I think we can all agree that "Hamilton: An American Musical" is one of the greatest musicals ever written. Lin Manuel Miranda expresses his creativity and intelligence through the entirety of the production, some of which you may have missed. From the style of music to the staging to the costumes, "Hamilton" is built upon layers and layers of symbolism that you do not recognize from only watching it once. Since the movie's release date, July 3rd, I have watched it over and over about six times now, and I still discover something new each time. Here are six things that you may not have noticed the first time you watched the "Hamilfilm."
1. Double roles are present even in the opening number.
As you may know, four of the characters from Act I switch roles in Act II.
Jasmine Cephas Jones plays Peggy Schyler and Mariah Reynolds.
Daveed Diggs plays Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson.
Anthony Ramos plays John Laurens and Philip Hamilton.
Okieriete Onaodowan plays Hercules Mulligan and James Madison.
However, in the opening number, "Alexander Hamilton," these four characters also play their second role when they sing.
When Diggs and Onaodowan sing, "We fought with him," they can be referring to their Act I characters, Lafayette and Mulligan, and how they fought by Alexander's side in battle. Or they can be referring to their Act II characters, Jefferson and Madison, and how they legitimately argued/fought with Alexander during Cabinet meetings and debates.
When Jones sings, "Me, I loved him," she can either be singing as Peggy, who loved Alexander like a brother, or Mariah, who loved him in a romantic way.
Lastly, when Ramos sings, "Me, I died for him," he can either be referring to John Laurens or Philip Hamilton, because they both died during the production for Alexander.
2. Their hairstyles represent when they are in battle, literally and figuratively.
You may have noticed in Act I of the musical, all of the male characters with long hair (Lafayette, Hamilton, and Laurens) have it tied up. Besides the fact that their hair up and down differentiates their Act I characters from their Act II characters, it can also be because they are fighting in battle and need to keep their hair out of their way.
In Act II, these men let their hair down to symbolize they are done fighting, however, Eliza and Angelica now have their hair tied up to symbolize their own internal battles they are facing with the Mariah Reynolds situation.
3. Burr foreshadows Hamilton's death.
Would it even be a musical if there wasn't any foreshadowing?
Throughout the musical, there are lots of examples of foreshadowing, but one big moment happens to be at the end of the number, "The Room Where It Happens." This is Aaron's Burr's biggest song in the whole musical, and it is about him coming to his senses of wanting to chase what he wants. At the end of the song, he says, "Click, Boom." This was the foreshadowing of him pulling the trigger on Hamilton later on.
Even at the very beginning of the musical in the song, "Aaron Burr," Burr warns Hamilton with the line, "Fools who run their mouth off wind up dead." In the next song, "My Shot," he also states, "If you talk, you're gonna get shot."
4. Debose is "The Bullet," an omen of death throughout the musical.
Ariana Debose, a member of the OBC ensemble, plays an omen of death throughout the musical. Her character, known as "The Bullet," is one that is often overlooked by first-time watchers.
Other than the cousin that commits suicide in the opening number, she is the first one to die in the musical after King George's Number, "You'll Be Back." She is killed for suspected espionage (spying). After that, almost every time she appears, she brings bad luck to the character she interacts with.
We first see her as the bullet at the beginning of the song, "Stay Alive," where she catches a bullet and causes it to barely miss Hamilton's head.
In the number, "Yorktown: The World Turned Upside Down," she helps John Laurens kill a member from a British Troop. Shortly after the song "Dear Theodosia," we learn that John Laurens died in South Carolina during the war.
Later on, in "Blow Us All Away," she tells Philip Hamilton where to find George Eacker. He is shot and killed in the duel.
Lastly, in "The World Was Wide Enough," Debose catches Aaron Burr's bullet to Hamilton and slowly moves across the stage. She never touches him but she represents time slowing down and Hamilton being able to physically see death coming towards his way in his soliloquy.
"I see it coming do I run or do I let it be?"
5. The turntables symbolize passing, rewinding, and stopping time.
One of the things that makes Hamilton so original is its set, particularly the use of rotating turntables on the stage. You may have thought that they are cool and they allow the choreography to be unique and different, however, they also serve a deeper purpose for the show, as well.
In some of the numbers, when the turntables move, there is a reference to time passing, rewinding, or stopping. The most prominent uses of the turntables are in the songs "Helpless" and "Satisfied."
Throughout the song "Helpless," the tables rotate counterclockwise which symbolizes time passing. You can identify this in the lyrics, "One week later," and see the time passing from the winter's ball to the day Alexander and Eliza get married.
In the next song, "Satisfied," Angelica sings about the time when she first saw Alexander at the winter's ball. In the number, the song says "rewind" and the turntables rotate the opposite direction (clockwise) at this moment. Towards the end of the song, when Angelica comes back to reality with herself, the turntables go counterclockwise again, to show the time passing again and meeting up with the current moment at the wedding.
Along with time symbolism, the turntables make the set more versatile and can show different scenes or effects without having to actually change the stage. For example, in the song "Hurricane," the tables spin in a way that resembles a hurricane while Hamilton is standing in the middle (the eye). The cast members holding up objects that represent a hurricane is one of the most awing moments in the musical.
6. Eliza's gasp has various meanings.
The very last moment of the musical is Eliza being awestruck by something. In a WIRED interview with the Original Broadway Cast (OBC), Lin Manuel Miranda states that the meaning behind the gasp is up for interpretation and doesn't have a set-in-stone meaning. He adds that each Eliza that performs that moment can mean whatever they want it to be.
For example, I had the pleasure of seeing "Hamilton" live in Fort Myers, Florida. At the end of the show, the Eliza that I saw perform decided to interpret her gasp as going to heaven. It was more of an inhaled gasp, meaning her last breath, and she reached out to the audience, inferring she was leaving Earth.
When I saw the "Hamilfilm," I was very confused as to why Phillipa Soo's (Original Eliza) gasp elicited more of a shocked emotion. After more research, I found that she personally interpreted that last moment of the musical as her crossing some form of time to physically see the audience. At that moment, she realizes her story was told by Lin Manuel Miranda.
I will forever cry at that moment now.
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