All great ideas occur all of a sudden. Lin-Manuel Miranda proved it by creating the musical of high-sky popularity. He benefited from the idea and made it happen in reality. Miranda read a biography of Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow in the airport and it impressed him to such an extent that he could not help writing a story based on real events.
The story of one of the Founding Fathers was not well known to people compared to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. However, Miranda’s mind had been imagining and drafting events of his political career and personal relationships on a theatrical stage before releasing a final plot to Americans.
Miranda knew that Hamilton story was on Broadway many years ago. It took place in 1917 with George Arliss as a leading actor (Alexander Hamilton). Despite the fact, Miranda started a project called The Hamilton Mixtape. He was imbued with inspiration and desire to go ahead thanks to “In the Heights” success. It might be the explanation of Miranda’s breathless tempo of work on Hamilton story.
The art circles had been still discussing his “In the Heights” triumph while he was eager to share the new project with people. It happened in 2009 (May, 12) at the White House Evening of Poetry, Music and the Spoken Word. Spectators expected to be listening to music from “In the Heights”. Instead of it, he performed a song from The Hamilton Mixtape. It was a rough version of “Alexander Hamilton” as we know it now. To be more precise, it was Hamilton’s opening part. After that, Miranda dedicated a year to creating “My Shot”, one more part of the show.
Afterwards, he played in a workshop production of the project at the Vassar Reading Festival in 2013 (July, 27). It included the whole part of the first act and a couple of songs from the second one. Thomas Kail and Alex Lacamoire were directing the show.
In February 2015, the Hamilton musical had its Off-Broadway premier at The Public Theater. All tickets had been sold out. Lin-Manuel Miranda, Christopher Jackson and David Diggs performed in the Off-Broadway production as a lot of original cast members moved to Broadway. Off-Broadway performance had a success. It won Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Musical plus other 8 Drama Desk Awards.
Debut on Broadway
“Hamilton’’ Broadway opening night took place in 2015 (August, 6). And previews of the show were on July, 13 of the same year. The show got a rousing reception and a box office success. It seemed that there was no person who would not know about the Hamilton musical with Lin-Manuel Miranda. Within a year the Hamilton cast got 16 Tony nominations, having set a new record and won 11 out of them. That is not the end since the guys obtained the title of Best Musical Theater Album at the Grammy Award in 2016. In addition to it, the show got a Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
After the show, off-Broadway and Broadway production, critics started evaluating it back and forth. And the majority acclaimed Hamilton considering it to be a cultural phenomenon. A great number of reviews had been published and here is a concise essence of some:
Ben Brantley – he ironically suggested people leasing their kids and mortgaging their property to watch the Broadway show as it may be worth it. Mr. Brantley seemed to have been impressed with the setting. He mentioned David Korins who had decorated the stage and helped the spectators go back to those times. The clothes the actors wore were highly estimated as well. Paul Tazewell, the costume designer, got his recognition and he truly deserved it.
Marilyn Stasio – the critic stated that she was pleasantly surprised with the lyrics. The sense of songs and immaculately sung prose were perfectly chosen to each character. However, the most impressive part for her was the sung dialogue on behalf of the whole nation.
David Cote – Mr. Cote evaluates the production of the show as 5 out of 5 stars. He characterizes Lin-Manuel Miranda as a Puerto Rican wordsmith with his personal focus on American past. Cote mentioned that he loved Hamilton as much as he loved New York. A harmonious combination of hip-hop and R&B accompanied with a storm of applause made the show an unforgettable sight.
Even Barack Obama made a comment on the musical. He acknowledged recognition of the musical saying that Hamilton was the only thing he and Dick Cheney agreed on.
Original Musical Cast Recording
The production got nearly universal acclaim. However, a portion of criticism had been added as well. One of those critics was Elisabeth Vincentelli (The New York Post). She wrote that Miranda was not charismatic enough to play Hamilton. In her opinion, a lot of parts were exposition-heavy and the show had many boring stretches, especially the part with George Washington.
Apart from it, the musical was criticized for neglecting the historical truth. For instance, Ishmael Reed stated that Hamilton’s personality had been modified as an opponent to slavery. That was not true. The critics also mentioned changing characters of other personages. They appeared to be more aggressive than they had been in reality. Moreover, the role of people of color who made the Revolution was being ignored.
There were certain inaccuracies in the musical compared to the real Hamilton story. For example, Angelica says to Hamilton why they can’t be together in spite of liking each other:
“I’m a girl in a world in which my only job is to marry rich.
My father has no sons so I’m the one who has to social climb for one.”
In fact, her father didn’t put so much pressure on her. Furthermore, there were 15 children including 2 sons who survived. And Angelica was courageous enough to run away with her beloved John Barker Church before she got acquainted with Hamilton. Miranda said that he had done it in order to make the situation more dramatic.
One more example concerns the role of Burr in Hamilton’s life. Some details were changed and added especially in their early relationships. In “Ten Duel Commandments” Burr was portrayed as a second in the duel between Charles Lee and John Laurence though he was not. Hamilton never asked Burr for help with the Federalist Papers as it was depicted in “Non-Stop”.
The greatest historical neglect was characterization of Hamilton as a serial adulterer. It was not just Lin-Manuel Miranda who did it. The same idea was repeated for centuries.
Aaron Burr says: “…Martha Washington named her feral tomcat after him! [Hamilton]”
And Hamilton responds: “That’s true!”
The concept of “tomcat” (which implied a womanizer) didn’t have an entry in dictionaries till the first half of the 20th century. The researcher and historian Michael E. Newton at his “Alexander Hamilton Discoveries and Findings” refuted the stereotype. Apart from M. E. Newton, Stephen Knott had previously criticized the tomcat story as well.
Similar historical inaccuracies were present in the Second Act. It was stated that John Adams fired Alexander Hamilton as the two men had not been on good terms. Actually, it was true that they didn’t get along. However, Hamilton stepped down from the position of Secretary of the Treasure two years before Mr. Adams was appointed as the President.
In addition, Madison, Jefferson and Burr never reproached Hamilton for his affair. It was James Monroe and Frederick Muhlenberg who fueled the speculation. In 1797, a scandalous journalist James Callender announced the story of Hamilton adultery. Hamilton knew that J. Monroe spread the information as he blackmailed him. James Monroe was a husband of 23 y. o. lady called Maria. It seemed that Mr. Monroe liked the situation as he could have lucratively benefited from it.
Miranda Welcomes Diversity
A lot of points have been touched upon to fully reveal the cultural phenomenon of the Hamilton musical. However, many spectators ask themselves the same questions: why George Washington is played by Afro-American or Alexander Hamilton by Latin American? Lin-Manuel Miranda explains it to them: “Our cast looks like America looks now, and that’s certainly intentional”. He wants the contemporary audience to leave all stereotypes and prejudices at the door and perceive the story of one of the Founding Fathers in a more accessible way.
The USA National Tour
Hamilton national tour starts in March 2017 at San Francisco’s SHN Orpheum Theatre. The cast is going to perform there for 21 weeks. Afterwards, the show will move to Los Angele’s Hollywood Pantages Theatre. It will stay there from August 11 to December 30, 2017.
The musical will be available in the West End as well at the Victoria Palace Theatre in October 2017. In fact, the idea of the national tour appeared in January 2016. A solid box office success and a welcome reception of thousands made them go up the popularity ladder.
Hamilton tickets are swept away so quickly that people need to wait in an online queue. For example, tickets to the San Francisco show were sold out within a day!