So what do I know about Alexander Hamilton? He was born in the West Indies. Founding Father. He’s on our money. He wrote a lot of the Federalist papers defending the new Constitution. He did some important but boring work on our financial systems. He did stuff in the Treasury. He was shot in a duel in New Jersey by Aaron Burr and died.
Oh, yeah, and he’s the subject of the currently very buzzy Broadway musical hit Hamilton.
I went to see Hamilton with two of my friends tonight (well, last night as of this typing). Every so often, there’s a Broadway show that gets a ton of buzz and sells out tickets like crazy…this show is that show, so we counted ourselves very lucky to have sprung for the tickets relatively early.
Hamilton is about Alexander Hamilton’s rise to prominence in American politics, from the Revoluton to being Washington’s right hand man to Secretary of the Treasury, including his marriage to Eliza Schuyler, some scandals, and his long friendship/rivalry with Aaron Burr. It painted a portrait of a very passionate, hotheaded, and complicated man…
…but the music (and most of the musical is sung-through) is, like, largely hip-hop. There are rap duels between Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson (who was costumed in a fabulous velvet purple 18th century waistcoat and breeches), there’s R&B, there’s a hilarious recurring ditty sung by Andrew Rannells called “You’ll Be Back.”
Andrew Rannells plays George III. You know, the king the American colonies wanted to dump. It’s probably un-American of me to enjoy George III that much. But he was so archly funny (“They say George Washington’s yielding his power and stepping away. ‘Zat true? I wasn’t aware that was something a person could do.”) And I want a scepter to wave around in my everyday life now.
Megalomaniac? What? Me?
Another favorite: Jefferson taunting Hamilton after the Reynolds pamphlet: “Well, he’s never gon’ be President now.”
|Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton. From the New York Times.|
Also, the vast vast majority of the parts are played by black and Hispanic actors. That’s right, a bunch of dead old rich white men played by a very diverse cast–and other than the usual parsing of figuring out who’s who, it’s not even anything to think about. See, Hollywood? You can cast actors of color! You can cast them in parts that white people would play! You can have them play the roles of the people who founded our country.
The time period in the musical is suggested through the costumes. Of course, there’s a historical element to all of it which I loved–and realized how little I actually know about Alexander Hamilton and the very earliest years of the United States. But with the music, the cast, and frankly, the repeated reminder that Hamilton was an immigrant and the foreboding mentions of dueling (guns), Hamilton is also a story that is very much about the now in America, too. I’m like 99.99% sure that Hamilton will win next year’s Tony for Best Musical. I can’t wait.