In case you haven’t heard, Hamilton the Musical is taking the world by storm! Tony Award-Winner Lin Manuel Miranda’s musical has done what few musicals have been able to do: it has mainstreamed. There are only a few contemporary musicals that have managed to do that. But why is Hamilton different than say… Rent?
Why is the fact that it’s mainstreamed more significant than Chicago or Phantom of the Opera? Here’s why I think:
In a time where people are often uninterested (or just plain ignorant) about history, Hamilton is making people excited about one of our founding fathers. Not only that, Miranda’s musical is showing that the founding fathers had some pretty fascinating (and often risqué) stories that are well worth our attention.
24.95 million people watched the Grammy’sthis year. And Hamilton had the privilege of performing at the Grammy Awards. When Hamilton was performing, one of the biggest questions asked on twitter was, “Wasn’t Alexander Hamilton white?” The fact that the musical features a Hispanic American as Hamilton alongside a multi-racial cast was a lot for the general public to swallow. They expected the founding fathers to be white.
But from the thousands upon thousands of tweets questioning the casting choices for Hamilton came a conversation. People starting asking, “Why not?” And why not? Why NOT have a multiracial cast for Hamilton? Is the story inhibited by the ethnicity of the cast? Or does our inability to see past skin color inhibit our ability to appreciate art at its finest?
Hamilton is starting a discussion that has needed to happen in the arts for a long time. Why are we still, in 2016, afraid of diverse casting?
It’s a hip-hop and R&B musical. The majority of the show is rapped, while the primary dance style used is a combination of modern and hip-hop. This is NOT your grandma’s musical. This is a living, breathing, contemporary musical that has its pulse on the culture. Lin-Manuel has written a musical that transcends the stereotypes of both musical theater and hip-hop. Hamilton is engaging, inspiring, and moving like any other great musical, but it does so without sticking to the formula. What’s more, Hamilton is changing the formula without deterring from musical excellence. The music of this show is intricate but approachable at the same time.
We are in the midst of a wonderful time for musical theater and for fine and performing arts in general. Since Chicago won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2002, we have seen the revival of the movie musical. Hollywood is producing movie musicals again!
Along with the movie musical, we are seeing a brand new experience… starting with the Sound of Music Live in 2013, live theater is being brought straight to families via their television or computer screen. Theater is evolving, and Hamilton’s modern approach to the musical and its exposure at the Grammy’s is only continuing this reintroduction of musical theater into pop culture!
Miranda is what our founding fathers dreamt America would be. He is gifted and hardworking Manhattan-native with Puerto Rican roots who dreamt of creating art using his unique gifts and talents to do so. He was and continues to be an innovator in his craft. He is an inspiration to every young musician in America aspiring to create, dream, and make the world a better place.
If you haven’t had the chance yet, I highly recommend listening to the Hamilton Soundtrack. It’s worth YOUR time and you will immediately see what the hype is all about!