Does “Hamilton” Warrant All that Attention?

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By Samantha Neou   Intern

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop musical “Hamilton” chronicles the breathtaking and heartbreaking journey of former Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton and explores the relationships with people in his life.

The hit Broadway production has sold out shows in New York, Chicago and soon to be in San Francisco. Grossing over millions of dollars, the prices of each seat range on average from $179 to over a thousand per person. To get a ticket could also mean waiting in line for days.

It has won 11 Tonys, a Pulitzer Prize and a Grammy. The musical has countless celebrity fans including Bernie Sanders, Chance the Rapper, Andre 3000, Daniel Radcliffe, Oprah Winfrey and Conan O’ Brien. 

Parts of the musical have been performed twice for former President Obama in the White House. The media attention on “Hamilton” has even gone as far as dissuading the government from abolishing the eponymous figure from the ten dollar bill. 

Musical geeks, hip-hop fans and historians can have their grievances with the musical, but its merit is indisputable.

Miranda, a second generation Puerto Rican, grew up in north Manhattan with theatre and rap. He manages to seamlessly weave two vastly different genres of music together to create a relevant and relatable story about the life of an old, rich, dead, white male. That’s an accomplishment.

Stripping away the privilege that Hamilton had, and what’s left is a story that echoes the lives of many Americans today. At its core, the musical is about an immigrant who rises to the top through his unflinching ambition.

Sure, it is often argued that the musical glamorizes the Founding Fathers’ lives, but it doesn’t portray them as perfect. They are each flawed. 

For example, historically, former Treasury of Secretary Hamilton was intelligent and determined, but also an arrogant workaholic. In the musical, this is also true; throughout the work, he is never “satisfied” with what he has. Miranda takes some liberties with how historically accurate the story is, but overall, it’s pretty faithful.

The most unexpected aspect of the musical is how the spotlight isn’t only on Hamilton, but everyone who plays a significant role in his life, such as his frenemy Aaron Burr, his wife Eliza, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.

We get a glimpse of their lives and how they tie in with Hamilton’s. And you can’t help but care about them all.

The music itself is nuanced, with recurring motifs and lyrics that have been mulled over and perfected. Miranda knows how to produce catchy hooks and slick rhymes. It’s not for everyone, but the blend of two genres works in the musical’s favor because it changes the status quo of the typical Broadway show and becomes accessible to those who hadn’t ever given it a chance. 

The play has a bit of everything for everyone. It’s a story about America’s blossoming government, the role of politics and the importance of family and friendship. The diverse cast of Latinxs, African Americans and Asians transform Hamilton’s story into a universal one, reflecting the melting pot of what America is.

“Hamilton” shouldn’t replace history textbooks or be looked at as just another musical. It’s an impactful work of art that should be enjoyed for what it is. Hate it or love it – any viewer, who immerses themselves into the musical all the way through, will not be able to walk away without reflecting on their own life and their place in the world.

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