So this week was Alexander Hamilton’s birthday! Happy birthday you, bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman….
261 years ago, Alexander Hamilton was born. But wait, who is Alexander Hamilton, you ask?
Alexander Hamilton was one of the founding fathers of the United States. He was the first Secretary of Treasury, was George Washington’s right hand man and was the founder of the Federalist Party, heavily pushing the Federalist Papers and was shot in a duel by Aaron Burr. And that’s just the bare minimum.
261 years later, his life is the basis of the smash hit musical ‘Hamilton’ on Broadway.Lin-Manuel Miranda, one of the creators and stars of previous Broadway smash In The Heights, was inspired to write a musical about our boy Alex here, after picking up a biography of his life written by Ron Chernow.
Over the course of seven years, Lin-Manuel Miranda has managed to compress a 900 page book into a 3 hour musical. All sung through. All told through a mix of Broadway, rap and hip hop music.
After falling head over heels in love with JUST THE SOUNDTRACK, I have been pushing it onto people like nobody’s business. It amazes how much this musical about the history of America resonates with me, a 19 year old British person who isn’t always that big on life stories. I usually prefer a plot. But the characterizations are some of my favourite songs on the soundtrack and the characters feel like real people today rather than all those years ago. Miranda doesn’t just focus on Alexander all the time. We meet his wife Eliza Hamilton and her sisters Angelica and Peggy. We meet his #squad John Laurens, Hercules Mulligan and Marquis de Lafayette. King George’s breakdown is cleverly characterized in just three songs but it works. Aaron Burr is the Javert of Hamilton. Their relationship is one massive gray area so depending on how you interpret certain lines in songs, how you feel about him is really down to you.
The cast are absolutely incredible, also. All of the lead roles, minus King George, are played by people of colour which is amazing. I’m white, I’ve got more than enough representation and other people deserve to have that representation too. For a lot of the cast, ‘Hamilton’ is their Broadway debut, which is also amazing. This just shows, you don’t always need a big name to sell tickets. And producers don’t always need to keep casting the same people in different shows. Lin-Manuel Miranda plays Alexander Hamilton and is an incredible rapper. Leslie Odom Jr is an incredible performer. He has such an incredible ability to transform. Between listening to him as Aaron Burr on the cast album to watching him in interviews as himself, the man is a chameleon, I’m sure of it. Philippa Soo and Renee Goldsberry shine as Eliza and Angelica respectively. And by respectively I mean, they punch me in my goddamn SOUL and bring out many, many emotions. I also really love how feminist these characters are. Both have their own relationships with Hamilton but, at least in my opinion, you see them as his equal. But for me, the stand outs are the actors who play different characters in both acts of the show.
Daveed Diggs first appears in act 1 as Ham’s homeboy Lafayette. Rapping at the speed of lightning with a brilliant French accent. (my friend who is French said so herself so I’ll take her word.) And in act 2 appears as Thomas Jefferson with his usual American accent, an Afro as fluffy as a cloud and a jacket so shiny he looks like someone you’d see on MTV.
Anthony Ramos first appears as passionate abolitionist John Laurens and in act 2 he plays Ham’s son Phillip. Only in theatre could you get a grown man in character rapping as a nine year old boy. Jasmine Cepha-Jones as Peggy Schuyler in act 1 is the complete opposite of the sultry Maria (PRONOUNCED MARIAHHHHH) Reynolds in act 2. And finally, Okieriete Onaodowan (aka the Mighty Oak) as badass flower girl Hercules Mulligan in act 1 to Thomas Jefferson’s bff James Madison in act 2. I’ve left Oak until last because his voice is like HONEY. Especially in act 2.
It took me a few listens to the cast album to realise they were the same actors playing different characters and this was just from listening to the cast album. I can only imagine what the physical performance must be like on stage. (Not neccessarily these actors but to any actor who plays/has played/will play these characters.)
I really love this musical. I told one of my friends that I loved it as much as Les Mis and I really fucking love Les Mis. Hope you enjoy as much as I do!
Hamilton: An American Musical is currently playing to packed houses on Broadway in New York. For show information you can visit http://www.hamiltonbroadway.com/
The cast album is available on iTunes, Apple Music and Spotify.