Why you should care about Hamilton, The Musical
February 16, 2016
Anyone watch the Grammys last night? I didn’t get to watch in real time but my heart thrilled knowing it was happening – our beloved Hamilton was playing the Grammys! #Gram4Ham – We Won!
Then I kicked rocks because their performance reached an even wider audience, thus making it 10,000 times harder to get tickets. And I’m about to do my own plug to make it that much harder for me to get that #Hamiltunes #Ham4Ham love. Because I’m selfless like that.
If you’re a money nerd, this is for you.
If you know the hustle and grind, this is for you.
you’re an immigrant’s kid relate to the immigrant experience, this is for you.
If you love the spirit of freedom and independence, this is for you.
If you just plain love catchy music, this is absolutely for you.
How does a bastard, orphan son of a whore
And a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean
By providence, impoverished, in squalor, grow up to be a hero and a scholar?
The 10 dollar
Founding father without a father
Got a lot farther by working a lot harder,
by being a lot smarter
By being a self-starter
He’s a genius!
I’ve said it before, I think Hamilton is sensational. It’s not just clever, it’s smart. It’s funny without sacrificing gravitas; it’s culturally present; it’s engaging and, though there is obviously some creative license taken, it’s American history on the stage.
I’ll call Lin-Manuel Miranda the genius that he is in my tone-deaf world where my own baby reacted to lullabies with a “ehhh maybe don’t sing me to sleep momma” face. Let’s just not forget all the craftsmanship that went into bringing Alexander Hamilton to life.
Hamilton was an immigrant (“…bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman…”) with vision, ambition, drive. He served as Washington’s military aide, then became our first Secretary of the Treasury, facing down detractors in Washington’s Cabinet to create a strong centralized banking system, making enemies as fast as he made friends. He fought for the US Mint, and he made the repayment of the national debt his first priority. (That’s for us money nerds.)
Thomas. That was a real nice declaration
Welcome to the present, we’re running a real nation
Would you like to join us, or stay mellow
Doin’ whatever the hell it is you do in Monticello?
If we assume the debts, the union gets
A new line of credit, a financial diuretic
How do you not get it? If we’re aggressive and competitive
The union gets a boost. You’d rather give it a sedative?
– Cabinet Battle #1
For the hustlers and the grinders, those who work their butts off, not for fame or glory but to get the job DONE? Hamilton was your guy.
Alexander joins forces with James Madison and John Jay to write a series of essays defending the new United States Constitution, entitled The Federalist Papers. The plan was to write a total of twenty-five essays, the work divided evenly among the three men. In the end, they wrote eighty-five essays, in the span of six months. John Jay got sick after writing five. James Madison wrote twenty-nine. Hamilton wrote the other fifty-one!
Man, the man was – NONSTOP.
Alexander Hamilton was far from perfect and Lin-Manuel’s portrayal is honest, highlighting his flaws alongside his gifts. Arrogant, reckless, idealistic, visionary? He was all those things.
But as much as I adore the music, the lyrics, the beats, the way my kid will stand up to clap, laugh, and dance to it, my heart is most drawn to how this all happened. There’s something magical about how unmagical this was.
Miranda, having written the Tony-winning musical In the Heights, picked up the 600+ page Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow for some light vacation reading. Some 50 pages into the book, he was incredibly excited by the notion that this would make a great musical, set to hip-hop lyrics. Miranda couldn’t believe this wasn’t already a musical! Granted, this was his day job but I think it takes a rare mind to see a musical in a several hundred page biography.
Ron Chernow, the original biographer himself, had no idea what Miranda was talking about at first but got on board and later served as historical consultant to the show.
This didn’t happen in a vacuum, mind. Miranda’s been in the business, he’s been part of the comedy/improv rap troupe Freestyle Love Supreme for years, and he worked on this while he was also still working on In the Heights.
I repeat: writing Hamilton was his side hustle while performing in the Tony-winning musical that he wrote.
Lin-Manuel Miranda and persistence
He was hooked in 2008 and by 2009, he was testing his audience, rapping out what would become the first song of the whole musical at the White House, no less.
Compare, if you will, the differences between his early draft here, and the eventual final opening number.
The show opened at The Public Theatre in February 2015 and was such a resounding hit that the run was extended, then extended again. By July 2015, it opened in the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway and it’s apparently a nearly impossible ticket to get. That’s only the start.
In 2017, they’ll be playing in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles. There’s already a cast recording, and there’s talk of an original cast movie. (Please make it so!)
Sidebar: I REALLY want to see the original New York cast. I’ve fallen head over heels for them, between their Ham4Ham shows for the Hamilton ticket lottery, their work together as a diverse cast that feels much more like the America I know, and truly dear to my heart, their good work in the community.
Immigrants, we get the job done!
Miranda’s a veteran in the business but his excitement at the success and opportunities are heartwarming for a fellow hard-working immigrant’s kid. I don’t need to know critical acclaim to remember feeling the wonder of success.
I’m smitten and inspiration-struck when the words and the music that he wrote are brought to life by the incredible talent of men and women of the Hamilton cast.
He translated the life and times from Revolutionary War-era America in a way that echoes in everyday life and I am earwormed forever.
I hear the Hamiltons comforting their dying son, Philip, when I soothe my sick child, “I know, I know.”
I hear Angelica Schuyler when confronted with sexism still alive and well today:
“’We hold these truths to be self-evident
That all men are created equal’
And when I meet Thomas Jefferson
I’m ‘a compel him to include women in the sequel!
– The Schuyler Sisters”
Dear Theodosia rips my heart out, voicing my worries, fears, and hopes for an infant LB’s future:
You will come of age with our young nation
We’ll bleed and fight for you, we’ll make it right for you
If we lay a strong enough foundation
We’ll pass it on to you, we’ll give the world to you
And you’ll blow us all away…
Yeah, you’ll blow us all away
– Dear Theodosia
And at the end of our days, a reminder we can only do our best to leave a legacy worthy of being remembered.
“Legacy. What is a legacy?
It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see
– The World Was Wide Enough
Who tells your story?
– Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story
In all honesty…
My words can hardly do it justice, but enjoy the music if you haven’t already and tell me if “Right Hand Man” and “Nonstop” doesn’t get your toes tapping and your blood moving to get out there and conquer your ambitions. Tell me if Eliza’s soaring vocals don’t make your heart sing, whether she’s falling in love, or reeling from betrayal.
If you can get tickets – more importantly, if you can get me tickets 😉 – TELL ME THAT too. In the meantime, you know where to find me! Right here, listening to the soundtrack and writing like I’m running out of time.