" Hamilton" has taken Broadway by storm! Since it's off-broadway run, "Hamilton" has been a hit. It moved to broadway in less than a year, and has most recently performed at the Grammy Awards. Tickets are even sold out for the foreseeable future! For those who have no idea what I'm talking about, here's a brief synopsis:
"From bastard orphan to Washington's right hand man, rebel to war hero, loving husband caught in the country's first sex scandal to Treasury head who made an untrusting world believe in the American economy, HAMILTON is an exploration of a political mastermind. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Eliza Hamilton, and lifelong Hamilton friend and foe, Aaron Burr, all attend this revolutionary tale of America’s fiery past told through the sounds of the ever-changing nation we’ve become."
Here are some of the reasons why Hamilton is the hit it is today.
1. The music is brilliant!
Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote and composed the book, lyrics and music of Hamilton. Within this one score, he has managed to combine a plethora of different styles of music into a coherent musical. Miranda has also taken one of America's founding fathers and turned his life into a hip-hop musical. On top of the revolutionary (pardon my pun) use of music and composition, the lyrics themselves are amazing. The lyrics are pivotal to this musical. With some musicals, the score drives the show--with Hamilton, it's the lyrics. As much of the show's songs are done as a rap, it's the lyrics that explain the characters. Miranda's lyrics perfectly articulate what the character are saying, their histories, and their motives. The rap/hip-hop style of this musical is something Miranda has said to have popped out as the only way this could have been done, as rap/hip-hop contains more words per measure opposed to any other music form. He has created a "Destiny's Child" style group for the Schuyler Sisters, a rap battle between Hamilton and Jefferson, and a 60's British pop song for King George. If you haven't heard the soundtrack, I highly recommend listening to it, as it is the closest thing we have to experiencing the show at the moment.
2. It's teaching us history!
Hamilton is a new way of presenting history. History can sometimes not be the most exciting subject to learn. Hamilton is based on the life of Alexander Hamilton, but the narrator of the musical is Aaron Burr, the man who ultimately shoots Hamilton in a duel. Lin-Manuel Miranda based this musical on the biography "Alexander Hamilton" by Ron Chernow, who also serves as the show's history consultant. Due to this fact, the show is historically accurate. More importantly, it's sparking children's interest in history. I remember studying about Hamilton during AP U.S. History, but this show puts him in a new light. Along with teaching us about Alexander Hamilton himself, we also are given a look into the other people in his story--including his wife Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, who has done incredible things in her life--many of which are still here today. It also gives us a look at the other historical figures at this time--Washington, Jefferson, King George III, and Aaron Burr to name a few.
3. The Grammy's.
On February 15th, Hamilton took the stage and performed the song "Alexander Hamilton" at the Grammy's, broadcasting from their stage in the Richard Rodgers Theatre in NY. On top of performing at the Grammy's, Hamilton won a Grammy for Best Musical Theatre Album. And to top it all off, Miranda rapped his acceptance speech (which in my opinion was awesome).
4. The cast is phenomenal
Lead by Lin-Manuel Miranda himself, the cast is filled with unbelievably talented people. Apart from the pure talent that the cast has, it's a racially diverse cast. With the majority of the cast being Latino and Black, it is as Miranda has said: "This is the story of America then, told by America now. It looks like America now." The cast includes; Leslie Odem Jr, as Aaron Burr, Daveed Diggs as Lafayette and Jefferson, Phillipa Soo as Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, Jonathan Groff as King George III, Renée Elise Goldsberry as Angelica Schuyler, Jasmine Cephas Jones as Peggy Schuyler, and Maria Reynolds and many more talented people.
5. Everybody loves it
Not only are the people falling in love with this show, but so are the critics.
HAMILTON IS BREWING UP A REVOLUTION.THIS IS A SHOW THAT AIMS IMPOSSIBLY HIGH AND HITS ITS TARGET. IT'S PROBABLY NOT POSSIBLE TO TOP THE ADRENALINE RUSH.”-BEN BRANTLEY, THE NEW YORK TIMES
Due to the shows modern nature, everyone from kids to adults are gravitating to this show. There's something in it for everyone.
To read Theatre Critic, Ben Brantley of the New York Times, full review there is a link here.
6. The themes.
During it's run at the Public Theatre, Hamilton's Poster looked something like this:
A major theme throughout the show is "Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story." Having only seen clips online and listening to the soundtrack, it is evident that a large part of this show is legacies. This line also being the show's final song reinforces the importance to legacy.
Hamilton himself says, “hey, yo, I’m just like my country, I’m young, scrappy and hungry, and I am not throwing away my shot,” throughout the show. This is a show about the creation of this nation, as well as the story of a man's life.
Eliza has a few themes that reoccur throughout the music as well:
Look around, look around at how
Lucky we are to be alive right now!
This reoccurs in many of the songs, showing that we have to enjoy life in the moment. Eliza also frequently sing about being a part of a narrative:
"Oh, let me be a part of the narrative
In the story they will write someday
Let this moment be the first chapter:
Where you decide to stay"- That Would Be Enough
"I’m erasing myself from the narrative
Let future historians wonder how Eliza
Reacted when you broke her heart
You have torn it all apart"- Burn
"I put myself back in the narrative
I stop wasting time on tears
I live another fifty years
It’s not enough "- Who Lives, Who Dies Who Tells Your Story
With this ongoing theme, the melody of the single line stays the same. What changes is the lines proceeding: it follows both the story and the personal journey that Eliza makes, herself.
7. It humbly praises Hamilton.
This show subtly puts Alexander Hamilton on a pedestal. What I mean by this is it praises the work Hamilton did for the country, but still shows that he had flaws. Hamilton has helped create the country that we have today. He created the national bank, and became the first Secretary of the Treasury. But he also had an affair, published his affair, and had many duels--which eventually literally killed him. The musical teaches us that there is more to Hamilton than what's written in the textbooks, and more importantly, it humanizes the Founding Fathers.
8. It modernizes history.
Along with teaching us about what was happening at the start of our country, and Alexander Hamilton's life, the hip-hop/R&B styled score brings a modern twist to history. Many people don't find musical theatre to be their cup of tea. Hamilton is beginning to turn the tides on this because it is bringing a very popular style of music into the world of musical theatre. Having this show performed in rap and R&B style makes kids pay more attention. It's something that interests them. Hamilton debuted at #1 on the Billboard Rap chart and #12 on the Billboards Top 200 chart in October 2015. A musical theatre album has never crossed onto the Rap chart, for the obvious reason that musicals and rap don't often collide, and a musical theatre album hasn't placed so high on the Top 200 chart since The Book of Mormon placed at #3 in 2011.
9. It's a love story.
Hamilton is as much a love story as it is anything else. It shows the love of Eliza and Alexander.
Eliza, being Alexander Hamiltons wife, sings in "Helpless" about her love and wedding to Hamilton. In "That Would Be Enough," Eliza tells Alexander she's pregnant, along with saying that him being poor isn't important. (Remember this is a time when a man's wealth meant a lot more, and that Eliza was marrying beneath her). During "Burn," she's upset with his release of the affair with Maria Reynolds, and with that the allowance of the world into their personal life. Then in "Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story," Eliza states: "I can't wait to see you again," saying that above it all, she has always loved Alexander.
10. It's also a Love Triangle.
Angelica falls for Hamilton, too. However, she is Eliza's sister, and she set them up. As a counter to "Helpless," "Satisfied" gives Angelica's view on the meeting:
"I know my sister like I know my own mind
You will never find anyone as trusting or as kindIf I tell her that I love him she'd be silently resigned
He’d be minShe would say, “I’m fine”
She’d be lying
But when I fantasize at night
It’s Alexander’s eyes
As I romanticize what mightHave been if I hadn’t sized him
Up so quickly
At least my dear Eliza’s his wife;
At least I keep his eyes in my life…"- Satisfied
She knows that she could have had Alexander if she wanted to, but she knew she couldn't do that to her sister. This love continues on in "Take A Break."
In a letter I received from you two weeks ago
I noticed a comma in the middle of a phrase
It changed the meaning. Did you intend this?
One stroke and you’ve consumed my waking days
“My dearest Angelica”
With a comma after “dearest.” You’ve written
“My dearest, Angelica.”- Take A Break
11. The #Ham4Ham Shows
Lotteries for Broadway shows are pretty popular. However, I have never heard of a lottery run the way Hamilton's lottery was run. (If you don't know what a Lottery is for a Broadway show, let me explain: it is a process where people go outside the theatre a set amount of hours before the show to try to get cheap tickets, much like a rush policy). Up until recently, the Lottery for Hamilton was done live in person, and as a way to entertain and thank the fans who were participating, Lin-Manuel Miranda often put on a mini show outside the theatre. These "shows" usually had guests or members of the company sing something. Recently, the Lottery has become digital. While it crashed the first day, they have fixed the bugs and it is back up and running. However the tradition of pre-lottery entertainment is still in effect, only now they are YouTube videos.
Hamilton is a revolutionary show about a pretty important guy in history that we don't know much about. This musical has so many aspects that make it a phenomenal show that's worth watching. However, since the vast majority of us aren't President, a major celebrity, or have that much money to buy a ticket, I guess we'll just have to wait. In the meantime, we have the soundtrack to listen to, the Grammy clip to watch, and the #Ham4Ham lottery to give us hope--plus the National Tour they have planned for 2017.