When you think about a musical about 18th century America, you wouldn’t expect hip-hop or rap music, or even ethnically diverse major roles. But Hamilton, the musical, has all of these.
Alexander Hamilton was one of the founding fathers of the United States. You might not be much into history, but this is one of those events that brings it vibrantly to life in a really exciting modern context.
Let’s begin at the beginning. By the end, we guarantee that you’ll feel intrigued and desperate to see this extraordinary theatrical event.
Do you know who’s that guy who appears on the US $10 bill? That’s Hamilton. Born on the Caribbean Island of Nevis (then part of the British West Indies), Hamilton was an orphan, abandoned by his Scottish father and orphaned by the death of his half-British/half-French mother when he was just 11 years old.
But, overcoming all the adversities of the time, he grew up and escaped poverty by educating himself and getting accepted at King’s College (now Columbia University).
After arriving in New York in 1776, Hamilton then met Aaron Burr, John Laurens, the Marquis de Lafayette, and Hercules Mulligan, who all shared his passion and revolutionary goals in the War of Independence.
When the revolution finally happens, Hamilton becomes General George Washington’s right hand man, so to speak. By that time, 1781, Hamilton had already co-founded the first bank in North America, proposed a new form of government and helped to forge the US Constitution by writing 51 essays in six months.
Once the war was almost over, Hamilton decided to return to New York City to be with his wife, Eliza Schuyler (one of three aristocratic sisters, the others being Angelica and Peggy), and his son, and was selected as Secretary of the Treasury by the newly-elected first President of the United States, George Washington.
At his new position, he established a trading relationship with Britain, opposed slavery and created the first national bank.
Envious of his political power, Aaron Burr, the man Hamilton once admired, switched parties, making him a rival. The feud got bitter when Hamilton ruined his chances of winning the governorship of New York.
We don’t want to spoil the end, but since this is a historical fact, Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel in New Jersey. Hamilton announced that he intended to fire away from his opponent, but didn’t get the same courtesy from Burr, who shot him in the lower abdomen.
Hamilton is buried next to his wife Eliza, in Trinity Churchyard, at the intersection of Broadway and Wall Street.
Why should you see it
Hamilton – A transformative theatrical experience
The history lesson is over. But this is one of the reasons that makes Hamilton, the musical, a transformative theatrical experience. Despite being a historical play, the fusion between factual politics and hip-hop/rap music and lyrics is a masterpiece.
Created and started by American Lin-Manuel Miranda, the son of Puerto Rican immigrants himself, the play has almost an entirely non-white cast of the Founding Fathers. The result is a political and racial history told and performed by the same cultural group that was suppressed in its own story.
The diverse cast is one of the contemporary elements in the play. Miranda’s musical references in Hamilton range from Destiny Child to Notorious BIG to Busta Rhymes. The music is used to make historical points as well as display cultural appropriation and racism.
In an interview with the lovely Emma Watson, Miranda describes the journey to write the lyrics and the play itself of Hamilton, inspired by the biography written by historian Ron Chernow.
The spectacle has achieved both critical acclaim and box office success since its off-Broadway debut in February 2015. And it’s not hard to see why.
Hamilton received 11 Tony awards, including Best Musical, and was also the recipient of the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album and the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
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So, Hamilton ticks every box: entertainment, diversity, and history. What more could you ask for?