I simply can’t say no to this new musical
When I think of musicals, the first thing that comes to mind is certainly not a rapping founding father. In fact, it doesn’t even make the list. But for playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda, who is currently starring on Broadway as Alexander Hamilton, it’s the perfect medium through which to tell America’s story.
The new musical, inspired by Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton’s life, has hit the world of theatre like a hurricane. The cast album, released Sept. 25, combines rap with jazz and pop tunes and features the original broadway cast in 46 songs. The musical is what is known as an operetta, which means the majority of story is told through song (or rap) with little spoken dialogue. The show tells the story of the nation’s first Secretary of Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, and how he rises from unknown immigrant to George Washington’s right hand man, his fall from grace and eventual death.
Even though the characters in this show have been dead for a couple hundred years, Miranda makes them relatable to people today. Hamilton himself is rash and short tempered, but he’s also a fighter who never gives up on a cause he believes in. In contrast, Aaron Burr, former Vice President and the man who ultimately kills Hamilton, is typically viewed as a villain in history, but Miranda has written his character with an understanding of him as a human being, rather than a man defined by a singular action, and made him almost as much the star as the title character. Even the characters’ catchphrases foil each other. While Burr waits for it, Hamilton tells the world “just you wait” and see what he can do.
Miranda manages to find a beautiful balance between pure history and dramatic storytelling. One moment, you’re laughing about the sassiness of King George, and the next you’re smacked in the face with tragedy and reduced to a puddle of tears. Upon hearing the topic of this show, I didn’t expect a non-stop odyssey of emotions, but Miranda had my heart breaking for a founding father, a feat I never would have believed possible.
Along with taking the title role, Miranda, the recipient of the Tony for Best Original Score for his musical “In The Heights,” also wrote all the music for the operetta. The harmonies he’s created between actors and songs themselves flows together so wonderfully. At the end of Act 1, several songs are blended together in “Non-Stop,” and though each is distinctly different, Miranda has made it so they sound like they belonged together from the start. In the most crucial moments of various songs, the rise and fall of the instrumentals punctuate the feelings of desperation or jubilation as well as dialogue could. The strength or strain of the actors voices as they hit their belt or drop into a whisper grips you almost as tightly as what is being said does and sends you into the same free fall of emotion that each character is experiencing. The journey leaves you helpless, almost gasping for breath, but loving every second of it.
There are some expletives dropped throughout the album, but let’s be real, it’s no worse than what you’d hear on a walk across campus any given lunch period. There are those who will object to this musical before hearing it simply because of the rap genre, but as a former skeptic, I would encourage you to open your ears and your heart to it before you make your final judgement. Personally, I can’t wait to see what comes next from the MacArthur Genius Grant winning playwright.
The $20 price on this album may seem a bit steep, but I promise you it’s worth every penny, and after the first listen you’ll be back for more. This album has been on repeat on my iPod since I bought it, and I assure you it has left me entirely satisfied.