Why "Hamilton" is the Broadway Show of Our Generation

In this day and age, Broadway musicals are becoming more and more mainstream, with certain shows, such as "Wicked," "Les Miserables," and "Book of Mormon" becoming a part of popular culture. However, none of them have come close to the generational smash hit that the new musical "Hamilton" has become. When the show officially premiered at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York City in August, 2015, it already had made $30 million in presales for tickets after completing a sold-out run in previews. Before it even premiered, both President Obama and the First Lady attended the show, and since then a plethora of other stars, such as Beyonce, Julie Andrews, Oprah, Jimmy Fallon, Tom Hanks, Bill and Hillary Clinton have shelled out several hundred dollars to see the show as well. 

The most telling fact about the show though concerns the cast album, which debuted at No. 12 on the Billboard 200 chart, which was the highest debut for a Broadway cast album since 1963. In this age in which only Taylor Swift and Adele albums seem to sell as a whole and in which singles are where the real money is, a full album, let alone one originating on Broadway, making it that high on the charts is astonishing. Making "Hamilton" even more baffling in regards to its success is the fact that the show follows the life of Alexander Hamilton, and in so doing the American Revolution as well, not exactly a contemporary topic.

However, the second the the first notes of the overture begins to play, the mystery of "Hamilton's" success disappears. While still sticking to a storyline, the music is infused with hip hop and pop, creating a unique blend of Broadway and mainstream sound that has never before been seen on the Great White Way. Somehow, Lin Manuel-Miranda, the genius writer and star of "Hamilton," has crafted a show that, in the words of many, can only be described as "game changing" for the entire Broadway industry. No other show is currently even being discussed in Broadway circles because none come close to the ground breaking level of "Hamilton," and this is because no other show speaks to the current younger generation as well as "Hamilton" does. 

Critically, "Hamilton" reaches across racial and cultural boundaries by, in the words of Miranda, telling "the story of America then, told by America now." By this, he means that the entire cast is mostly comprised of actors of mixed races, a change from the whitewashed world of the 18th century usually told in history textbooks. The founding fathers, including Hamilton, are also depicted as modern, almost juvenile American young men at times, with rap battles comprising "Cabinet Battle #1" and "Cabinet Battle #2." This makes the history of the revolution accessible to all audiences, illustrating how difficult the founding of the United States really was, and exposing the life of the first founding father to die to the general populace. 

The strength of the music and storyline is also heavily dependent on the women involved, who manage to convey the independent spirit of women today while laced into the corsets of the past. The three main women are introduced in the girl-group pop song "The Schuyler Sisters," and quickly establish themselves as a force to be reckoned with. Phillipa Soo, playing the sweet Eliza Schuyler, particularly shines as Hamilton's wife, whose character arc swoops from the lovestruck song "Helpless" to the heart-wrenching "Burn" in the second act. Indeed, in highlighting the women in Hamilton's life, the show manages to convey how deeply involved women were in the revolution, even if history doesn't always give them the credit they deserve. 

The genius of the show, though, lies in the lyrics, and Miranda's ability to weave together the real words of Hamilton and his contemporaries and modern music. This is no small feat, and in the hands of lesser writer and lyricist, could have resulted in a clunky, awkward show. Instead, "Hamilton" is a living, breathing miracle of songwriting, leaving the listener or audience member (depending on how big your wallet is, tickets aren't cheap) breathless and inspired. 

Ultimately, "Hamilton" is the show that will, without a doubt, be the stand out production of the decade, and will likely run for years as a result. As George Washington sings at one point in Act One, "history has it's eyes" on "Hamilton." So far, the production is rising to the bar, breaking down all walls on the way. 

 

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