When I first heard the premise of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical, Hamilton, I couldn’t help but laugh. A hip-hop musical about the life of Alexander Hamilton? Come on. What kind of audience does that draw? Apparently, a huge one.
Since the show’s Off-Broadway debut in February of 2015, it has won seven Drama Desk Awards, three Outer Critics Circle Awards, ten Lucille Lortel Awards, and five others from various organizations. With this in mind, it’s no surprise that Hamilton quickly transferred to the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway and opened there in August of 2015.
The 70th Annual Tony Awards will take place on June 5, 2016. Critics and theatre fans alike tend to agree that Hamilton will make an appearance.
Hamilton has lured Jay Z, Beyoncé, Meryl Streep, Dick Cheney, Joe Biden, and Barack Obama in to see it on Broadway because this isn’t your average show. Hamilton creates a space in which we can mesh the past with the present in more ways than one. The show doesn’t just boast contemporary musical styles like rap and hip-hop, it also makes a statement with its casting of a racially diverse set of Founding Fathers.
In conjunction with Hamilton’s comment on race and race politics, the women in the show are also given their very own story to tell, and actually take up just as much time on stage as the men do. Miranda’s show isn’t just making a statement. It’s redefining the way that we think about history.
Miranda himself is the son of political consultant and Puerto Rican immigrant, Luis Miranda, and psychologist, Luz Miranda. Miranda came up with the idea for Hamilton, wrote the show and its score, and stars as the show’s namesake, Alexander Hamilton.
One might think that writing an entire musical about a historical figure would require a long-time obsession with said figure, but that wasn’t the case for Miranda. He coincidentally picked up Ron Chernow’s biography of Hamilton, and the rest is history. In an interview with Charlie Rose, Miranda said that “[he] was just browsing the biography section. It could have been Truman.”
But after Miranda read the biography, there was no chance that his show would be about Truman. He was hooked on Hamilton’s story, completely enthralled with the hurricane and the poems and that infamous duel. There was no going back. Miranda had found his star.
If you aren’t convinced yet, there’s one more thing you should know. The narrator of Hamilton is Aaron Burr. Now, I’m not sure how familiar you are with Alexander Hamilton’s life, but the duel that ended it, a duel against Aaron Burr, is the stuff of legends.
Political rivals for a considerable portion of their lives, Hamilton and Burr just weren’t destined to get along: Even Hamilton wrote a letter before the duel, “it was always going to come to this.”
During this time period, duels were commonplace, although illegal in many states, and it was unusual to die while participating in one. It wasn’t that either men wanted the other dead. The duel was a product of mutual frustration and a desire to take some of that discontent out on the opposition.
I don’t want to give away exactly how Miranda handles this tremendous moment in the show, but I’ll give you this: giant are turntables involved and suited to hold men.
Tickets for Hamilton are sold out well through next summer, but that doesn’t mean you can’t begin to appreciate it right now. The show’s original cast recording is available on iTunes, and Hamilton fans who have seen the show in person often encourage Hamilton hopefuls to listen to the soundtrack before watching the show.
Hamilton has the potential rewrite Broadway history. People really do love a good historical musical. They just need someone to tell them that. The entire story hinges on the interrogation of what it means to be American, and Miranda has repeatedly explained that his goal is to force people to reassess what they’re spending their time on.
Broadway may never be the same after Hamilton, for what Miranda accomplishes with this musical is unprecedented:a audiences are hooked by the end of its very first line.
Hamilton truly is about “who lives, who dies, who tells your story,” just as Miranda intended.