North Texas Daily

Five years later, ‘Hamilton’ is still sensational work of art

Five years later, ‘Hamilton’ is still sensational work of art

Five years later, ‘Hamilton’ is still sensational work of art
August 06
19:00 2020

Aug. 6 marks the five-year anniversary of “Hamilton’s” Broadway debut. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s near three-hour musical, loosely inspired by historical figure Alexander Hamilton, hit the stage in 2015 and has grown into one of the most popular musicals of our time. For many, “Hamilton” is what introduced them to the world of Broadway musicals, and its potency is only reinforced by a live taping being added to Disney+ on July 3.

Part of what was so revolutionary about this musical about, well, the revolution, was how Miranda both captured and redefined this portion of America’s history. I mentioned above how this was loosely inspired by history, and I say loosely because he took this 18th century colonial America — which was plagued with white supremacy, in which independence from the British was sought exclusively for the white man by slave-owning political elites — and turned it into a landscape for Black performers to be cast as Founding Fathers fighting for freedom. While Miranda played Hamilton in the original cast, he was joined by standouts like Leslie Odom, Jr., Daveed Diggs, Renee Elise Goldsberry, Alysha Deslorieux and Okieriete Onaodowan in major roles. While not necessarily an accurate historical representation of figures like Aaron Burr and Thomas Jefferson, “Hamilton” offered a retelling of history, one that truly is by the people and for the people. Casting King George III as a white man was likely not happenstance, and the symbolism of people fighting oppressive monarchical control is not lost.

“Hamilton” doesn’t leave women in the dust, either, in the way they were in the actual 1700s. The three Schuyler sisters, particularly Angelica and Hamilton’s eventual wife, Eliza, are given their time to shine and take the place in history they were owed.

“‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,'” they sing on “The Schulyer Sisters.” “And when I meet Thomas Jefferson, I’ma compel him to include women in the sequel.”

Did the real Jefferson actually include women? Of course not, but again, “Hamilton” offers us a reimagined and dramatized version of events in which those who were left out the first time around are given a voice, and their perspectives are explored. Those who were not perceived as truly being a part of America in the 1700s were cast in and hold pivotal roles in Miranda’s story. Because the musical depicts racists like Hamilton and Jefferson, it’s seen it’s fair share of controversy. But “Hamilton” is a spectacular piece of art meant to be appreciated for what it is, rather than to encourage the idolization of our problematic founders. You can be acutely aware of the real-life racism and elitism of figures like Hamilton, and still admire this fictional adaptation.

Equally compelling as the subject matter is the score, as Miranda offers its retelling of history through an innovative musical soundtrack. Prior to “Hamilton,” the most widely known musicals were those which had broken out of the live theater genre and expanded into cinema — think “Les Miserables,” “Grease,” “The Color Purple” and “Mamma Mia!” While each of these are phenomenal productions, “Hamilton” made waves without a film thanks to its use of rap and hip-hop, making it quite unique when compared to your average broadway sound. The lyrics are quippy and fast-paced, with some incredibly catchy lines delivered by Miranda in one of the most popular tracks “My Shot.” The raps aren’t your novice-level bars, either — just listen to “Guns and Ships” for an example of how hardcore it gets. The standard formulaic song structure was thrown out the window, and Miranda was able to mix rap lines and ensemble crescendos in the same track. The concept itself is magnetic, because why wouldn’t you be intrigued by Founding Fathers freestyling? Few other musicals have been as dynamic and captivating, not just for regular musical-goers but across all kinds of audiences.

Five years later, its no surprise the musical that won 11 Tony Awards in 2016 is still making waves today, especially due to its streaming service debut last month. “Hamilton” took the idea of one man from America’s history and turned it into an era-defining production. Its portrayal of historical figures and hip-hop sound meshed to create art that both dazzled seasoned musical experts and captivated those with little knowledge of the genre. If you couldn’t be in the room where it happened prior to the pandemic, the production on Disney+ offers a shot to either rewatch or experience for the first time Miranda’s award-winning musical.

Featured image: Courtesy Joan Marcus

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Haley Arnold

Haley Arnold

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