The Beginning of a Revolution
(Picture from this site)
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last year, you’ve probably at least heard of the hit musical, Hamilton. Whether that’s through a musical-obsessed friend, or you managed to catch their performance on the Grammy’s this year, Hamilton has been in the national spotlight for quite a while, and it’s only gaining in popularity as time goes on.
(You may be wondering why on earth this belongs on this website. Well, have I got some exciting news! I’m allowed to write anything I want. Ha.)
Hamilton, as you may have guessed, is a cradle-to-death biography of the infamous Alexander Hamilton, that one old white dude that started all the banks like 250 years ago. I know, I know, not someone you normally imagine when you think of main characters in a Broadway musical. But bear with me- Alexander Hamilton is so much more than the face of the ten dollar bill.
Hamilton is unlike any show currently on Broadway, in that it is not a “traditional” musical. Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t still fabulous power ballads, gripping romances, and complex dance breaks- those components are all still there. However, rather than the traditional Broadway sound we’ve come to know and love, Hamilton relies heavily on hip-hop, rap, and R & B elements of music to tell the story. And, surprisingly to many, it works.
But here’s the thing. You can’t just listen to the album on shuffle and play it as background noise. I, myself, found it hard to get into the first time around, because it’s so different from everything else I’ve heard. It’s a work of art that, really, you need to listen to at 2 am, when nothing else can distract you. It requires so much intense focus, with raps that get as fast as 6.3 words a second, that I promise you won’t get bored.
Okay, okay, so I’m telling you my opinion. Why should you listen to some random girl on the internet who hasn’t seen the show herself? What about this is so compelling that you should actually go out and listen? Well, chances are, if you’ve read this far, you’re at least a little intrigued by this crazy-sounding musical. I mean, a rap musical about some dude we don’t remember much about?
Hamilton is, at it’s very core, revolutionary. The cast is almost completely people of color, and ensemble members, regardless of gender, play both male and female roles. This in and of itself is wildly different from anything else we’ve ever seen before. Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of the show and Alexander Hamilton himself (with alternate, Javier Muñoz), has made it very clear that this is intentional. In fact, he’s even mentioned that he is completely in support of genderless casting- there have been rumors that we’ll soon see a female Burr and Washington!
Every song on the album, which you can buy here or listen to on Spotify, is a work of art on it’s own. Throughout the show, there are musical motifs that create a continuity within the show that you rarely see- more often than not, themes repeated in musicals end at reprises. In Hamilton, however, each character has a distinct theme that they carry with them through the entire musical, and these motifs are part of what make the songs so very powerful.
I could wax poetic about this show for hours, but, in the spirit of the show, I’ll just give you ten things you need to know:
- It took Lin Manuel Miranda 7 years to write this show; he performed the opening song, ‘Alexander Hamilton’ at the 2009 White House Poetry Jam.
- The show contains 47 songs, 46 of which are on the cast recording; the song missing on the soundtrack is ‘Tomorrow There’ll Be More Of Us’, sung by John Laurens.
- There are many characters that are duel (see what I did there?) casted; Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson (Daveed Diggs), John Laurens/Philip Hamilton (Anthony Ramos), Maria Reynolds/Peggy Schuyler (Jasmine Cephas Jones), and Hercules Mulligan/James Madison (Okieriete Onaodowan).
- Jonathan Groff, who voiced Kristoff in Frozen, plays King George III; he is also the only white member of the cast.
- The show is sold out on Broadway for the next 2 years; luckily, in 2017, there will be a national tour.
- The cast album reached #1 on the Billboard Rap chart, and #12 on the Billboard Top 200.
- The musical is based on Ron Chernow’s biography of Hamilton’s life, which you can buy here. Miranda read the book while on vacation from his Broadway musical, In the Heights, and after some brief research, began working on The Hamilton Mixtape, which would eventually become the musical, Hamilton.
- Before the online lottery, which enables some lucky fans to purchase front-row seats for $10, Miranda posts a #Ham4Ham video, in which special guests and stars will perform a brief piece. Some cool examples: Phillipa Soo (Eliza Hamilton) sings a Copland aria, Lin Manuel Miranda performing as the barricade crier in Les Misérablés, and Lea Salonga performing ‘A Whole New World’ with some of the cast. Watch all of the #Ham4Hams here!
- ‘Guns and Ships’ contains the fastest rap in the show, topping at 6.3 words a second. It is performed by Daveed Diggs as the Marquis de Lafayette.
- Hamilton is a show that’s changed lives. Not only is the music and acting just incredible- the content gets people involved and excited about U.S. History. Even if musicals and/or history aren’t your thing, you’ll not want to miss out on this show.
Hamilton performs on the Richard Rodgers Theater in New York City. If, for some reason, you have between $400 and $2000 lying around for a resale ticket, you can buy them here. Be careful not to buy tickets from any other seller- many people have been ripped off by buying resale tickets from unaffiliated sources. If you don’t have that kind of money, and are able to make it to New York, good luck with the lotto!