On Sunday, June 12, the 70th annual Tony awards took place to honor the best in Broadway theater. One show received all the accolades with a record-breaking 16 nominations: Hamilton. Hamilton, a 21st-century musical rendition of founding father Alexander Hamilton’s life story has taken Broadway by storm over the past year. The show has already won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama and a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album, and on Sunday, it raked in 11 Tony wins, including the award for Best Musical.
How to account for Hamilton’s rise to the top? For those of you unfamiliar with this show, here is a list of 17.76 reasons why Hamilton is the greatest musical ever to grace the stages of Broadway.
1. It’s the best history lesson ever.
Alexander Hamilton is commonly known as the first Secretary of the Treasury of the United States, but for many their knowledge of his legacy ends there. What most people don’t know is that this founding father started out as a penniless orphan immigrant who worked his way to prominence during the American Revolution and beyond. The musical Hamilton does justice to his life’s story, presenting his accomplishments and shortcomings in such an enjoyable way that you’ll hardly realize you’re receiving a history lesson. That was a central goal of the musical: to make history as relatable as possible. Mission accomplished.
2. Hamilton has an absolutely amazing soundtrack.
With a unique blend of rap, hip-hop, R&B, gospel and pop show tunes, Hamilton’s soundtrack explores new creative territory where no other Broadway musical has dared to go. The show’s creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda (who also stars as Alexander Hamilton himself,) believed that modern music genres like hip-hop and rap more accurately embodied the turmoil and emotion of the Revolutionary generation than staunch classical tunes. The result is a beautiful and addictive soundtrack that encompasses the whole range of emotions present throughout Hamilton’s life. If you haven’t heard the soundtrack before, please do yourself a favor and listen to it here.
3. It showcases modern diversity.
If you observe the cast of Hamilton, you’ll notice something quite different from most Broadway musicals: the cast is amazingly diverse. The principal roles are played by Hispanic and African-American performers because creator Lin-Manuel Miranda wanted the musical to be “a story about America then, told by America now.” So even though Hamilton reenacts the story of long-dead white men, the show is a reflection of the diverse society we now live in. How’s that for ground-breaking artistic material?
4. It will have you feeling some type of way.
Looking for romance? Drama? Action? Death? Hamilton has it all! The tumultuous life of Alexander Hamilton can be experienced in real-time; you too will feel the awkwardness of Hamilton’s first encounter with his arch nemesis Aaron Burr, the pride of the American victory in the Revolution, the uncertainty of building a new nation, the despair of Hamilton’s wife when she learns of his affair, and so much more. Whether you listen to the soundtrack or see the musical in person, Hamilton is an emotional roller coaster that will have you laughing and crying (sometimes simultaneously.)
5. There are kick-ass rap battles.
Who doesn’t love a good rap battle? How about a rap battle between Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton? Hamilton is resplendent with duels, both physical and musical, that will have you on the edge of your seat. Cabinet meetings that formerly seemed rigid and stale in history books assume a new level of entertainment with a variety of hurled insults and fresh rhymes. Check out one of the cabinet meeting rap battles here.
6. Lin-Manuel Miranda is worthy of praise.
Let’s just take a moment to appreciate the artistic genius himself, Lin-Manuel Miranda. He came up with the idea to create Hamilton after reading a biography on the founding father. From that one idea sprung a book, an original score and a screenplay that morphed into Hamilton. We owe all of our happiness to Miranda, a true reincarnation of Alexander Hamilton. Unfortunately, he will be leaving the show in July to pursue other projects, but his legacy, like Hamilton’s, will endure. I also highly recommend following Lin-Manuel on twitter.
7. One word: Democracy
From the diversity of the cast to the storyline of the musical, everything in Hamilton screams democracy. Although some argue that Hamilton was an aristocrat, he was above all a proponent of the Constitution and the basic democratic principles of America. His story of overcoming poverty and abandonment in the Caribbean and becoming an eminent leader in American history is inspiring and a testimony to the American dream.
8. Women are included!
Hamilton is sure to showcase the stories of the women as part of the narrative of Alexander Hamilton’s life. Hamilton’s wife Elizabeth Schuyler (played by Phillipa Soo,) sister-in-law Angelica Schuyler (played by Renee Elise Goldsberry) and mistress Maria Reynolds (played by Jasmine Cephas Jones) all feature prominently in the musical. From Angelica’s laments that she “will never be satisfied” to Elizabeth’s emotional distress about Hamilton’s affair, these strong female characters show that they, too, were among the most prevalent forces in Alexander’s life. A sassy Angelica even sings “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men all created equal; and when I meet Thomas Jefferson, I'mma compel him to include women in the sequel!” Female power at its finest.
9. The cast of Hamilton performed at the White House.
The cast of Hamilton was invited to perform at the White House for the Obama family and slew of lucky students from Washington DC. How many other Broadway casts can say they performed for the presidential family at the White House? And Lin-Manuel Miranda spear-headed a freestyle with President Obama—yet another reason to love Miranda.
10. The show is available to low-income students.
The Rockefeller Foundation began a program in April that allows students from low-income high schools in the New York area to see Hamilton for only $10 apiece (a dramatically lower price than the $1000+ average ticket price.) Through this program, 20,000 students will be able to see the musical and interact with the cast in historically-based rap battles and artistic activities. Hamilton is staying true to its commitment to inclusion by inviting so many socially and economically diverse young people to see the performance.
11. New York serves as the historical and modern backdrop.
Hamilton immigrated to New York City and spent the majority of his political career there. It’s only appropriate that the musical premiered in Hamilton’s adopted hometown, a place of magnetic energy where orphan immigrants can transform their lives and the country. As the Hamilton ensemble chants, “In New York you can be a new man!”
12. The show is narrated by Aaron Burr.
Aaron Burr, Hamilton’s lifelong political foe and eventual killer is the narrator of the show. His character serves as a perfect foil to Hamilton, and the tension between the two builds throughout the show, culminating in a deadly duel. Burr, who is played by Leslie Odom Jr., gives the audience a unique perspective on Hamilton’s life, adding depth and intrigue to the plot.
13. There is tragedy and misfortune.
Isn’t there a small part in all of us that gets a thrill out of witnessing fictional setups of death and destruction? Law & Order and Criminal Minds fans, I’m talking to you. You’ll get your fair share of devastation in Hamilton, from the shooting of Hamilton’s son to the fatal duel between Hamilton and Aaron Burr. It’s heart-breaking yet fascinating to see this founding father’s tragic life play out on stage.
14. Hamilton is non-stop.
Even listening to the soundtrack, one can sense the pulsating energy emanating from the actors. The rapid-fire exchanges between characters, mix of 18th and 21st century language and blend of musical styles all contribute to the dynamism of Hamilton. If there is one show that will compel millennial audiences to flock to Broadway, this is it.
15. There’s a book.
Yes, there is a book. And it is beautiful and thorough and offers a unique behind-the-scenes look at the making of the musical. For those of us who can’t afford to spend our college tuition on Hamilton tickets, this book is the next-best thing. I would highly advise reading it while listening to the soundtrack.
16. There’s going to be a documentary.
That’s right, Miranda just announced that there will be a documentary entitled Hamilton’s America premiering on PBS on October 17. So once you inevitably fall in love with Hamilton, you can grow even more obsessed by watching the documentary.
17. There will also be a Hamilton mixtape.
It will be the most fire mixtape of the 21st century, I can guarantee it. (Also, how many Broadway musicals get their own mixtape? None, besides Hamilton.)
There you have it, solid evidence that Hamilton is truly the greatest musical of this generation and of this millennium. All hail the ten-dollar-founding-father-without-a-father.