It’s worth the hype. And when I say it’s worth the hype, it is worth the hype. Winner of 11 Tony Awards, one of the most popular musicals of our time and one of the first rap musicals to hit the stage, “Hamilton” has truly taken over the world of entertainment.
I saw “Hamilton” for the second time this past Saturday at the Orpheum. It wasn’t perfect… but it was darn pretty close. It was by far the most distinct, capturing and vivid musical I have ever had the pleasure of seeing.
Why? What makes this musical so different from dozens of others I’ve seen?
The first reason is the style and ingenuity. “Hamilton” is one of the first hip-hop and rap musicals ever to find success on the stage. Not to mention, it’s about the Founding Fathers. I mean, who thinks of doing a rap musical about old white guys in the 1700s? Lin-Manuel Miranda read Rob Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton while on vacation. His next development was to perform an early draft of the opening number for Barack and Michelle Obama at a poetry jam hosted at the White House. The video went viral and Miranda continued to work until eventually “Hamilton” came alive on stage. It was fresh and a step forward in bringing new life and style to musical theatre. The choreography reflects hip-hop and modern dance styles. If you’re curious, check out the 2016 Tony performance; it will blow your mind. It took the music of America and translated it into a new outlet of entertainment.
The second difference is the musical’s color-conscious casting. Color-conscious casting likely defined shock and popularity of “Hamilton.” Having actors of color play every character besides King George III led many to question the musical’s historical truth. Obama explained it better than I can and said at a hosting of the cast at the White House, “With a cast as diverse as America itself, including the outstandingly talented women, the show reminds us that this nation was built by more than just a few great men—and that it is an inheritance that belongs to all of us.” Of course “Hamilton” isn’t perfectly accurate. It does, however, ask us to reimagine the origins of our country and how we can move forward. This purposeful color-conscious casting, while not new, has opened up so many opportunities for actors of color within the show and in the broader theatre community.
In theater, we always talk about the adrenaline and high that comes from performing or watch a production. Usually, there’s a rise and fall to that within the show. Hamilton starts at 100 and ends at a one million. The entire show moves forward and is quickly paced to keep audience attention from start to end.
It’s not a perfect musical and it may not be your favorite, but it is changing the musical theatre as we know it and that is something we cannot and should not ignore.