of the compromise—

[BURR]
Hold your nose and close your eyes

[COMPANY]
We want our leaders to save the day—

[BURR]
But we don’t get a say in what they trade away

[COMPANY]
We dream of a brand new start—

[BURR]
But we dream in the dark for the most part

[BURR AND COMPANY]
Dark as a tomb where it happens

[BURR]
I’ve got to be in
The room…

I’ve got to be…

I’ve got to be…

Oh, I’ve got to be in
The room where it happens…
I’ve got to be, I’ve gotta be, I’ve gotta be…
In the room!

Click-boom!

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3 thoughts on “Song of the Day #2,857: ‘The Room Where It Happens’ – Leslie Odom Jr. & Hamilton cast

  1. Dana says:

    As compared to the first Burr song you mentioned, this one is among the most memorable and catchy of the entire show. I end up humming it for days after hearing it. So clever, so good.

  2. Clay says:

    I’m surprised by your lukewarm reaction to ‘Wait For It.’ That’s a song I’ve seen mentioned again and again as among people’s favorites.

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