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Hamilton: An Introduction

By Dana Kurniawan and Navya More

Image from: http://variety.com/2015/legit/news/hamilton-sales-broadway-1201555551/

“Look around, look around, at how lucky we are to be alive right now!” – Eliza Hamilton

In this time and age of the 21st century where Hollywood and more theatrically Broadway shows are dominated by certain races, Hamilton is the genuine representation of America’s vibrant and refreshing diversity.

The Tony award-winning show was written, composed and stars Lin-Manuel Miranda, a brilliant 36 year old playwright, whose parents were Puerto Rican immigrants, having initially rose to fame with ‘In The Heights’, which premiered on Broadway in March 2008.

The musical, which has been on Broadway since 2015, features Alexander Hamilton, the Caribbean born immigrant who took every shot and became the first treasury secretary of the United States, eventually becoming one of the nation’s most under-appreciated founding fathers. Through the musical, audiences can learn about the American revolution against the British, and how exactly the American constitution was formed.

But what was it exactly that propelled Hamilton to #1 on billboards? What inspires the standing ovation every night and the parodies that have since surfaced on the internet?

A cast of colour

Its subject matter is not just what makes Hamilton the cultural phenomenon it is today. In Lin-Manuel’s own words, Hamilton is the representation “of America then with America now.” All the lead roles in the musical are played by non-white actors, counteracting the trend of predominantly white actors on Broadway.

The musical really is an unapologetic effort to create a space in which people of colour have the opportunity to play key roles that they otherwise could not play.

An eccentric blend of music and politics

The essence of Hamilton’s music embodies hip hop, rap and various musical genres to explain historical events through rap battles, upbeat songs, heart wrenching numbers and tempting sing alongs. Across the country and around the world, high schoolers, college students and audiences alike have been enraptured and inspired through the fluidity of the rap battles and how well it summarises characters and essays of political lexicon. In other words, Hamilton makes a difficult and convoluted American history easily accessible. Truly, it transcends its existence as a passing fad or simply a musical running at the Richard Rodgers theatre. It’s ability to influence , the depth of meaning and the scope of history behind it run deeply into the roots of society and touch people in unspeakable yet profound ways.

 

The power of both women and immigrants

Elizabeth Schuyler, Hamilton’s wife, and her two sisters, commonly known as ‘The Schuyler Sisters’, play significant roles in the musical. Their characters, portrayed to be independent, earnest young women, perpetuate the idea of feminism and defy the status quo of what was a conventional, patriarchal society. Miranda, through the sisters, shows that Hamilton is not just an insipid retelling of American history, but also a musical about love, sacrifice and compromise.

In a country that is now facing contentious racial issues, political splintering among its own citizens and at the federal level, Hamilton is a stark reminder that the country was birthed by the grunt, blood, sweat and tears of immigrants who worked relentlessly in the name of independence, freedom and the right to live one’s life as one wishes.

With so much political chaos in the United States today, Hamilton offers a breathtaking insight on the fundamental values and goals the country was built upon. If anything, the musical allows the American people of today to reconsider their political views, and be mindful of their country’s illustrious history. It also stands as a model for all other broadway shows, and the Western entertainment industry as a whole, to recognise and act upon the potential that actors and actresses of non-white races have. On top of all that, Hamilton’s music is the compilation of songs years in the making, and through empathy and attractiveness compel audiences to internalise the invaluable values, beliefs and history that is fundamental to the play.

Hamilton is truly a show that is the catalyst for many cultural shifts to come.

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