Sunday, May 22, 2016

On Alexander Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Bandwagons

SO......Hamilton: The Musical? Maybe you've heard of it???

The founding father, the hip-hop soundtrack, the hype, the acclaim - this isn't news, right?

I think I came to know of Hamilton late. I actually stumbled on the Ham4Ham videos on Youtube first, and wondered what in the world was going on? Then, through some research and my friend Google, figured out it was a bit of a phenomenon. Then found the soundtrack, and the rest was history. I am officially on this bandwagon, friends, and I don't think I'll be jumping off any time soon.

I've always been a sucker for a good musical. My mom was active in the local community theater when I was growing up, and I can remember the first time I fell in love - she brought me along to help with costumes for the summer production of Camelot, and I was hooked. In junior high, a friend gave me a copy of the soundtrack of Phantom of the Opera, along with the entire (photocopied) libretto, and my goal officially became to be as amazing as Sarah Brightman. (Spoiler alert - I didn't have the pipes.)

So let's just say I was overdue for a new musical obsession.

I started watching the Ham4Ham videos, and listening to the soundtrack, and fell more and more in love with this funny, evocative production.

The cast performed at the White House, and the importance of the intersection of those pieces of history are not lost on me.

I purchased my own copy of Hamilton: Revolution (aka the Hamiltome), choosing for my pleasure the audiobook, and devoured Mariska Hargitay and Lin-Manuel Miranda telling the story of how this amazing show came to be on Broadway.

I will say, honestly, that if you are not a huge fan of 1. The Musical and 2. Broadway, this is probably not the book for you. It's lots of the inner workings of bringing a show to production, and how the cast is chosen, and while I find those kinds of stories fascinating, I am aware that they have a bit of a specific appeal. I thought Markiska Hargitay did a fantastic job as narrator - she just sounds like New York, to me, which is perfect for the story of a musical set in New York, coming to New York. I cried.

I am more and more in awe of Lin-Manuel Miranda every time he does another thing. I've been enjoying his Ham4Hams, of course, and his Twitter feed is genuinely entertaining. But reading about his process - about the technical and musical knowledge and skill that he brought to the writing of Hamilton; about his evident love for both musical theater and hip-hop, and the ways he weaves both into his work - this guy is the real deal. I am all in for whatever he chooses to do next, because I can't wait to see what his brain will come up with.

And more than all that - Hamilton: The Musical has ignited my interest in Hamiltion: The Dude - I've just secured a copy of the Ron Chernow biography of Alexander Hamilton that started this whole thing, and I'm compiling a list of biographies of the other major players so I can read and learn more. A musical that compels me to dig into the actual history of our country? Not bad.

I can't be the only one on this bandwagon, right? Are you a Hamilton fan? Bemused observer? Not yet sure what is going on? What else should I read now that I'm obsessed with the man? Give me ideas, friends!!


bermudaonion said...

Rumor has it that the touring version of the show is coming here. I'm sure tickets will go very quickly, though, and I probably won't get to see it.

Jenny @ Reading the End said...

HOORAY! I'm so excited when new people pick up the Hamilton obsession. Last year I was complaining to my friend that I hadn't fallen truly, truly in love with a musical for ten years, and then BOOM, the next week, Hamilton's cast recording showed up on NPR First Listen. Like magic! And it's so so sooooo wonderful!

Carolynn said...

I just got the In the Heights soundtrack via Apple Music... it's harder to listen to it post-Hamilton, I suspect. So much of what I found to be so unique and innovative about Hamilton is previewed in ItH... Lin definitely has a style - a totally unheard-of-before style all his own - but I found the similarities in some of his phrasing, song construction, etc. in ItH to be almost too much like Hamilton - and frankly, Hamilton is better.'s a fun soundtrack (I haven't gotten all the way through it yet), and fun to see where he came from...but it's Hamilton I can't get out of my head.