HAMILTON: What is the Fuss All About?
Caveat: This article contains spoilers, so beware if you've not watched the show:-)
I finally got to see Hamilton, which re-tells the life of the American founding father, Alexander Hamilton through popular music and hip-hop. I'm an immigrant, so I didn't grow up learning American history in middle school, like my kids did; I thought I could skip the history lesson and skip Hamilton. But, there were so many rave reviews of the musical, that I finally succumbed, bought the pricey tickets and went to watch it at San Francisco's Orpheum theater. And boy, am I glad I did!
So what's the story behind a show that's become a Broadway must-see with no marquee names and no special effects? Here are five reasons why Hamilton is a big deal.
1. IT'S A SMASH
Hamilton is a Broadway musical par excellence. I've seen many Broadway musicals, including, The Book of The Mormon, Wicked, The Lion King, The Jersey Boys, Phantom of the Opera, to name a few, but Hamilton is the most tightly choreographed show of all with a breathtaking non-stop pace. The whole script is sung in rap at lightning speed and is highly intelligible, without spoken dialogue. They play every night and every show (it's a touring company) like opening night, animated and energized. When you watch them move, sing, dance and emote flawlessly, you'll be snapping your fingers too.
2. IT'S THEMES ARE UNIVERSAL
Hamilton may be based on historical facts but how Mr. Miranda threads them together through universal themes is what gives Hamilton it's lasting resonance. Hamilton growing up as an orphan and clawing his way upwards in the world; Hamilton scoring a beautiful and influential wife ("I wrote Eliza love letters until she fell); Hamilton having a torrid affair which cost him his career and wife; Hamilton and Eliza's grief at losing their son in a deadly duel; Hamilton embracing what he saw as a honorable death—these are themes that all adults can relate to.
Mr. Miranda himself attested to that in a 2012 interview. His interest in Hamilton, he said, was sparked when he wrote a paper in high school about the 1804 duel between Hamilton and Vice-President Burr, which reminded him of old-school rap rivalries.
"It's a hip-hop story," he said, "It's Tupac."
3. THE MUSIC IS MIND-BLOWING
Hamilton is a crazy mix of hip-hop, R&B, good ol' Broadway. . .and it actually works! Hamilton is a sing-through show and very soon, you get a sense of a story unfolding on an enormous scale. I can bet you that once you see the show, you will be searching the show's winning numbers (music available on Spotify and iTunes) and listening to them again, and again.
4. IT'S A HISTORY LESSON
The show mostly sticks to the real story of Alexander Hamilton with some minor modifications for dramatic purposes. That means you're actually learning about American history. Thanks to Hamilton, you will never forget that Hamilton was George Washington's right-hand man, the nation's first Secretary of the Treasury and the co-author (with James Madison) of the Federalist papers. Like my niece said, "If my history teacher had been so cool, I would have aced history in school."
Hamilton employs a cast of mostly non-white actors to tell the story of the founding of America in a way that looks very different from conventional history textbooks.
Our cast looks like America looks now, and that’s certainly intentional,” Mr. Miranda, said earlier this year. “It’s a way of pulling you into the story and allowing you to leave whatever cultural baggage you have about the founding fathers at the door.”
Bravissimo, Lin-Manuel Miranda! Hamilton is a Broadway game-changer and rightly so:-)