I've had other things in mind to post about this past week or so — posts that will almost certainly be shorter, about events more recent and personal. But I've wanted to write about Hamilton for close to six months, and realized this morning that, while I'm already pretty late to the party, I can expect to be exponentially later after tonight's Tony Awards.
For anyone even later to the party, Hamilton is the improbable hit Broadway Musical about the life of Alexander Hamilton. Or the improbable hit Broadway Musical in which a cast as diverse as today's America portrays the founding Fathers — guys even people like me who loved history in school have always thought of as staid and boring — with tremendous verve and energy. Or the improbable hit Broadway Musical that has brought a form of American popular music that was new and exciting less than fifty years ago, Hip-Hop, to center stage.
Also, the improbable hit Broadway Musical that's been the biggest cultural current this past year to keep me from entirely despairing for my country: An America that can fall in love with this prototype of the immigrant story, portrayed by a rainbow-hued cast in the vernacular of people clawing their way up from the bottom — this is an America for which there's still hope.
If that all sounds interesting to you — or if you're already a fan — here are some fantastic related items, along with a few of my own musings.
This video with the unlikely title gives a fascinating portrait of Lin-Manuel Miranda, author of Hamilton. It serves as an excellent introduction to both Lin-Manuel and the show.
The world's first hint of what was brewing in Lin-Manuel Miranda's mind — before he himself knew what was going to come of it — came in 2009, at the first White House Poetry Jam. This first public performance of a now famous song is well worth watching.(Spoiler alert — you may not want to read the rest of this paragraph if you haven't watched the video through to the end.) There's so much to love about this clip: The remarkable song "Alexander Hamilton" itself, of course. Watching the Obamas bop along. A tremendous performance that came off about as well as an artist could hope — how often do you get an standing ovation for the first public performance of a song? From the President, no less. (That said, the way the entire audience stands does remind me of the legend of George II standing for the "Hallelujah Chorus" during the premier of Handel's Messiah)
I have of course not personally seen Hamilton: doing so would have required both a lot more mobility than I've had most of the past year and a lot more disposable income. But for as long as there's been such a thing as American Musical Theater, news of the best new shows has traveled far beyond the lucky few who could actually attend the first run. I want to share some of the best of that news with you.
Cast albums displaced sheet music as the main carrier of such cultural news almost a century ago — indeed, Lin-Manuel Miranda talks about how his access to Broadway as a kid was via cast albums in the first video above. Hamilton continues that tradition — and if you're on Amazon Prime, you can now listen to the whole album legitimately before you buy it.
(And if you're a nerd — as seems likely if you're reading
annotated lyrics are a fantastic accompaniment to listening to the
And last, this clip from 60 Minutes about the making of the cast album includes some beautiful momentsSome interesting reflections on his process there from Lin-Manuel Miranda. Including one I expect to riff on in a forthcoming more introspective post. Stay tuned!