Hip-hop musical captures fans, teaches history

Courtesy image.

By LIZ MOORE, Ranger Reporter:

Two years ago, if you had asked who Alexander Hamilton was, hardly anybody could have told you. Today, thousands of people know who he was, and they can usually answer with a verse from one of the songs from the Broadway musical “Hamilton” about “the ten-dollar founding father without a father.”

In 2008, Lin-Manuel Miranda took a vacation from his Tony award winning musical “In the Heights” and picked up the 2004 biography, “Alexander Hamilton,” written by Ron Chernow–a nearly 800-page book–as ‘beach reading.’

It instantly inspired in him the idea for a hip-hop musical about this man’s life. The musical didn’t debut off-Broadway for another six years, and it got two off-Broadway extensions before being moved to the Richard Rodgers Theatre for its official Broadway run in July 2015.

As someone who has always had a soft spot for Broadway, has always enjoyed a good rap/hip-hop song and has always loved history, the moment my friend introduced me to the music from “Hamilton,” I was in love.

I fell for Alexander with Eliza, gave him up with Angelica, gasped during his sex scandal and cried multiple times. If I had ever learned about Alexander Hamilton in school, I had forgotten.

Lafayette’s raps in “Guns and Ships” became one of my biggest challenges, and yes, I can rap it flawlessly now, and I force myself not to cry during “It’s Quiet Uptown.”

With different styles of rapping for various characters based on their personalities, Miranda has proved yet again that he is a genius.

In fact, Miranda is quite literally a genius. He won a MacArthur Genius Grant for “Hamilton.” The show has gone on to receive a record-setting number of 16 Tony Award nominations, winning 11, and it won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Grammy award for Best Musical Theatre Album.

Grammy awards in some categories are not announced on live TV and, in years past, the Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album was one of those not televised, but the popularity of “Hamilton” led the category to be televised.

This musical inspired me to learn more about our history, and now the proof is on my bookshelf in the form of at least six books and four magazines dedicated to the founding of our country or the musical, and it’s not only me.

High school teachers are incorporating the musical into their curriculum, and more and more young people can tell you who Alexander Hamilton is than they ever could before.

Recently Panhandle PBS aired a documentary that gives a behind-the-scenes look at the musical. You can stream the program online at http://www.pbs.org/wnet/gperf/episodes/hamiltons-america/ through Nov. 18.

The most fascinating fact I have learned from the musical is that the man who shot Hamilton, Aaron Burr, (don’t worry it’s not a spoiler, he actually states it in the opening number), spent the rest of his life referring to Hamilton as “my friend, whom I shot.”

1 Comment

  1. Hamilton is one of my all time favorite things. My boyfriend and even my three year old love it as well! “Dear Theodosia” is his lullaby. I’ve been a fan of Alexander Hamilton for ages, so when this musical came out, I was so excited. I’m glad to see others enjoying it.

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