Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hiphop operetta, a review

Ask anyone that knows me even a little and they will tell you that I am a musical theater nerd. My sister and I would sing together while doing dishes, figuring out who would sing which part of what harmony and who got to be Glinda and who got to be Elphaba. I can probably blame my dad for this, as he’s the original theater nerd in the Jaff family. My life has revolved primarily around musical theater, which means it must come as no surprise to anyone reading this that when Hamilton came into our lives, I was more excited and obsessed than the average person. It must also not come as a surprise to anyone that when my parents bought Hamilton tickets for my family for March 18, that I immediately set a countdown on my phone and computer and played the Hamilton playlist on repeat until the day finally came in which I stood in line at the Richard Rodgers theatre and I could see the show live.

Let’s back up for a minute. For those of you that don’t know (which I hope isn’t many of you), Hamilton is a musical about founding father Alexander Hamilton with music, lyrics, and book by Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights). Miranda was inspired by historian Ron Chernow’s biography entitled Alexander Hamilton. Instead of a typical musical, however, Miranda tells Hamilton’s story through the form of a rap operetta. The project originally began as an album of songs entitled “The Hamilton Mixtape”, but Miranda quickly realized that this work was meant to be a full show, and not just an album.

Enter Hamilton, the Broadway show that has quickly become the most coveted New York City experience. Theatregoers line up outside the Richard Rodgers theater before every show hoping to get a ticket, thousands—if not millions—enter the lottery each day to try and get a front row seat and a chance to meet the cast, and listeners all over the world are reciting raps and song lyrics from the soundtrack. Educators are using Hamilton as teaching tools in their classroom in order to educate their students about American history in a fresh, innovative way. Hamilton has quickly taken the world by storm, and Miranda will not allow it to slow down anytime soon.

What’s most special about Hamilton, however, is the cast. Besides the fact that the group is beyond talented (talented doesn’t begin to describe what this cast can do), the cast is made up primarily of black and Hispanic people, thus adding a level of multiculturalism to an originally all-white story. In an interview, Miranda describes Hamilton and his use of a colorblind cast as “the story of America then told by America now.” This country certainly isn’t what it was in the 17-and-1800s, especially in terms of race and diversity, and Miranda seamlessly and brilliantly incorporates this concept into his show.

My sister and I have been nerding out about Hamilton since we found out we were going to see the show. Nerding out doesn’t just mean listening to the album over and over (although we did do that and continue to do that); it means watching every #Ham- 4Ham video there is (look it up on YouTube if you don’t know what I’m talking about), pouring over interviews, scouring Tumblr for unofficial cast recordings, and reciting Hamilton lyrics in everyday conversation. This might seem over-the-top, but I can promise you that I am not the most obsessed Hamiltonite out there—not even close. But, I digress.

The experience of seeing Hamilton is truly otherworldly. It’s impossible to critique, because there’s so much happening onstage that is dynamic, exciting, educational, innovative, and intelligent. There’s just no room for error or fault. The cast is sharp, the set is simple yet effective, and the music is beyond incredible. I know those words are vague, but it’s nearly impossible to explain unless you’ve seen the show. From Elizabeth Schuyler (Philippa Soo) to Aaron Burr (Leslie Odom, Jr.), Hamilton takes its audience on an emotional and educational journey through the American Revolution.

If you don’t like musical theater, listen to Hamilton. If you don’t like rap, listen to Hamilton. If you don’t like music, listen to Hamilton. There is something in this show for everyone, and even if you don’t like it, at least you’ll learn something about America’s least taught founding father.

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