I’ve never been a huge fan of American history. I had a hard time getting invested in it; it always seemed so dry compared to happenings across the pond. Of course, there were bits I liked, the revolution being one of them, but I always felt like everything just tapered off into cowboys eventually, and I found that supremely uninteresting.
Enter Alexander Hamilton. I have been listening to the cast recording of Hamilton: An American Musical pretty much nonstop for nearly a week. It is SO GOOD. That does not encapsulate how I feel about this play. I haven’t felt this way about a play in a long time. I haven’t felt this way about anything in a long time. I am consumed. Obsessed. It’s kind of nice actually.
If you are unaware, Hamilton is the story of Alexander Hamilton’s life, “the ten dollar founding father without a father,” as it were, inspired by the biography by Ron Chernow. It was written and composed by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who stars as Hamilton. The music is unreal: a beautiful fusion of hip hop, rap, and musical theater. It is everything I did not even know I wanted.
I have not seen this play, but the music is so visceral and alive I almost feel like I have. As the people of the present, I feel it is our duty to re-imagine the past. My mistake when it comes to American history, it seems, is that I wasn’t hearing the right stories. Dry facts are just that, dry. But a story: stories are interesting. Stories are compelling. Miranda takes Hamilton’s story and makes it absolutely fascinating. It is no small wonder that he received a MacArthur Genius Grant. The writing and arrangement of Hamilton is nothing short of brilliant. The use of leitmotif is on point both lyrically and musically. It’s so artfully done. I want to rave about how perfect it is.
The cast of characters is a host of revolutionaries and founding fathers: Alexander Hamilton, of course, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, the infamous Aaron Burr. But also Hamilton’s wife Eliza Schuyler and her sister Angelica Schuyler, Marquis de Lafayette, John Laurens, and Hercules Mulligan, among others. There is this whole cast of characters I never knew much about, that they never really touched on in history class. I love it so much.
I also love how it turns history on its head. It allows you to look at it from a different point of view, with a more modern interpretation. Burr is a huge part of this play. In our history books, he’s seen as a villain, the man who shot Hamilton. But in the play, we get to imagine a bit of his side and see his potential regrets.
I have maybe listened to the full 46 tracks five or six times. It’s not enough. Even so, it’s on a loop in my head all day long. Also without fail the second act slays me. It’s no secret how the story ends: it’s history. Burr shoots Hamilton in a duel; Hamilton falls. But Miranda takes this snapshot of history and breaks your heart. I can’t hear It’s Quiet Uptown or Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story without crying. I am not just talking about a little sniffle: this is ugly sobbing, like clutching Neil’s shirt and wailing about how sad and beautiful this play is. It all just swells into this emotional moment; the music and lyrics call back to everything that comes before. It makes you think about the future and the past and your legacy and his legacy and the fruitlessness of everything and the importance of trying. It’s a lot. It really is a lot.
I would pretty much give up a limb at this point to see this play in real life. I can see the staging in my mind’s eye but I want to know what it really looks like, what choices the director and choreographers made. I want to see it really happening. I want to try to get tickets but man they are so expensive! Every single day I listen to this album I think it might be worth it to dip into my savings. I swear, if I lived in New York I would be in line every day trying to get in that lottery!
I find everything about this musical inspiring. The way it takes a topic I couldn’t imagine being adapted in this way and makes it so extraordinary. It must have taken an enormous amount of hard work. I am in awe of what Miranda and his cast and crew have accomplished. The play works so well it is uncanny. I know I am gushing. I don’t even know if this review is coherent. I just have a lot of feelings right now.
If you haven’t heard this soundtrack, do yourself a favor and LISTEN TO IT. It’s available on iTunes and Spotify. 10 out of 10, I would absolutely recommend. Also see the Hamilton website for more information or to stare longingly at ticket information, as I’ve been. It’s a pastime.
Until next time!
EDIT: UPDATE! I BOUGHT TICKETS. I’M GOING IN APRIL. NO REGRETSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!