It’s rare that I miss working in theatre. Until I see or hear a show that blows me away. Right now I have Broadway cast recording of Hamilton on repeat (affiliate link). I listen to it several times a day. It’s become borderline obsession. Even the kids have been caught humming it. (There is some explicit language in a handful of songs.)
A hip hop musical about Alexander Hamilton is how the show has been described. Yes, the guy on the $10 bill.
Hamilton has received tons of media coverage and for good reason. The show’s creator is Lin-Manuel Miranda, who was recently awarded a McArthur Genius grant. For those with young kids, you might recognize Miranda as the guy from PBS Kids’ Electric Company. You know, “Silent E is a Ninja” rap.
Or the guy who wrote a recap rap of the 2011 Tonys during the live broadcast. Which my gay boyfriend Neil Patrick Harris performed during the closing credits:
But I digress.
For me, Hamilton is the show that young idealistic me would have killed to work on. Miranda writes about the raw ambition that is synonymous with our young nation’s immigrant experience. The original American Dream that many immigrants still revere.
Not only did he write the book, music and lyrics to Hamilton, Miranda also plays the title role. How many shows would have cast a person of Puerto Rican descent as Alexander Hamilton? Miranda makes a political statement with the show’s colorblind casting, the act of casting actors without regards to the characters’ race & ethnicity. His wife Eliza Schuyler Hamilton is played by Phillipa Soo, whose grandparents are Chinese. Eliza’s sister Angelica is played by Renee Elise Goldsberry, who is African American. And so on.
The show doesn’t try to explain the characters’ race and ethnicities. Our nation’s immigrants during the Revolutionary War have the same optimism and naked ambition that today’s immigrants have.
Miranda’s lyrics are smart. I discover another clever lyric or rhyme whenever I listen:
“Don’t modulate the key then not debate with me!” -from “Farmer Refuted”
“How does a ragtag volunteer army in need of a shower
Somehow defeat a global superpower?
How do we emerge victorious from the quagmire?
Leave the battlefield waving Betsy Ross’ flag higher?”
-Aaron Burr in “Guns and Ships”
When have you ever heard the word “quagmire” used in a rap song?
And the genius comparison of King George as an abusive husband in “You’ll Be Back.”
I hope to see it on Broadway, but not anytime soon. It’s sold out until early 2016. And I’m sure tickets are pricey. Until then, I’ll listen to the album again. And again.