As Hamilton officially opens at the Public Theater tonight, I've just got to say that I'm so thrilled! I've been following the development of the show from afar since I first saw video of Lin-Manuel Miranda's spark of creation at a spoken word event at the White House in 2009:
I attended the concert at Jazz at Lincoln Center's American Songbook Series in 2012 where there was about an hour's worth of Hamilton material performed. And I heard tell of a workshop last year. The fully realized production currently onstage at the Public Theater is already sold out through May 3rd because anticipation and buzz have been so great.
I don't pretend to be a good writer, so forgive the ramblings of a fan who is more adept at making pictures: I believe that those studying the theatre a hundred years from now will point to this piece as a game-changer, a landmark American work of art. In a vivid telling of the story of "ten dollar founding father" Alexander Hamilton, we witness chapters of the creation of this very independent upstart U.S. told in a very current way. Part of the inspiration for Miranda writing this show was Hamilton's ability to influence through the sheer force of his writing, as mirrored by influential musical and literary artists of today. Originally called "The Hamilton Mixtape," the score draws from hip-hop, R & B, Tin Pan Alley, jazz, and rap. A nod to freestyle rap is used effectively in debates, and King George's motif emulates a Beatles-style anthem. And the movement of the show reflects this as well. Such a vivid musical tapestry woven from that which makes up the very fabric of our country today. (It's surely a modern day Schoolhouse Rock.) And when you look at the stage, the diversity there reflects today as well. The mere fact that our Caucasian forefathers are portrayed by people of color sheds a light on the richness of what many cultures have brought this country and the benefits that have fallen upon all of us. Whatever brought us to this plot of land, whether our ancestors sought opportunity, fled persecution, found persecution, achieved success or otherwise, we can all find a hero, flawed as he may have been, in this man who used his voice – and his pen – to effect change.
And for every Hamilton you need a Burr. I so appreciate the humanity with which Aaron Burr's story is told. Instead of the coarsely-drawn villain we may have learned about, we find an equally passionate but more rigid figure who found himself often overshadowed by the brash and aggressive Hamilton, a rivalry that ultimately led to that fateful duel. In writing the piece, Miranda mused on how much at times he may have empathized more with Burr than Hamilton, and I think this is so valuable in the telling of this story.
Also, I believe it was fate that while writing Hamilton, Lin and his wife welcomed their first child. The ties between parent and child – Hamilton and Burr alike – and the passing on of a legacy contribute significantly to the beating heart of this story.
There's so much more I want to talk about: the man, the myth, the legend, the family, the history, the shots taken and the shots thrown away, the amazing cast and all working on the show (!!); but I'll curb my ramblings (for now). The blurb used on the Playbill for the show at the Public reads "Who lives? Who dies? Who tells your story?" It's at times a revelation to learn (more) of the victories, tragedies, and contributions of a lesser-known founding father and how his contributions affected the direction of the United States. Lin-Manuel Miranda certainly didn't throw away his shot on this one, and we're lucky that he and his family of artists are our storytellers. It's an exciting, heart-wrenching, hilarious, soul-stirring, humane look back at this country's history with a direct line drawn through the culture of today. Thrillingly American.
Hamilton is written (music, lyrics, and book) by Lin-Manuel Miranda (with a nod to inspiration from Ron Chernow), choreographed by Andy Blankenbuehler, and directed by Thomas Kail, with musical direction and magic by Alex Lacamoire. And it stars Miranda as Hamilton, Leslie Odom Jr. as Burr, Christopher Jackson as Washington, Brian d'Arcy James as King George, Daveed Diggs as Lafayette/Jefferson, Okieriete Onaodowan as Mulligan/Madison, Anthony Ramos as Laurens/Philip Hamilton, and Phillipa Soo as Eliza Hamilton, with Renée Elise Goldsberry, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Carleigh Bettiol, Ariana DeBose, Sydney James Harcourt, Sasha Hutchings, Thayne Jasperson, John Rua, Seth Stewart, Betsy Struxness, and Ephraim Sykes.
Full disclosure: For this run of Hamilton, I've not been assigned to draw the show officially. (Even if that were the case, I'm classified as "non-reviewing press" so the ramblings here are totally my own. I'm an enthused fan who waited eagerly until tickets went on sale last year and renewed my Public Theater membership so I could get an early shot at buying a ticket. I'm so happy I did, because these tickets have been popular to say the least!) I will most likely be assigned to draw Hamilton officially for Broadway.com in the almost certain chance the show transfers to the Broadway. Until then, I threw the following together as my tribute to this amazing show. Thank you Lin and team!