We all learned about Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr in high school. If you went to school in the U.S, you probably remember that Hamilton is the guy on the $10 (for now) and that he died in the 1800s after a duel with Aaron Burr. But if you're anything like me, those are the only details you remember from the barrage of Revolutionary War information that was thrown at you in American History class. But there's a revolution in musical theatre led by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the Hamilton of Broadway, leading the army of actors and musicians in "Hamilton" at The Richard Rogers Theater in New York City. Miranda, who wrote the lyrics and book for the production, also stars as Alexander Hamilton. He's been called the Sondheim of his generation, and like Alexander Hamilton, he is not throwing away his shot to show the world this story in an inventive and original way. Unlike the other plays on the "Great White Way," Hamilton beautifully combines musical theater, hip-hop, and rap to create a magnificent soundtrack filled with allusions to both hip-hop artists and other musicals. Here are just a few:
1. "Alexander Hamilton"
The first track on the album tells the story of Hamilton's early life, the struggles of his life in the Caribbean, and how he got to New York City. The repetition of "What's your name?" is allusive to artists like Drake and Snoop Dogg who repeat the phrase in their songs.
2. "Aaron Burr, Sir"
The second track has allusions to both the show's hip-hop roots and its musical influences. When Laurens, Mulligan, and Layfette are introduced, they enter by saying, "What time is it? Showtime!" much the same way that dancers in New York City introduce themselves. The song also has ties to the musical "Camelot." Lafayette's exclamation of, "I'm the Lancelot of the revolutionary set. / Who's the best? C'est moi!" is a reference to the song "C'est Moi" in "Camelot."
3. "Right Hand Man"
While it's probably just a coincidence that this track from "Hamilton" shares the title of another show on Broadway, "Something Rotten!" it does have allusions to other works as well. "I am the model of a modern major general" references the Major-General’s Song from the Gilbert & Sullivan show "The Pirates of Penzance." There are also hip-hop references, especially to the song "Party Up In Here" which is in the musical's playbill as a source.
4. "Say No To This"
This is one of the only musical references that I actually noticed at first when I listened to the album. Miranda references the musical "The Last Five Years" by Jason Robert Brown. When Hamilton is singing about Maria Reynolds, whom he was cheating on his wife Eliza Schuyler with, he sings, "Nobody needs to know," which is the title of a song from "The Last Five Years," and the chords during that particular moment sound hauntingly like the music from the Jason Robert Brown show.
5. "Your Obedient Servant"
This reference is a lot harder to catch. When Leslie Odom, Jr., who plays Aaron Burr, sings the line, "I look back on where I failed," the line musically quotes Javert's "I'm reaching but I fall" line in the song "Stars" from "Les Miserables." I find this interesting because the way that the theaters are situated, the musical about the French Revolution is right next door at the Imperial Theatre. Miranda has said in interviews that he wanted to do something similiar to "Les Miserables" in terms of reoccurring themes for characters. One of the reoccurring themes in this song is the repetition of "The Room Where It Happens," an earlier song whose melody is brought back.
All 46 songs from the musical are available online on Spotify and on NPR's website where they were originally released on Sept. 21, 2015. The show is running through next year on Broadway, and tickets are available for dates ranging from now until next June.