Phillipa Soo Holds The Secret To Eliza's Gasp In 'Hamilton'

Only Eliza can tell this story.

by Mary Kate McGrath
Phillipa Soo knows why Eliza gasps at the end of Hamilton.
Courtesy of Disney+

Fans are getting an answer to the biggest mystery in Hamilton — kind of. It seems Phillipa Soo holds the secret to Eliza's gasp at the end of Hamilton, one of the most contested moments in the popular musical. During the final moment of the show, Eliza takes center stage, looks out into the audience, and lets out one last, guttural gasp. It turns out that Soo, who originated the role of Eliza on Broadway, came up with the idea to close the show with that moment, and might have the most insight into its significance.

In an interview published on Saturday, June 11, director Thomas Kail discussed how the gasp came to be, revealing that the moment was not in the original script, as per the Los Angeles Times. "It came from a conversation Pippa and I had when we were still off-Broadway," Kail said. "I remember it was important for me to have a moment at the end of the show where the music and lyrics are resolving that extended past, that reached somewhere else." According to the director, writer and producer Lin-Manuel Miranda was "thrilled to have that be the final moment of the show."

Kail also revealed that the gasp "evolved" and that Soo "tried different things, and then we talked about it, just like any other moment." Soo left the show in 2016, and subsequent Elizas have given the moment their own interpretation. However, that doesn't mean a definitive explanation for the gasp doesn't exist. Kail noted that "there is an answer, but I don’t know that I’m really keen to share it," and that the answer is known by Soo. "She is the holder of that flame and if she wants to share that, I support her," the director said. "Pippa can do whatever Pippa wants! But it will not come from me."

On July 3, Disney+ released the live-recording of Hamilton, renewing the debate about that penultimate gasp. On July 8, Lin-Manuel Miranda tweeted about the moment, noting that he's open to any meaning the audience may find in Eliza's final scene. He wrote: "The Gasp is The Gasp is The Gasp. I love all the interpretations."

It's unclear if the star will come forward with her own explanation, but in 2016, Soo hinted at her feelings about the gasp during a BUILD interview. "People are like, ‘Is it Eliza going into heaven? Is she seeing Alexander? Is she seeing God? What is it?’ And it’s kind of all of those things," Soo said. She added: "I think the idea of transcendence is present in all of that, whether it’s in Eliza’s mind or Phillipa’s mind, they’re both one and the same, which is beautiful about that moment."

Hamilton fans will likely continue to share their own interpretations of the gasp, but Soo, who came up with the concept and was responsible for the original characterization of Eliza, has a unique perspective on the moment. And it seems until the star shares her own take, fans will never be satisfied.