Fans of Hamilton were finally satisfied to see the show themselves by the magic of live-filmed theater when the show arrived on Disney+. Even for those who had been lucky enough to see the show live, watching the actors up close brought new details to light. One moment fans had not registered before: Eliza's gasp in the show's final moments. Since seeing it, there's been a running debate on what it means, and why she gasps. Recently, Phillipa Soo explained Eliza's gasp in Hamilton, and it turns out everyone's interpretations were a little bit right.
The show's final song, "Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story" turns Hamilton's story on its ear. After tracing the rise and fall of the nation's first treasury secretary, it becomes about his wife, Eliza. She survived him by 50 years and spent that time doing good works in his name and memory. The soundtrack album merely ends with the final notes of the song. But when you see the show, Hamilton joins her, walking her to the edge of the stage, where she looks out and gasps as the lights fade.
Why she gasps has been left open to interpretation. In the live version I saw (in D.C.), it felt like she saw *us* the audience, and realized her work, and her fight to preserve her husband's legacy, had worked. But the filmed version is not so direct. Some fans thought the gasp was her ascension to "the other side" and seeing all her loved ones again. Others interpreted it as merely her final breath in this world.
Soo, the actor who originated the role of Elize, has kept pretty quiet about the intended meaning of the gasp, but recently came out to imply all of these interpretations are correct, and that the meaning depends on the particular performance. According to Variety, in an interview with SiriusXM's "The Jess Cagle Show," Soo said:
Night to night it was different. But yes, the character of Eliza sees Hamilton or sees that legacy or sees that orphanage. It was an exploration for me every day because you do a show eight times a week for a year and you find new things every single time.
Soo also agreed the "breaking the fourth wall" was one that she played, depending on how she felt, saying she would "look out and see all these beautiful faces and acknowledge that story we had all taken a ride to witness."
Such is the beauty of live theater, where the performance is an organic experience every night. Fans are lucky to have Hamilton streaming so they can experience her performance during that particular show, and read into it as much as they like.