Hamilton blew us all away


Julia Goldberg, Staff Writer

Talk less, smile more, Aaron Burr said—and that’s exactly what throngs of theatergoers have been doing upon entering the doors of Richard Rogers Theater since Alexander Hamilton’s Broadway debut on August 5th, 2015.
The story of the first Treasury Secretary and other founding fathers has long been a prominent aspect of the curriculum of our school, among others nationwide. But Hamilton takes an approach to American history unlike any other; it marries form with content and innovative performance with narrative. It brings 18th century figures into the modern world, taking faces from bills and transforming them into individuals with distinct personalities holding their own passions and flaws.
In hopes of elevating the historical storyline, which is indisputably one of immigrants, Director Lin-Manuel Miranda cast all major roles, with the exclusion of King George III, as people of color. In fact, Miranda said, the diversity of the cast was essentially predestined. After receiving the 2018 Rosetta LeNoire Award for inclusive casting from the Actors’ Equity Association, he asked, “If it had been an all-white cast, wouldn’t you think I messed up?”
However, the impact of the makeup of the cast extends beyond the musical itself. It has shifted the ways in which non-Caucasian actors view their career paths, said Christine Toy Johnson, Actors’ Equity Association national equal employment opportunity chair. To acknowledge Miranda’s success, the Association has granted Hamilton numerous awards, including the Rosetta award and a 2015-2016 award for Extraordinary Excellence in Diversity on Broadway.
Hamilton also broke new theatrical ground on Broadway with its form. Its use of modern genres of music, such as rap, R&B, and hip-hop, drive the musical; the fast-paced lyrics match the spirited mood. Its modern style has also allowed a new generation to see musical theater as accessible, and, with a little luck, attendees of Hamilton who were not previously interested in musical theater will be more open to the experience.
As a result of a multitude of bold choices contained within Hamilton, the show was incredibly well-received: it was granted a record-breaking 16 Tony nominations in 2016, and eventually won 11 awards, including Best Musical and Best Lead Actor (clinched by Leslie Odom Jr.). It also won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and grossed more than $4 million in one week, the first Broadway show ever to do so. Hamilton represents a dramatic shift in what musical theater is understood to be; it was not just a musical about a revolution; it was a revolutionary musical.