A historical musical about the American revolution marking a revolutionary point in musical history.
By Ilenia Reale / Matthew staff
Back in 2008, composer and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda had the strange idea of buying an over-800-pages biography about American founding father Alexander Hamilton and decided to read it during a vacation in Mexico. Who would have thought that this was going to be the beginning of the creation of one of the most revolutionary musicals ever: Hamilton.
Hamilton is a period musical that not only tells the story of Alexander Hamilton, but also the story of the genesis of the United States of America through the use of a modern hip-hop score. Given the complex topic and genre style, Hamilton wasn’t an easy musical to create. In fact, it took Miranda 7 years to complete this masterpiece.
Hamilton became a hit right after its first debut at the Public Theater in New York in 2015. Since then, the musical has gone a long way, establishing itself at Broadway, and starting new productions in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and many others in the US. It recently even reached Europe with productions in the UK and Germany, as well as a new production in Australia.
Even though the musical had reached many different countries, Hamilton was not very accessible, especially because of how pricey tickets are. However, things changed when on July 3, 2020 the recording of Hamilton was released on Disney+, giving the chance to even more people around the globe, including me, to experience the magic of this musical.
Hamilton is a fresh and entertaining mix of politics, love interests, tragedies, and witty remarks set in the 18th century, but with a fresh approach. In fact, one of the things that really stands out is for sure the lyrics. By looking at them closely, it is easy to notice all the hard work that was put behind to get such clever lines that are now considered iconic.
The score of Hamilton as well is very dynamic, but still cohesive through the use of recurring words and slightly modified harmonies. Many songs are very energizing and right on the beat, while others are softer and more melodic. However, all songs are so addictive. I liked the score so much that before I was able to watch the musical on Disney+ I listened for over a year to the complete soundtrack of the show available on YouTube on a loop.
Another thing that is very unique in Hamilton is the pace of the musical itself. For instance, the show is characterized by an average of 144 words per minute, which is double the standard for traditional musicals such as Phantom of the Opera with only 68 words per minute.
This is not surprising if we consider the amount of information covered by the musical, which develops in a span of 100 years. Despite this, Hamilton never results overwhelming or boring, as Miranda did an outstanding job at balancing the different aspects of the musical. One of the most exemplary sequences that shows off Miranda’s genius is when, after a series of dramatic events focused on the personal life of Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson says “Can we get back to politics?” offering some comic relief.
The success of the show doesn’t only rely on the script and the music but is to be applauded for the outstanding cast it features. Every single person on the stage is an amazing performer starting from the main character Alexander Hamilton played by the same Miranda, down to every dancer in the ensemble. A special mention goes to Leslie Odom Jr. as Aaron Burr, who, as the antagonist of the story, was truly able to bring his character to life in songs like The Room Where It Happens or Wait For It.
The cast of Hamilton has caught a lot of attention during the years, not only for the talent shown but even more importantly for the diversity it displays. In fact, the musical is characterized by a cast of African-Americans, Latinxs, and Asians. This racial diversity isn’t random, but rather very intentional. Miranda himself stated that “This is a story of America then, told by America now.” In fact, Miranda’s main goal is to show the United States as they are today, meaning an incredible melting pot that deserves to be acknowledged.
Hamilton is a groundbreaking musical that sheds light on fundamental issues while being incredibly entertaining. It is certainly one of those musicals that make history and that, hence, we all must watch at some point.