Reviews #2: On Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton

So my sister has followed (or should I say: loved) Lin-Manuel Miranda’s work for a while now.

And although I was never quite as taken with In the Heights as she was, I have to admit that Hamilton really does do it for me.

At first, I was a bit doubtful (how could it ever come close to Les Miserables?), but then again, I’d been listening strictly to The Schuyler Sisters and everything King George III, while my sister insisted I needed to listen to the whole thing.
Two weeks ago, I finally did, and, well, here’s a whole post with me gushing about how awesome this musical really is!


Let me start out by giving some context, for those of you who might not have heard of it yet: this musical is based on the life of Alexander Hamilton, one of the Founding Fathers of the US, the subject of America’s first sex scandal and the guy who basically invented the US financial system – just your Average Joe, obviously.

Now, when I say “musical”, I mean that not in the classic, Sound of Music-way. The only character who actually upholds the whole classical “musical theater”-standard is King George III who
a) has been played by Jonathan Groff
b) is mad,
c) in this musical, is the personification of old-fashioned-ness, and
d) gets to utter the most genious spoof of every break up song ever in the epic trio that is ‘You’ll Be Back’, ‘What Comes Next’ and ‘I Know Him’:

“You’ll be back, soon you’ll see
You’ll remember you belong to me
You’ll be back, time will tell
You’ll remember that I served you well
Ocean’s rise, empires fall
We have seen each other through it all
And when push comes to shove
I will send a fully armed battalion to remind you of my love!”

Sounds like a doll, doesn’t it? 🙂

The main character is played by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who also wrote the entire thing.

I’m really not the person to gave you much of a history lesson on this guy – but let me just use the final song’s lyrics to tell you why I love the concept of this musical so much:

“Every other founding father story gets told
Every other founding father gets to grow old.”

One of the thing I love most about history is the fact that it basically is story telling, and as such completely determined by who it is, telling the story.
Lin-Manuel Miranda has taken that fact and made it to the foundation of this musical, both in the details and in the way it is told.
He told the story of “America then” through “America now” – in other words: a cast that is racially diverse – and absolutely amazing.

He has Eliza (Hamilton’s wife) write herself out of the narrative, only to write herself back in, thus creating both an explanation for why not much is actually known about her during the more difficult years of her mariage, and for who tells his story

(By the way: check out this amazing a capella mash-up of,
basically, all songs in the musical!)

On a higher level, however, the story is also narrated, in a way, by Aaron Burr, Hamilton’s “frenemy”, also known as “the damn fool who shot him” (Hamilton) and the guy who gets to utter what might just be the lyrics in those whole thing I can relate most to:

“Death doesn’t discriminate
Between the sinners
And the saints
It takes and it takes and it takes
And we keep living anyway
We rise and we fall
And we break
And we make our mistakes
And if there’s a reason I’m still alive
When everyone who loves me has died
I’m willing to wait for it”

“I am the one thing in life I can control
I am inimitable
I am an original
I’m not falling behind or running late
I’m not standing still
I am lying in wait (…)
I am willing to wait for it”

And, sure, you could see this as being kind of gloomy, but at the same time, there’s a certain hope that springs from exactly that, you know?

So yes, I love all characters – The Schuyler Sisters! – and trying to sing along has just made me admire the actors more for a) being able to enunciate that well and fastly and b) not bursting into tears on some of these songs.

(Seriously, keep some tissues with you for Helpless and Satisfied, as well as ‘Burn’, ‘Stay Alive (Reprise)’, ‘It’s Quiet Uptown’ and ‘Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story’.
Basically, for the entire second Act.
And maybe for the first one too, just in case)

So yes, if you are still reading this extremely gushing, long post about Hamilton, suffice it to say I would quite like you to stop reading this now and go listen to the entire thing – you can find the entire soundtrack on Spotify, Amazon, and so on. Unfortunately, tickets for the actual show are sold out up to 2017 (yeah, like an actual year from now…))

But, hey, if you want to see more of it: check out this video where the entire thing is explained ànd you can have bits and bobs from the songs:

Oh, and of course, join me in hoping for more shows – or just a live DVD – soon!

-Saar