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#HC4Ham: A Crash Course in Broadway’s Hamilton

If you watched the 2016 Grammys, you may have noticed something a bit different: instead of pushing the award for “Best Musical Theatre Album” to a list during the end credits, one of the nominees was honored during the awards show with a spectacular live performance.  Stephen Colbert introduced Hamilton, the groundbreaking hip-hop musical about the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton.  The camera then switched to the Richard Rodgers Theatre, the Broadway stage Hamilton calls home, and the cast and crew performed the opening title song in front of a live audience.  Shortly after, Lin-Manuel Miranda, the show’s composer, was awarded his second Grammy for Best Musical Theatre Album. 

Hamilton is in no way new to the nation, but if it’s new to you, keep reading for a quick explanation of the show!

First of all, why is everyone so obsessed with this hip-hop history?  As the cast members say, Hamilton is a story of America’s past told by America today, and the casting calls for the show call for people of color to play nearly every role (with the exception of two: King George III can only be played by a Caucasian male, and the dual role of Peggy Schuyler/Maria Reynolds can be played by a woman of any ethnicity).  Doing so acknowledges the often overlooked roles people of color have played in America’s history, and makes it clear that America is for everyone, regardless of skin color, race – or gender.  Miranda has said that he would be open to women playing the founding fathers, therefore acknowledging the also overlooked role of women in history.

And then there are the women of Hamilton themselves!  Renée Elise Goldsberry portrays Angelica Schuyler Church, the oldest daughter of Philip Schuyler.  Angelica was truly a woman ahead of her time, rapping “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal/And when I meet Thomas Jefferson, I’ma compel him to include women in the sequel! WORK!” (You can listen below)  Jasmine Cephas Jones plays a dual role as Peggy Schuyler, the youngest Schuyler sister, and Maria Reynolds, who has an affair with Hamilton in act two (and is not slut-shamed in the slightest).  Finally, Phillipa Soo stars as Eliza Schuyler, the middle sister and Hamilton’s eventual wife.  Without a doubt, Soo steals the show as Eliza, and by the end you’re left wondering if she’s the Hamilton in the title.

As well as composing the music and writing the show’s book, Lin-Manuel Miranda stars as the show’s title character, a fiercely determined and intelligent young man wishing to build a legacy.  At his side, Anthony Ramos plays a dual role as John Laurens, a close friend of Hamilton’s and fellow revolutionary, and Philip Hamilton, Alexander’s young son.  Daveed Diggs portrays French ally Marquis de Lafayette and future president Thomas Jefferson.  Rounding out the dual casting is Okieriete Onaodowan as revolutionary spy Hercules Mulligan and fellow founding father James Madison.  Jonathan Groff plays sassy King George III, Christopher Jackson plays George Washington, and Leslie Odom, Jr., plays Hamilton’s best frenemy Aaron Burr. 

And if you can’t afford tickets to see the show, Miranda puts on short shows before nearly every run of the actual show.  Called #Ham4Ham, the series sometimes features other Broadway stars, past cast members, and even audience members.  New Yorkers can stand outside the Richard Rodgers and hope to catch a show – but if you’re not in New York, searching “Ham4Ham” on YouTube will pull up videos of almost every show.  And if that’s not enough, the entire soundtrack is available to stream on Spotify as well as YouTube.  Do not throw away this shot.

Need some girl power?  Listen for Angelica’s rap in the bridge.  WORK!

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