Hamilton: An American Review

Sophie Wojciechowski, Staff Writer

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     Hamilton: An American Musical was written entirely by Lin-Manuel Miranda. He based the musical off of the book Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. Lin-Manuel Miranda (who plays Hamilton in the play) has also written songs for the movie Moana, which came out in 2016, and for other musicals. He himself has won various awards such as a Grammy, an Emmy, and a Tony. Hamilton has won Tony awards, Grammy awards, and a Pulitzer Prize. It hit Broadway stages in 2015 and this year it is going on the U.S. Tour, in which the actors are traveling to various stages across the country to preform. The soundtrack is on Amazon, YouTube, and Spotify. The album on Spotify has over one million monthly listeners and the tracks on YouTube often get over one million views, sometimes exceeding two million views. On Broadway, most of the shows do get sold out. Within its first month on Broadway, tickets were an average of $409, the lowest being $150. Now, tickets are sold for around $250. Hamilton is currently Broadway’s most expensive show ever.
Unfortunately, I myself have never seen Hamilton on stage in all its glory. I have however listened to the soundtrack multiple times. The first act delves into Hamilton’s life prior to and during the Revolutionary War. We meet important people in his life, such as Aaron Burr, Marquis de Lafayette, John Laurens, Hercules Mulligan, and the Schyuler sisters. Hamilton grows with his friendships and his ideals and beliefs become stronger, he and Aaron Burr fall for their eventual wives. We witness the win of the Revolutionary War with the help of Lafayatte and Hercules. We see a glimpse of their lives after the war: Hamilton becomes a “non-stop” lawyer and writer, as well as a father. On two occasions, King George III visits us twice, and both songs are absolutely beautiful. Act two of the play goes into Hamilton’s life after the war, touching on subjects such as his trying to get his National Bank plan approved by Congress and the rest of the cabinet, and Washington leaving office when John Adams takes over. Once again, we are visited by King George in which he mocks Adams and says that he is excited to see how it works out for him. The play goes on, shows us how Burr and Hamilton eventually had their duel that would end in Hamilton’s death.
There are many wonderful things about this musical, one of them being the music itself. It is one of the only musicals on Broadway to be hip hop. This allows for a lot of younger people to watch and listen to the musical rather than just being geared towards adults. Take Les Misérables, for example. A lot of adults enjoy the musical, but younger people don’t really like it. Both Hamilton and Les Misérables are about revolutions, but Hamilton is seemingly much more popular, and I think personally it has to do with the music style. The songs themselves are all (mostly) upbeat and easy to jam to. One of my personal favorites, “Guns and Ships,” is fast paced and very difficult to rap to, and Davved Diggs (who plays Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson) made it the fastest moving song in Broadway History. Two other songs I enjoy are the Cabinet Battles, respectively called “Cabinet Battle #1” and “Cabinet Battle #2.” If you have ever watched Epic Rap Battles of History, these two songs will be your favorite. Jefferson and Hamilton go head to head and rap about problems and yes, shots are fired. Certain people, like Jefferson, have songs that are in different genres. The song in which Jefferson is introduced is very jazzy and there actually is a theory behind why he is the only person who performs in jazz. Because rap evolved out of jazz (and everyone else raps) it is kind of implied that Jefferson is “behind the times” or out of the loop from everyone else. Another person like this is Eliza. She lived the longest out of everyone shown in the musical, so she is the only one who doesn’t rap, or in other words, talk faster. The songs themselves have their own allusions and symbolisms to portray meaning. Angelica alludes to Ben Franklin and Alexander alludes to Shakespeare. Two songs, “Helpless” and “Satisfied” are parallels and are the same scene but from different perspectives and angles, which is absolutely brilliant. Bringing these historical characters to life and giving them their own personalities is another great factor of the musical. As it is now on many different stages, there are many different actors for the same character. Each actor brings the character their own spring of personality. Another factor would be the actors. Lin Manuel Miranda wanted to have a very diverse cast, and a very beautiful diverse cast at that, in order to allow younger people of color to see more people like them in big media. Seeing people like them in the media can allow them to become more confident in who they are. Adjoining the Hamilton soundtrack is The Hamilton Mixtape. The Mixtape has songs that were cut from the final album and covered by artists like Usher, Sia, and Kelly Clarkson. The song that Kelly Clarkson covered, “It’s Quiet Uptown,” was on the radio.
However, one of the big criticism of the play is the diverse cast. Some people, Lyra Monteiro (a well known Broadway critic) being one of them, think that making the cast people of color rather than white (which, being founding fathers of America, all of the cast should be white) is being historically inaccurate and erasing actual people of color from history. Monteiro has seen the play in person, and loves it, but wishes the play itself didn’t portray the founding fathers as “relatable, cool guys,” which she refers to as “Founders Chic.” The play also doesn’t really mention slavery of any kind, despite the fact that most of the founding fathers did have slaves, other than John Laurens being against it (which is historically accurate) and the South having slaves. The play touches upon Hamilton being against slavery, but in actuality he didn’t really do much to try and stop slavery. In fact, Hamilton’s wife, Eliza, owned slaves. Her family were very invested in the selling of slaves and that is how the Schyuler family became so wealthy. Despite the play doing a wonderful job for historical accuracy, there are some things that should have been included. Margarita “Peggy” Schyuler was the youngest daughter of Philip Schyuler. In the play, she is very much forgotten. She sings in only one song and there are no mentions of her after that song. In history, she was very passionate and brave. She was a friend of Alexander’s as much as anyone else in the play, so for her to be mentioned only a few times is rough. Another historical inaccuracy was John Laurens. In history, he was Alex’s best friend and possible romantic interest. Historians say that there was no connection between the two, but actual history disagrees with that. In a letter between Hamilton and Laurens, Hamilton wrote, “Cold in my professions, warm in my friendships, I hope my dear Laurens, that it is in my power to convince you that I love you.” Another piece of evidence that contributes to the possible romance between Hamilton and Laurens was the fact that Lauren’s father said that Laurens never actually showed a liking towards girls. I think the play could have played with the Laurens and Hamilton relationship more than they did, although in a song only featured in the play, do we see a much stronger connection than is originally conveyed. As for songs that aren’t the best, “Best of Wives and Best of Women” could be better. It is a shorter song, being less than a minute long, but that isn’t what I don’t like about it. I feel it should have been longer, and seeing as it is the song where Hamilton tells Eliza he is going out (to his death, mind you), it should have been more in depth and more heartfelt than it was. Additionally, some of the songs that were cut from the musical should not have been. One of these songs, “Congratulations,” shows Angelica’s anger at Hamilton’s published affair. The anger and emotion in the song from Angelica is so real and I feel as if it should have been in the musical.
If you have two hours to spare, or have a few hundred dollars to spare, listen to the soundtrack or go see the musical on Broadway or one of the many stages it has already been to on its tour. The play itself is different and unique, because who would make a musical about Alexander Hamilton, the orphan born out of wedlock to a mother who most saw as promiscuous? The musical, still, is by far one of my favorite musical productions. I would rate it very highly to anyone who asks me.

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