Posts Tagged ‘Hamilton’

Do you find the current political climate to be openly volatile? Does your blood boil the second you turn on the news or browse through social media because of the unrelenting slough of incompetence and vitriol coming from the current Administration? Do you scream into your pillow in the futile hope that answers will come to you between gulps of air? Do you long for the halcyon days of George W. Bush’s presidential buffoonery? Bill Clinton’s sex scandals? Barack Obama’s calm and reassuring demeanor in the face of ridiculous amounts of adversity?

Well, I don’t know what to do about all of those feelings I’m you’re having, but I can recommend a podcast about The West Wing! Will it stop the relentless onslaught of anxiety? No. But it will kill an hour of your day while you listen to an engaging discussion about a fictional idealized behind-the-scenes world of politics!

Okay, that’s a gross oversimplification. Here’s the over-explanation.

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The West Wing Weekly is a podcast hosted by musician and composer Hrishikesh “Hrishi” Hirway, also the host of Song Exploder, and actor Joshua Malina, currently of the television program Scandal. The purpose of the podcast? To talk about the much beloved West Wing, created by Aaron Sorkin. Week by week, episode by episode, the two recap and analyze the show giving it equal parts praise and critique with some added trivia and real-world examples of the government dealings presented in Sorkin’s fictional White House. Unlike many podcasts devoted purely to talking about a favorite tv show long since cancelled, Malina’s involvement lends the podcast the advantageous position of first-hand access to the actors, writers, directors, and consultants. A friend and frequent player in Sorkin’s tv shows and movies (i.e. Sports Night, The American President, A Few Good Men), Malina also joined the West Wing cast in Season 4 as Will Bailey and stayed until the series’ end.

The dynamic between Hirway and Malina is the real draw of the podcast. Where Malina hasn’t watched an episode since it first aired (17 years ago), Hirway has gone through multiple rewatchings. Where Hirway presents a sunnier, perhaps more optimistic look at Sorkin’s idealized political world, Malina – by his own admission – leans towards a contrarian approach to his analysis. Their outlooks, however, aren’t set in stone. The two frequently change their attitude towards characters, storylines, and dialogue depending on how well conceived the episode ends upon rewatch or how well the other can argue in favor or opposition.

Aaron Sorkin - The West Wing Weekly Twitter photo

Josh Malina, Hrishi Hirway, and Aaron Sorkin

The open discussion and dissection of each episode allows for some poignant and thoughtful moments to emerge. Malina and Hirway analyze The West Wing through a post-9/11 lens with the additional political strife of current and past presidential administrations informing their scrutiny. Their modern-day assessment also takes the show to task for the underlying sexism frequently portrayed by the majority of male characters as well as the unearned victories of complex arguments with no equivalent heft given to the person on the “wrong” side. The most current episode posted as of the writing of this article was “17 People” from Season 2, which originally aired 5 months before 9/11, so it’ll be interesting to see how and if their analysis changes once Season 3 begins. “Isaac and Ishmael” is a nostalgic favorite of mine, but as a response to the terrorist attack on America and its non-canonical placement in the show, there’s definitely aspects of the episode (and the show in general) that haven’t aged well. I’m also looking forward to the day when Malina’s Will Bailey shows up and how he and Hirway navigate their criticism of the episodes. Not that they’d be any less critical, but I can’t imagine it’s easy to take your own performance to task or critique the performance of a friend while they’re sitting across from you.

Other than the hosts, the guests who’ve come on the podcast to talk about The West Wing are a veritable who’s who of Sorkin players, activists, and government officials. Listening to cast members like Bradley Whitford (Josh Lyman), Emily Proctor (Ainsley Hayes), Dule Hill (Charlie Young), Richard Schiff (Toby Ziegler), Janel Moloney (Donna Moss), and Rob Lowe (Sam Seaborn) reveal character motives and behind-the-scenes anecdotes are thrilling to people like me who love those kinds of stories. I’m one of those featurette-watching, commentary-listening types so knowing that Moloney and Whitford played it like Josh and Donna were already in love from the word go makes me happy. Or learning that Dule Hill tap dances to pass the time on set and worked out how to tap along to Yo-Yo Ma’s cello during filming on “Noel” is ridiculously heartwarming. Or that Shonda Rhimes named Malina’s character on Scandal after a character mentioned briefly and early in the first season and was never mentioned again or featured on screen shows just how deep the fandom can go.

attends "Hamilton" Broadway Opening Night at Richard Rodgers Theatre on August 6, 2015 in New York City.

The reach and influence of The West Wing on the world of politics and pop culture shouldn’t be underestimated as evidenced by the amount of love and reverie many of the guests have displayed when they talk about how important the show was personally and professionally. Hearing speech writers, political commentators, NASA engineers, rabbis, crew members, and ambassadors praise and question the machinations of an episode or the subject matter therein offers a new avenue of perspective through which to enjoy or engage with the show. You want more proof? Look no further than the rap created by noted fanboy, Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton: An American Musical, Moana), for the podcast. Miranda, according to Richard Schiff, stated that there would be no Hamilton without The West Wing. The musical is peppered with references and the cast and crew, knowing his love for the show, played the opening theme at the curtain call of his last Broadway performance. Hell, they even did a walk-and-talk style version of “Cabinet Battle #1” when the cast visited the White House.

 

I told you it was an over-explanation, right?

So, yes, you should totally be listening to this podcast. If you’re a fan of The West Wing, you’ll love the discussion. And if you’re new to the show, you can follow along with Hirway and Malina episode by episode since all seven seasons are now on Netflix. It’s definitely worth your time and a necessity for your health in these trying times. Trust me, I’m an archivist.

Okay?

Okay.

What’s next?

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I’m not saying Drunk History should pack it’s bags and wish us well, but the most recent episode of the hilarious show where comedians drunkenly recall historical events that are later reenacted, flubs and all, felt like an unspoken completion of whatever weird journey Derek Waters and company started not so long ago.

If you’ll recall, in the long-long-ago of 2007, Drunk History began as roughly five minute shorts for the website Funny or Die. The first of those shorts featured actor Mark Gagliardi drunkenly recounting the duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. Reenacting this masterfully inebriated tale were Michael Cera as Hamilton, Jake Johnson as Burr, and Ashley Johnson as Elizabeth Schuyler-Hamilton.

 

 

The video was charming and hilarious at the time and remains so, but it really highlights how far Drunk History has come since its web series/YouTube days. The camera quality, set design, and the costuming are the epitome of a home movie production. Most likely this was out of necessity, though one could argue strongly for the intentional use of a low budget aesthetic simply because it’s funnier. Regardless, the videos became popular and because of the viral nature of the internet it became clear to the decision-making people at Comedy Central that there was something in Drunk History worth developing.86133-8

Fast forward almost a decade and Drunk History has now devoted an entire episode to Alexander Hamilton as recalled by the adorkable writer, lyricist, and former lead of the Tony award winning Broadway musical Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda. Recorded while Miranda was performing in the show (his hair is still long), the episode spans Hamilton’s life and eventual death in the infamous duel. There are a few new tidbits of information such as the ship bringing Hamilton to America catching fire, which gave me my favorite quote of the episode (“Sick ass Hamilton on a flaming ship!”), but for anyone familiar with the musical and its additional material it’s a very by-the-book half an hour of television. The draw of the episode is, obviously, drunk Lin-Manuel Miranda and the reenactment.

I can say, without question, that Alia Shawkat and Audrey Plaza killed it as Hamilton and Burr respectively. Both play up the arrogance and swagger of their historical analogs, but the hilarity comes from how much fun they’re having miming Miranda’s stories for the camera. Filling out the cast are Bokeem Woodbine as George Washington, Tony Hale as James Monroe, David Wain as Thomas Jefferson, and Dave Grohl as a guy who happens to be there. Hey, Dave Grohl!

 

 

Again, it’s a staggering comparison between the original video and the show as it is now; full on battlefield engagements filmed like mini-movies, sets that look like they might have attempted filming in Independence Hall, and costumes that come from a bigger budget and production value rather than a Halloween costume store. I did like that they made a callback to the first video by mirroring the exchange of letters between Hamilton and Burr, but overall the episode is bigger, brighter, bolder, and other b-word adjectives!

Lin-Manuel Miranda has been having a banner couple of years and the future only seems to be getting brighter for him. The core of his character, however, remains genuinely sincere, passionate, and extremely humble. He’s also adorkable to the nth degree, which makes him and the episode that much more endearing to watch. The special appearances by the Roots’ Questlove and Chris Jackson (original George Washington in Hamilton) on FaceTime, including a West Wing quote from Miranda to Jackson, speak to the man’s indefatigable joy and unrelenting humor. The affection he has for his friends, music, and the stories he’s become custodian to make the boozy interview yet another bullet point on the “List of Reasons Lin-Manuel and I Would Be Best Friends” we’ve all been making in our heads…or writing on random notepads with little hearts, stars, and Lisa Frank stickers everywhere.

 

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For commissions, visit Elhoffer Designs and be sure to pre-order the Loki Jacket!

 

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Check out the gallery of Catherine’s work below and be sure to follow her on Instagram!

 

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Captain America: Civil War

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X-Wing Pilot

Maybe “heal” is too soon to call, but I’m confident that when we look back on the reactions of people, nationally and internationally, to the horrific shooting at Pulse in Orlando, Florida, we’ll point to the broadcast of the 70th Annual Tony Awards as an important cultural milestone not only in its celebration of diversity but in its unabashed and sincere display of empathy towards the LGBTQIA community. From host James Cordon’s opening statement to Hamilton‘s win for Best Musical, the ceremony and its participants let their emotions drive their performances and their words. The victims of Orlando were truly in the hearts and minds of those performing in New York as Broadway paid tribute to the community that built it.

So let’s take a look at all of the moments that made this year’s Tonys so significant.

And as a side note, you should check out Carolyn Cox’s article about the Tonys over at The Mary Sue.

 

The Cold Open

Before the ceremony even began, host James Cordon opened the show with little fanfare. Just the camera on him, positioned from the back curtain, so those watching could see the full capacity of the theater; a theater full of the LGBTQIA community and their allies, a theater full of love and support, a theater full of voices crying “you are NOT alone!”

 

The Tonys have always made a priority out of giving it their all as a showcase of performance and passion. For many across the country and around the world the chance to see a Broadway production is slim whether because of geography or for financial reasons. And yet the lifeblood of the theater is made up of young people seeking an outlet for their creativity or a refuge from the world around them, so the broadcast takes on extra special meaning and importance for the theater community as it reaches out to the next generation.

The Hamilton Love Was Non-Stop

With a record setting 16 nominations, it was merely a question of how many awards Hamilton was going to take home at the end of the night. One shy of matching The Producers‘ record-setting 12 wins, Hamilton made an impressive haul, winning in several categories including Best Director (Tommy Kail), Best Lead Actor in a Musical (Leslie Odom, Jr.), Best Featured Actress in a Musical (Renée Elise Goldsberry), Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Daveed Diggs), Best Orchestration (Alex Lacamoire), and Best Book of a Musical (Lin-Manuel Miranda).

The hip-hop musical chronicling the “ten dollar Founding Father without a father” was all over the Tonys. Not only did Lin-Manuel Miranda’s company provide an opening parody of Hamilton‘s first song for James Cordon they also closed out the show with “The Schuyler Sisters,” a love letter to New York City with Angelica, Eliza…and Peggy proclaiming it as “the greatest city in the world.”

It’s not all that surprising how much of a presence Hamilton had; James Cordon is unapologetically Hamilton trash and he used the award ceremony to indulge in that love as well as pay tribute to the efforts of Miranda to provide entertainment for those unable to attend the show during the Ham4Ham lottery outside the Richard Rogers Theater. At each commercial break, the upcoming performers took the stage outside the Beacon Theater, surrounded by fans unable to attend the show, to sing a well-known show tune or a classic Broadway standard. Cordon even aired an edited version of his Carpool Karaoke featuring Miranda, Audra McDonald, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and Jane Krakowski.

But there were two Hamilton related moments that prominently stood out. First, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s acceptance sonnet after winning for Best Original Score. A man of compassion and intelligence, Miranda made “love” the word of the night as he paid tribute to his wife and the LGBTQIA community.

After his win for Best Book, Miranda told reporters, “Theater doesn’t exist without the LGBT Community. It’s the cornerstone of our industry and it’s heavy in my heart tonight.”

Secondly, the performance of “History Has It’s Eyes on You” and “Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)” showed exactly why Hamilton has become such a significant piece of art. Getting three separate introductions from James Cordon, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, and Common respectively, the words and intent of the songs, not unlike the actual words of the Founding Fathers, took on new meaning. Out of respect for the victims in Orlando, Miranda and company performed without the prop muskets that would normally be featured, but I can say that their presence was barely noted as somber lyrics like “the world turned upside down” and “history has its eyes on you” reverberated through the Beacon Theater. It was a poignant moment as if the songs were chosen for a reason, sending a message to all those watching. Even the victorious shouts of “We won!” held back barely contained pride, joy, and rage. Hamilton secured its spot as the voice of a generation in that moment.

Frank Langella Pays Tribute to Orlando

After winning the award for Best Actor in a Play for his performance in The Father, veteran actor Frank Langella forfeited the typical list of thank yous and instead commented on the Orlando shooting.

People of Color Sweep Major Awards

As mentioned before, Hamilton‘s Leslie Odom, Jr., Daveed Diggs, and Renée Elise Goldsberry took home awards for acting in a musical. Add to that list The Color Purple‘s Cynthia Erivo’s win for Best Lead Actress in a Musical and all four categories for acting in a musical were won by people of color. It’s a bittersweet moment of triumph since it’s the first time in the history of the Tonys that this has happened, but given the plethora of people of color nominated for Tonys this year, Broadway’s biggest night showed far more effort in promoting and encouraging diversity than the Oscars.

Speaking of which…

Diversity Steals the Showerivo

With so many people of color nominated, the plays and musicals nominated were just as diverse in their subject matter and significance to our current culture. Hamilton showed the parallels between modern and Revolutionary America through the lens of postmodern storytelling. Shuffle Along, or, the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed brought context to the Jazz Age play; the first to star an entirely black cast and a desegregated orchestra. The Tony performance also featured the incomparable Audra McDonald doing a tap routine while very pregnant! The Color Purple celebrated the hard work, struggle, and drive of black women finding strength in themselves and in the people they love. Worth noting was Cynthia Erivo’s powerhouse performance as Celie during the show. She brought the house down and showed why the Tony was hers to win. Even the revival of Fiddler on the Roof found significance as a celebration of faith through the struggle of the Jewish community in turn of the century Russia.

The most intriguing performance, however, was the revival of Spring Awakening with a cast made up of deaf and hearing as well as differently abled actors. Marlee Matlin, who made her Broadway debut in the Deaf West production, introduced the performance, noting that the themes of the play are universal but the deafness of some of the principal actors gives greater meaning to a musical about the failure of adults to listen to their children.

Of course one night of music and awards can’t erase the tragedy this country, specifically the LGBTQIA community, experienced, but in their own way the Tonys gave us a brief distraction. It was a generous gift and I thank them for that with all of my heart.

If you’d like to help the victims of the Orlando shooting, please visit https://www.gofundme.com/PulseVictimsFund

Kate Leth also posted a roundup of pertinent links for various donations and trauma counseling. You can go here: http://kateordie.tumblr.com/post/145813044112/anyone-in-orlando-or-has-followers-from-the-area

This has been the week of announcements surrounding Hamilton creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda. Not only will he be co-starring in Disney’s Mary Poppins sequel/continuation/re-imagining alongside Emily Blunt, but his first Broadway hit In The Heights will be coming to the silver screen courtesy of the Weinstein Company. Sadly, this means he’ll be leaving his Pulitzer Prize and assuredly Tony award winning musical when his contract expires in July in order to pursue said projects as well as a other creative ventures. Miranda isn’t going anywhere if our collective fandoms are concerned, so I wanted to focus on one of many avenues in which Hamilton has inspired people creatively: animatics.lin

If, like me, you watched a lot of behind the scenes or making of featurettes for animated movies, then you’re probably aware of what an animatic is. For those who don’t know, animatics are basically animated storyboards that can be utilized for anything from pre-visualization to timing out musical sequences. Thanks to the internet, a lot of people experimenting with animation, whether for school projects or as part of their career, put their work on YouTube, which means I end up spending a lot of time going down the animatic rabbit hole.

Unsurprisingly, Hamilton has inspired quite a few artists to storyboard and animate snippets and/or full songs from the musical. The contemporary vibe of Hamilton’s hip-hop origins lends itself to animation, but what makes these animatics stand out are the variety of visual translations. It isn’t hard to find video of Hamilton performances, so the aesthetics of the costumes and the performers’ faces are used at the discretion of the artist, but the animation adds a distinctive layer of scope and scale that the musical can’t achieve. Live performers and a stage present physical limitations on what the actors can do and how the story can be told, but with animatics artists can blend the music with dynamic shots that match its energy or reinterpret how aspects of the song can be visualized.

I’m certain that there will come a point where all of Hamilton’s 46 songs will have some animated flair attached to them, but for now here are the pieces that caught my eye during my latest rabbit hole session. Some are rougher than others in terms of animation, but I think they find the essence of the song while remaining visually captivating.

“Satisfied” Animatic by Jade Butler

It starts around the middle of the song, but I dig the Disney-esque style. I especially love the vision Angelica has in her champagne of the scenario in which she and Hamilton are together and Eliza steps aside.

“Non-Stop” Animatic by lifewhatisthat

One of many vignettes in the song, I think the lighting effect with the purple coloring is great. I’m also a sucker for great expressions and this video has some great ones for both Hamilton and Burr.

“Burn” Animatic by Xena Achilleos

It’s a gut punch of a song that breaks my heart every time thanks to Phillipa Soo’s amazing voice. The video really captures Eliza’s emotional status with the large, gloomy, and empty room emphasizing her betrayal and heartache.

“Farmer Refuted” Animatic by Von Muren

This has some great crowd art and camera angles. I love the opening shot melding into the crowd. Where this video really shines is in Hamilton’s interaction with the crowd and Samuel Seabury, circling the man like a predator as they debate.

“Congratulations” Animatic by coma

This is actually a cut song from the musical, though a few pieces were cannibalized for “The Reynold’s Pamphlet.” It’s a shame because Angelica really lays into Hamilton about how he’s monumentally screwed up and Renée Elise Goldsberry kills it. The animation is fantastic with the character expressions selling the moment of confrontation and the conflicting emotions of Angelica and Hamilton.

“Your Obedient Servant” Animatic by Soleildiddle

This artist has a whole bunch of Hamilton animatics, which I recommend watching, but this one is my favorite because it turns the letters of Hamilton and Burr building up to their duel as a dance with each man taking the lead when it’s his turn to respond.

“Aaron Burr, Sir” Animatic by Erin Shin

The style of this piece reminds me of Saturday morning cartoons, in a good way. It’s fitting since this is the song right after the opening number, so Hamilton is still full of optimism and delusions of grandeur when he encounter Burr for the first time. I love the contrasting expressions as well; Burr is calm and amused while Hamilton is frenetic and intense.

“The World Was Wide Enough” Animatic by NMS Video

I love, love, LOVE this animatic because it perfectly encapsulates how storytelling changes based on the medium. Hamilton is seeing his life flash before his eyes and, via the stirring and frantic singing of Lin-Manuel Miranda, the animation pulls us through each moment and interaction significant to him. My favorite transition is young Hamilton laying in his mother’s lap only for his young hand to grip the soil as he rises up into his days as a soldier. It works so seamlessly.

These are only a small sample of what’s out there and hopefully there will be more to share in the future. Until that time, I want to thank Lin-Manuel Miranda and the cast of Hamilton for being so inspirational that people are bringing more amazing art into the world everyday.

That’s right, you. You’re the one who’s still obsessed with the greatest musical that ever musicaled. Not me. You. You’re the one who goes to bed singing “The Schuyler Sisters”. You’re the one who wakes up with Washington’s rap from “Right Hand Man” bouncing around your skull. You’re the one who uses the Aaron Burr, Sir rhyming scheme nonstop. You’re the one who referenced another Hamilton song within a sentence about your obsessive need to incorporate the previous song into your daily life.AR-AK469_Theate_P_20150806131612

Okay, that escalated quickly.

But fear not, readers, for I have come here to curate a sampling of Founding Fathers/American Revolution themed media that’s sure to continue enabling my obsession. I mean your obsession.

#Ham4Ham

Let’s start with an easy one. Perhaps this obsession has also become entwined with your love of Broadway and musicals in general. Well, never fear, you can fall down the rabbit hole of Ham4Ham videos on YouTube where the cast and crew, under the direction of Lin-Manuel Miranda, perform for an audience of hundreds participating in a lottery for tickets to the show. A mere ten dollars gets you a five minute performance from the stars of Hamilton or from some of the many familiar faces from Broadway’s past and present.

Drunk History

The one that started it all. Need I say more?

Histeria

As I mentioned in the latest podcast, Histeria was a show created by the same teams responsible for Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain. It was a show designed to – get this – make history entertaining for kids and pre-teens. Weird, right? It only aired for two years and it has yet to be released on DVD, but you can watch the episodes on YouTube for free! Best of all, they have several episodes devoted to the American Revolution featuring a very Bob Hope-esque George Washington.

Schoolhouse Rock!

It was a simpler time…

Founding Fathers Rapping

Need more Revolution Era rap? Looks like JibJab might have beat Lin-Manuel Miranda by a few years…

1776

In need of more Founding Fathers singing that isn’t rap? Okay, I guess that’s cool. Well look no further than 1776, a musical about the creation, ratification, and signing of the Declaration of Independence. You won’t find any signs of Hamilton here, but John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin sure now how to…sing about eggs.

HBO’s John Adams Mini-Series

Wondering why Alexander Hamilton had such a problem with John Adams? Well maybe watching a bunch of clips from the miniseries will make clear what’s only glossed over in the musical. Adapted from David McCullough’s biography of John Adams, we see the Revolution and the Early Republic through the eyes of one of the less popular presidents. Paul Giamatti carries the miniseries deftly upon his shoulders, but he’s also surrounded by an impressive cast of amazing actors, including Rufu Sewell as Hamilton.

 

That Time George Washington Totally Fought Robin, the Boy Wonder

You heard me.

Well, hopefully that keeps me you satisfied for the time being. Lord knows it’s hard to say no to this craving for more Hamilton oriented media, but I’ll you’ll just have to hunker down and wait for it to calm down. Then, maybe, we can get some work done around here, people!

Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton

Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton

 

 

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Intro and Outro music: “Doctor Who Theme” by the Doubleclicks

Check out Jackie’s latest album, This Will Make an Excellent Horcrux

I may not be able to see the musical for a good year or so, but my God if it was possible to marry a soundtrack, I’d be the first in line. Seriously, I haven’t been this obsessed with a musical since I was twelve watching the Les Misérables 10th Anniversary show on PBS. But if you told me ten, five, even one year ago that one of my favorite albums ever would be the cast recording of a hip-hop musical about Alexander Hamilton I probably would’ve laughed in your hamilton-musicalface. Really hard. Like, rolling on the floor, gut-busting laughs that leave you breathless.

Don’t get me wrong, I find the Revolutionary era of American history fascinating, but that’s because I studied and specialized in the subject. The further we move away from the United States’ beginnings the harder it becomes to make the Founding Fathers relatable as flesh and blood men of their time. Instead, we venerate and idolize them for their virtues and great accomplishments while not-so-subtly sweeping their flaws and mistakes under the rug. We forget that for all their eloquence and statesmanship these were men subject to the same trappings of ambition, pride, lust, greed, and paranoia as the rest of us.

Enter Lin-Manuel Miranda and Ron Chernow’s 800-page biography of Alexander Hamilton. Coming off of his success for the musical In the Heights, which he received the Tony for Best Original Score, Miranda picked up Chernow’s book while on vacation and became inspired to tell Hamilton’s story. But what’s so inspiring about a man who modern audiences only know was killed in a duel and appears on the ten dollar bill? In Miranda’s mind not only is Hamilton’s life the immigrant’s story but the man’s tenacity, zeal, and naked ambition makes him a kindred spirit of modern day hip-hop artists like Tupac and Kanye West. After reading Chernow’s book, Miranda spent the next seven years working on the musical that originally started as the Hamilton Mixtape. The first inklings of the emerging musical came from Miranda’s performance of what would be the opening number at the White House in 2009.

It’s easy to laugh at the idea. Hamilton and hip-hop don’t exactly overlap no matter how refined you make the Venn diagram. But when you move past the conceit of the musical and listen to the actual music, it all begins to make sense. Hip-hop and rap are, at their core, about self-aggrandizement, hyperbole, and passion and when one looks at the writings produced by the Founders those same core tenets materialize. They wrote for posterity’s sake, with history in mind, and men like Hamilton could rise or fall by the strength of their words. To win was to have the most convincing argument, which also meant destroying the argument of your opponent through cleverness and rhetoric. Tell me that doesn’t sound like a rap battle. In fact, there are two moments where the old school rap battle serves as the delivery method for cabinet debates between Hamilton and Jefferson. They are, by far, my favorite pieces for the Hamilton-Lafayette-Mulligan-Laurenssheer amount of history covered through amazing lyrical dexterity. I could listen to Lin-Manuel Miranda and Daveed Diggs battle all day as Hamilton and Jefferson. All. Day.

But the Hamilton soundtrack, produced by Questlove and Black Thought of The Roots, is more than just hip-hop. It’s the best fusions of R&B, jazz, rap, soul, pop, and traditional Broadway, but above all else it’s filled to the brim with energy. And therein lies the strength of the musical. The frenetic nature of hip-hop propels the story, making Hamilton and the rest of the Founders dynamic and active participants in the creation of the American experiment. These aren’t the stuffy white men of static images in history books, these are living, breathing revolutionaries looking for a fight, a cause, to improve their lives and prove themselves to the rest of the world. It’s also worth noting that the entire main cast is intentionally composed of people of color. As Miranda puts it Hamilton is “the story of America then told by America now.”

And at the center of it is Alexander Hamilton, played by Miranda, and the amazing cast bringing George Washington (Christopher Jackson), Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette (both played by Daveed Diggs), and Aaron Burr to life. Using Burr (Leslie Odom, Jr.) as the musical’s narrator, Hamilton follows the youngest Founding Father from his revolutionary beginnings to his untimely end. Miranda and company present a man who lived like every day might be his last, a man obsessed with glory and legacy as the only means of proving himself and rising above his lowly origins. But Hamilton isn’t just the immigrant story, it’s the story of American politics, which haven’t changed all that much, and the flawed men in power.washington

As someone who has studied the Revolution, I appreciate Hamilton‘s approach to the Founders. Framed within the context of “who lives, who dies, who tells your story,” the musical neither condemns nor condones the behavior of Hamilton, Burr, Jefferson, Madison, and Washington. They all get their moments to shine, but they’re also undercut by their own arrogance and insecurities. The exception might be Washington. Commander, president, and father figure, Washington still retains an air of heightened reverence but the song “Right Hand Man” does a brilliant job of articulating Washington’s frustration with Congress and his own soldiers while “History Has Its Eyes on You” brings out his gentle, compassionate side beautifully encapsulated in Chris Jackson’s voice. Hamilton, however, is as much at fault for his own ruin, “The Reynolds Pamphlet”, as the people out to destroy him politically. And while Hamilton and Burr’s duel is an inevitability the road towards that confrontation is paved by two lives that intersect and parallel at key moments. And yet, at every turn, we get a reminder of Hamilton’s looming death. Whether it’s in the subtle reverberations of gun shots at the end of specific songs or Hamilton’s personal mantra of “I am not throwin’ away my shot!” we know what’s coming.

Hamilton Richard Rodgers Theatre Cast Lin-Manuel Miranda Alexander Hamilton Javier Muñoz Alexander Hamilton Alternate Carleigh Bettiol Andrew Chappelle Ariana DeBose Alysha Deslorieux Daveed Diggs Marquis De Lafayette Thomas Jefferson Renee Elise Goldsberry Angelica Schuyler Jonathan Groff King George III Sydney James Harcourt Neil Haskell Sasha Hutchings Christopher Jackson George Washington Thayne Jasperson Jasmine Cephas Jones Peggy Schuyler Maria Reynolds Stephanie Klemons Emmy Raver-Lampman Morgan Marcell Leslie Odom, Jr. Aaron Burr Okieriete Onaodowan Hercules Mulligan James Madison Anthony Ramos John Laurens Phillip Hamilton Jon Rua Austin Smith Phillipa Soo Eliza Hamilton Seth Stewart Betsy Struxness Ephraim Sykes Voltaire Wade-Green Standby: Javier Muñoz (Alexander Hamilton) Production Credits: Thomas Kail (Director) Andy Blankenbuehler (Choreographer) David Korins (Scenic Design) Paul Tazewell (Costume Design) Howell Binkley (Lighting Design) Other Credits: Lyrics by: Lin-Manuel Miranda Music by: Lin-Manuel Miranda Book by Lin-Manuel Miranda

The women of Hamilton, though, are not to be ignored. Alexander Hamilton’s relationship with the Schuyler sisters may have been complicated but the musical uses that complexity to bring out the romance and tragedy in their history. Renée Elise Goldsberry is amazing as Angelica Schuyler-Church, the eldest and most intellectually profound of the sisters. In “The Schuyler Sisters” Goldsberry brings out the fun and youthful exuberance of Angelica’s search for a “mind at work” while “Satisfied” exposes her love for Hamilton and her dueling feelings of regret and happiness for his marriage to her sister Eliza. Phillipa Soo, though, is inspiring as Eliza Schuyler-Hamilton. Kind and supportive of her husband, her desire to “be part of the narrative” takes a tragic turn in the wake of the Reynolds Affair. The song “Burn” makes your heart break for her as she condemns her husband’s words and denies history access to her heart and mind. It’s a poignant commentary on the lack of documentation from Eliza concerning the affair and Soo brings such raw sadness and anger that it’s hard not to imagine the reality of Mrs. Hamilton’s circumstances.

This is all to say that I love, Love, LOVE this soundtrack and I wouldn’t be surprised if Hamilton wins all of the Tonys! Miranda has also mentioned that there are plans to film the musical, which I believe should be done as soon as possible. Not only does it put Hamilton into the homes of people who don’t have access to or can’t afford to see Broadway shows but it could be utilized by schools as a new way to teach kids about the American Revolution.

So raise a glass, people, and join me in my love for Hamilton!