Where do I even start with this musical?
I was excited about Hamilton (so excited that I was willing to shell out far more money than I was comfortable ever spending… via StubHub) and knew that this was probably the one day I’d be in New York under leisurely circumstances for quite a while. Call it a #yolo moment, or a #treatyoself moment, or whatever comforting phrase justifies spending that much on any single non-tangible thing. (Otherwise, that’s an expensive-ass Playbill…)
I came in having heard maybe half of one song (“My Shot”), and my overall grasp of American history, especially with regard to the American Revolutionary War, wasn’t exactly stellar. All I knew was that Hamilton had an incredible mixed minority cast, included rap & hip-hop, and most obviously, was about Alexander Hamilton. But it’s fair to say I came into Richard Rodgers theater more or less “cold.”
The verdict? It was thrilling. It was inspiring. It was American.
From the opening number, “Alexander Hamilton,” the whole audience was captivated. As soon as Javier Muñoz uttered his first line, the crowd was uncontainable. (By the way, if you’re bummed that you now see the musical with him as Alexander Hamilton instead of Lin Manuel Miranda… think again, because the dude’s worthy of the first couple, Jay-Z & Beyonce AND the actual First Couple, the Obama’s.)
You don’t have to like rap music or hip-hop to fall in love with Hamilton. It shines a light on a musical genre that has been stereotyped to oblivion. Every song is catchy and brilliant on its own, but when heard as a comprehensive collection, the songs are clearly interwoven threads of spectacular tapestry. I mean, there’s nothing to spoil since Alexander Hamilton’s biography has been written loads of times, but to spare you the emotional train-wreck, I’ll refrain from revealing the ending. However, the songs propel a compelling and moving story that takes you through the lives of Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr Jr., featuring Marquis du Lafayette, John Laurens, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington. The memories of these long-deceased founding fathers will certainly move you to tears.
I’m going to be brutally honest: Hamilton has an extremely simple stage, and nothing changes on the stage between Act I and II except maybe a staircase or two moves, and sometimes there are tables or chairs in the middle of the stage. It’s plain as heck… but far from boring. The true magic is magnificently crafted by incredible acting, a chorus of beautiful voices, stunning choreography, and awesome stage lighting (seriously, that dude doesn’t get enough credit… I wanted to high five him on the way out). Somehow, despite the limited set, the show is able to not just demonstrate the passage of time, but to play with and modify that perception of that time to provide “rewinds” and “slow-mo’s” that not only add theatrical value, but enhance the deep meaning of the story. And, of course, the lyrical genius of Lin-Manuel Miranda brings it all together.
If you told me two years ago that I would be excited about a musical that is 100% focused on politics, I would laugh in your face and say you’d have to pay me. I now eat those hypothetical words, because… by God, they’ve done it, and I have happily paid them. I have listened to the original cast soundtrack nearly every single day in the past 12 days since I’ve seen this musical. Some days, I listen to the album twice in a day. As someone who gets sick of music easily, this is unheard of. I have to admit… I have become absolutely spellbound by this musical, to the point of absurdity.
So… now that I’ve written this article that has forced me to look up synonyms for “magnificent,” “exciting,” and “stunning,” it’s obviously clear that the musical is thrilling. But I haven’t even touched why it’s inspiring and American. How can a musical even claim that it’s an “American” musical? How can it truly say that above all other Broadway smash hits?
Well, it can.
In short, Hamilton is a story about a man, pushed to the brink of poverty and surrounded by death, who immigrates to the United States to pursue a life greater than himself. It is a story of the American dream, personified through the journey of that ambitious man as he discovers what it truly means to have & leave behind a legacy. It is a story of the convictions of our founding fathers (told by a group of minority Americans) and an exploration of what it means to be (and become) an American.
My score? A++ (Oh? That’s not a score? Okay, fine, A+ it is then.)
As an aside, my favorite songs from the whole album are “The World Was Wide Enough” (because of the incredible spoken word) and “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story”
Featured Image from www.hamiltonbroadway.com.