After two years I have finally seen Hamilton: An American Musical!
Hamilton is a musical that tells the story of the founding of America in a hip-hop, rap style. The show follows the life story of Alexander Hamilton, from his arrival in America to his death. You may not know his name but you are familiar with some of his achievements. Hamilton fought in the American Revolutionary War, helped draft the Declaration of Independence and he was the Personal Assistant to George Washington. Hamilton also founded the American financial system, became the first Secretary of the Treasury, founded the American Coast Guard and the New York Post newspaper. Dubbed the Forgotten Founding Father, Alexander Hamilton’s story was brought to life by Lin-Manuel Miranda who also stars as Hamilton in most performances.
The musical has achieved critical acclaim for its plot, music, choreography and moral messages but one of the main assets of the show is the diversity of the cast. The stereotypical image of the Founding Fathers of America usually involves middle aged white men signing a large piece of parchment as seen below.
Miranda shows the audience a non-text book version of America, with the population consisting of different cultures and ethnicities. The reasoning behind this choice was two-fold. Firstly it would allow the audience to better connect to the characters and secondly it would force the audience to question their views on immigrants in both the current political climate and in the period the show is set. Aside from the Native Americans, everyone who settled in America were immigrants and most modern day Americans are descended from immigrants. Several characters in the show such as Hamilton and Lafayette are identified as foreigners but portrayed in a positive light.
Hamilton has also left a lasting impact in the world of theatre. It has received a record setting 16 Tony nominations and won 11, received the best Grammy award for the best Musical Theatre Album, the 2016 Pulitzer prize for Drama and in 2015 the show won Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Musical. Hamilton is also infamous for combating fraudulent tickets. When the show first launched on Broadway fake tickets were being sold outside the theatre with some prices reaching $10,000. Of course, this upset the naive buyers and drained money from the show. To counter this, the organisers developed a paperless ticket system. When you purchase a ticket you receive an email confirmation which you show to attendants on the door. They will then scan the bank card you used to buy the ticket and issue you a seat number. You do not receive a traditional ticket in the post and tickets are non transferable.
I was lucky enough to win tickets with the Hamilton App. You enter a free lottery everyday and if you win you have to chance to claim your tickets (£10 each) and get decent seats to watch the show. My friend brought tickets for the show the following week so I was able to watch it twice.
So how was the show? You know when you have a high expectation of something and you’re scared it won’t pass the bar you set? Hamilton is worth the hype. It’s the little details that made me fall in love with the cast’s performance. For example, Giles Terera portrayed Aaron Burr with a lisp that helped contrast the awkward and introverted Burr against the extroverted Hamilton. When Angelica Schuyler sings:
His hands started fidgeting, he looked askance.
He’s penniless, he’s flying by the seat of his pants
You can see Hamilton fidgeting with his hands and looking awkward, unlike his usual charismatic self.
For me, the biggest attraction of the show is the character of Hamilton himself. Hamilton is never satisfied with his work and wants to achieve a legacy to be remembered by. I have a similar goal with my writing, I want to create a legacy with my words and to quote Hamilton “I’m never satisfied.” I understand that the real Alexander Hamilton, Miranda’s Hamilton and the Hamilton I imagine in my head are different (If you don’t know what I mean by this think about Daniel Radcliffe and Harry Potter. Daniel Radcliffe looks different to the Harry Potter described in the books) and I accept the fact that idealised Hamilton in my head is an impossible standard and an unachievable goal. If I fail to reach that goal, I’ve still done well.
Top marks for Hamilton especially to the actors Giles Terera and Jamael Westman who play Arron Burr and Alexander Hamilton respectively.