Review Summary: Who lives, who dies, who tells our story?
Since the inclusion of the Broadway musical on Disney+ streaming services, “Hamilton”, playwritten by Lin-Manuel Miranda, has seen a surge in popularity due to the expanded audience that they were able to achieve by putting a recording on a streaming platform. As one of the most popular Broadway musicals in the past decade, it was difficult to obtain tickets to see this performed live, despite the original cast not having taken part in years. Because of this, Hamilton is able to tell its story to wider and more diverse audiences, mirroring one of the ideals within the musical of “telling their story”.
Hamilton is not your typical musical – subtract the gitchy, campy musicals and dance numbers and insert a more modern taste to accompany history. Hip-hop, rap, RnB and soul music are all utilized throughout the almost three-hour runtime, developing a story of a young Alexander Hamilton and his mission to become a founder at the time of the American Revolution and the birth of the nation. In parallel to this, it also depicts the political and personal journeys of Aaron Burr, most commonly known to Americans as the man who killed Hamilton in a duel, cutting the life short of one of the country's most important figures. Additionally, the stories of Hamilton's wife and her family, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and more are painted in a way they have never been before, through rhyme scheme, flow, and use of a diverse cast, including Leslie Odom Jr. as Aaron Burr and Daveed Diggs as Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson(also known for his work in the experimental rap group clipping.)
Despite the historical inaccuracies that occur throughout the story of Hamilton's conquest to the top, which minimally detract from the quality of the story, the overall construction of the musical is engaging and thoughtful. Throughout the entirety of the musical, themes are applied to characters and figures within the storyline, and these themes are consistently called upon when these characters appear during the story, molding and conforming to the current events happening on stage. Acts 1 and 2, which split the album in half, distinguish themselves as the rise and fall of Hamilton, including repeated actors in different rolls, including the aforementioned Diggs and Okieriete Onaodowan as James Madison (5th president of the US) and Hercules Mulligan, a depicted colonial spy within the British government who helped in the success of the revolution. The first half of this includes songs of glory and freedom among engineers of a free land, while the second half depicts the political and personal downfall of a famed politician in the first political sex scandal in US history.
Renée Elise Goldsberry as Angelica Schuyler, sister to Hamilton's wife Elizabeth Schuyler, truly shines in her role throughout this musical, particularly in songs like “Schuyler Sisters” and “Satisfied”. Whether you are watching the stream or just listening to the CD, she displays incredible range, stylistic talent, and attitude. Leslie Odom Jr. (Aaron Burr) was effortlessly effective in songs like “Wait for It” and “Dear Theodosia”. The interludes throughout the length of this also provide a nice reprieve from the main story, including appearances from the King of England, played by Jonathan Groff of “Mindhunter” fame.
Overall, I believe that this “album”/musical should be consumed along with the visual context that it was made to go alongside. While certain tracks on this stand out and are able to support themselves outside of the narrative and separate from the musical, this deserves a try from anyone remotely interested in watching it. While the story itself might include embelishments of the past, it is a depiction of the past that is refreshing and not the same, whitewashed story that has been fed to children and Americans for years.
Recommended Tracks: Schuyler Sisters, Wait for It, Ten Duel Commandments, Guns and Ships, One Last Time