Revolutionary Revolutionizes Broadway
Musical based on founding father Alexander Hamilton makes history
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The musical, “Hamilton,” has been breaking barriers of traditional Broadway productions since its debut. It is a historically accurate, hip-hop, rap and R&B infused musical theater production that tells of founding father and first ever secretary of treasury Alexander Hamilton’s life. It was written and produced by Tony and Grammy Award-winning composer Lin-Manuel Miranda, who also plays the title role.
The soundtrack describes, chronologically, major events in Hamilton’s life. Just as the musical as a whole tells the story of the founding fathers of the United States, the music pays tribute to some of the framers of hip-hop, such as DMX, Mobb Deep and especially Notorious B.I.G., who Miranda drew a lot of inspiration from. Miranda makes references to many artists, from Eminem, Drake and Jay-Z to Beyonce, Busta Rhymes and Ja Rule. The musical currently holds the title of being one of the fastest-paced theater productions, fitting approximately 20,000 words into a mere 2.5 hours, according to Mental Floss.
Miranda specifically cast performers of many different races, with African-American, Latino and Asian-American actors playing a majority of the principle roles. He hoped to tell the story of the country’s history by portraying America as the melting pot that it is today. The original cast features Leslie Odom Jr. as Aaron Burr, Phillipa Soo as Eliza Schuyler, Renée Elise Goldsberry as Angelica Schuyler, Daveed Diggs as Thomas Jefferson, Christopher Jackson as George Washington, Anthony Ramos as John Laurens and Philip Hamilton and Okieriete Onaodowan as Hercules Mulligan and James Madison, all people of color. The only white actor in the original cast is Jonathan Groff, who plays King George III. The racially diverse cast and the story of a budding country’s beginnings, effectively echoes the complex racial history and character of America in the present. This shows people that America’s history is just as relevant to people of color as it is to everyone else.
Some critics claim that the cast of “Hamilton” is an inaccurate representation of the people of the time period and just color-blind racism, or the invalidation of people’s individual cultures, ethnicities or races when they should be taken into account. This is definitely not the case. Miranda chose to cast this way because he wanted America’s past to be told through the perspective of America’s present and future. If the musical were performed by equally talented white actors, the implications and the themes that Miranda tried to implement throughout the entirety of the musical would change.
According to “The New York Times,” “Hamilton” is currently making $1.9 million in weekly ticket sales, as the box office is charging $179 to $849 per seat. The musical was also nominated for 16 Tony Awards in one night, a record-breaking number for any musical production. “Hamilton” definitely deserves its success. It revolutionizes traditional Broadway through its sound and casting and introduces a fresh, new perspective on Alexander Hamilton’s impact and the founding of America itself.