There’s this little musical obsession going around, and I am completely caught up in it. The musical is Hamilton. The hip-hop musical written by Lin Manuel Miranda following the life of Alexander Hamilton. This amazing musical has been taking America by storm; winning a Pulitzer Prize in 2016 for Drama, a Grammy award for Best Musical Theater Album, and recently the show pulled in an amazing 16 nominations for the 2016 Tony Awards.
My own obsession includes an elaborate trip to New York where my cousin, best friend and I will be seeing the musical in January. Luckily I didn’t have to sell my soul for the tickets, I was in the right place at the right time recently when the Hamilton Twitter account announced a set of tickets being released for sale (I will admit that I probably would have sold my soul if someone had offered though). It also includes a tattoo design I’ve been working on with a colleague from college with my favorite Hamilton quote. Lastly, it includes listening to the soundtrack at least once a day and buying a great number of Hamilton inspired products.
Here’s a list of some of the things that I truly love about Hamilton and the culture that surrounds it.
Diversity. The cast of Hamilton is probably my first reason for loving it. As a Women’s Studies major I am very aware of the issues of representation in Hollywood. Too often, actors are chosen for roles because of their money making abilities instead of their acting abilities (which means we have some pretty bad movies out there that everyone goes to see anyways). Hamilton is quite different. Here’s what I love; Hamilton doesn’t care about the color of the person who is portraying someone, it cares about the person’s skill for portraying the version of the person they are portraying. And in that, Hamilton is flawless. Each actor and actress brings an amazing amount of talent to the part they play…and each part is different. Those differences come together in an amazing display of talent.
Music. I grew up in North Minneapolis, listening to Run D.M.C. and N.W.A. My love of hip-hop and rap music is quite complete. My favorite displays of lyrics in this musical are parts where hip-hop culture shows. That play of lyrics and words that other music genres can’t quite grasp in the same way. One of my favorite examples of this is in the song The Schuyler Sisters, a song filled with a feminist manifesto that calls to my very soul.
Burr, you disgust me
Ah, so you’ve discussed me
I’m a trust fund, baby, you can trust me!
I’ve been reading Common Sense by Thomas Paine
So men say that I’m intense or I’m insane
You want a revolution? I want a revelation
So listen to my declaration:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident
That all men are created equal”
And when I meet Thomas Jefferson
I’m ‘a compel him to include women in the sequel!
And the music does something else to the senses; there is something joyful and triumphant next to something sad and thoughtful. Hamilton’s music can have me excited one moment and weeping the next! Whenever I hear the song It’s Quiet Uptown I burst into tears, not only at the death of my long dead new crush (Phillip Hamilton), but also at the thought of two people going through something that I cannot imagine going through as a parent. The words of this song touches something within me that I never want to experience.
There are moments that the words don’t reach
There is a grace too powerful to name
We push away what we can never understand
We push away the unimaginable
History. Now, to be fair, I never really knew who Alexander Hamilton was other than knowing that he was NOT a president who was featured on our ten dollar bill (At least I knew he wasn’t a president!). Like many other people, I always just assumed that he had some importance to the history of the United States, and I left it at that. But now, I’ve found the idea of looking at history as something that might be interesting and even…gasp…fun! Now, certainly this musical isn’t the only reason that I have found an enjoyment in learning about the history of my country, but honestly by making history something that I can relate to, the Hamilton Musical has given me a way of relating to people that lived hundreds of years ago.
The incredible success of Hamilton says something about our country in my mind. It says that we are more than willing to learn about the successes and failures of the people that came before us…we just need to be shown every side of the story so that we can see the imperfections.
And I will continue to be enraptured by the beauty of Hamilton. I hope that you are too!