I first heard the music to "Hamilton" in a hotel room in Austin last October. My friends Nellie and Clare, who, at this point, would listen to nothing but the soundtrack, tried to tell me how great the show was.
It wasn't until a few months later that I listened to the music of my own volition for the first time. As much as I hated to admit it to Nellie and Clare, I fell in love. I mean, it's a musical about a Puerto Rican Alexander Hamilton who raps. Now, I can't believe I didn't listen to them sooner.
Last week, "Hamilton" won 11 Tony awards, from best musical to best original score to best performance by an actor in a leading role in a musical. Whether you like the idea of a musical about Alexander Hamilton or not, "Hamilton" is an important musical for several reasons.
The play centers on Hamilton, of course, as well as the Schuyler sisters, Aaron Burr, and several others. The majority of the main characters are all people of color (King George is the only character portrayed by a white actor), allowing non-white actors a space in musical theater that they rarely have in other shows.
In fact, this year was the first that all musical acting awards went to people of color. Three of those awards went to actors from Hamilton.
Additionally, the rap and hip-hop influence, something we saw some of in "In the Heights," another musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda, brings non-white culture into theater, specifically African American culture.
Furthermore, the Schuyler sisters, specifically Angelica and Eliza, are incredible representations of strong women of color.
Not only can Angelica rap just as well as Hamilton—according to an article from The New Yorker, Angelica "makes it clear that she could rap Jefferson under the table if she got the chance"—but she also advocate for women's rights and is written as Hamilton's intellectual equal.
Eliza, Hamilton's wife and the younger Schuyler sister, plays an active role in deciding how the world will remember Hamilton as well as herself. The play closes with Eliza's story about her life after Hamilton's death rather than closing with Hamilton.
This show isn't just a reenactment of some long-dead white guy's story: this play gives opportunities to people of color; this show is feminist; this show is groundbreaking.
Although "Hamilton" didn't quite break any records last night, since "The Producers" won 12 awards in 2001 according to The Times Union, it played a revolutionary role in diversifying Broadway.