by Sydney Moxley | photos courtesy Joan Marcus
It’s not often that a Broadway musical receives such worldwide acclaim that a lottery system is created just to get tickets. “Hamilton,” the sensational production by Lin-Manuel Miranda, has. Maybe that’s because it’s earned 11 Tony Awards for the 2016 original Broadway production. People everywhere are vying for a chance to experience what all the hype is about. How exactly has a musical featuring historically inaccurate information about a Founding Father reached such astounding popularity like “Hamilton”?
“Hamilton” follows Alexander Hamilton’s immigration to Colonial America from the island of Nevis on the eve of the Revolutionary War, his participation in the events leading to America’s independence from Britain, and the growing pains of the American government, all culminating with the infamous shoot-out with Aaron Burr. Lin-Manuel Miranda, the show’s creator, got the initial inspiration for “Hamilton” after reading the biography by Ron Chernow. However, “Hamilton” is more than just a biography musical. If it weren’t, it wouldn’t be the success it is today.
Many who don’t know the play beyond “It’s the story of Alexander Hamilton but with minority groups instead of white people” will be surprised to learn that, although dramatic licenses were taken in order to make the story better flow, most major plot points were relatively left untouched. However, the casting of African American, Asian American, and Hispanic actors is, in fact, essential for the portrayal of the underlying messages of diversity and representation in today’s United States. This is especially true as it pertains to immigration and sentiments about the current administration. In addition, the use of modern music, such as hip-hop, R&B, and the popular “rap battle” makes the music culturally relative. Because the United States is such a melting pot of different colors, cultures, and creeds, it makes more sense that “Hamilton” takes an old story and uses it to highlight true struggles and relatable issues that go beyond time and place and speak more to people themselves.
Although it is undoubtedly a beautiful work of art, viewers should use discretion in its simplification of early American politics and the Founding Fathers. Alexander Hamilton wasn’t the perfect Founding Father — all of the Founding Fathers made errors in judgment, especially by today’s standards as it relates to slavery, racism, and women’s rights. However, for the purposes of the play, the audience needs a sympathetic hero. Alexander Hamilton fills that role. It should simply be noted that history is more complicated than just heroes and villains, and historical Hamilton (the person) was neither of these.
“Hamilton” is without a doubt a fantastic work of historical fiction with exceptional musical merit. Audience members from all walks of life are sure to find something meaningful and inspiring within the songs and storyline. Don’t be discouraged by the hype: its popularity is well-deserved. See it for yourself when “Hamilton” comes to Nashville this January.
‘HAMILTON’ AT TPAC
When: Dec. 31 through Jan. 19
Where: Jackson Hall at Tennessee Performing Arts Center, 505 Deaderick St., Nashville
Tickets: On sale at tpac.org