From glowing reviews to groundbreaking ticket sales, here’s one musical that exceeded its own expectations
Hailed by critics as one of the most innovative musicals, Hamilton the musical drew comparisons with Show Boat, Oklahoma! and West Side Story as a production that set trends and changed the game. It was created by one man—Lin-Manuel Miranda, composer, lyricist, playwright, and actor. One holiday, he gave in to impulse and read the biography of Alexander Hamilton written by Ron Chernow. The seed for the play was planted, and the rest is history.
Seen as some kind of an anomaly in the American history, Alexander Hamilton was one founding father who failed to have a myth created and circulated in his name, unlike Jefferson, Washington, and the like. He had ideas that were incompatible with today’s views, including his elitism and support for a president for life. Hamilton even died in a duel he fought with his bitter rival, Aaron Burr. But Miranda had transformed him into a different personality altogether. In Hamilton the musical, Alexander was a young immigrant from the West Indies who rose to the pinnacle of success by using his head, hard work, and daring. He lived the American dream. Although his story was implausible in history, it was a success in theaters. According to an article from the Guardian, Miranda succeeded in creating a myth for Hamilton, one that celebrated him as a symbol of “immigrant inclusiveness, egalitarianism and meritocracy.”
Hamilton the musical was all about inclusion—be it historical, cultural, or political. One of its allure and distinction lay in its entirely nonwhite cast, who played the roles of the founding fathers. It accomplished a phenomenon, tackling different aspects of history while attacking the racial and cultural politics of modern-day USA at the same time.
Miranda had explored history through the music of subcultures. Most of the play was sung, like in an opera. There was less dialogue. Wide-ranging and replete with historical references, the songs in this musical were both eye-opening and enlightening. Hamilton the musical soundtrack was made into a cast album and released in 2015. It had gained positive reviews from the Billboard and Rolling Stone magazine.
For the reviews in Hamilton the musical, it was called a “groundbreaking work of art.” Critics heaped praises on it—for its innovative retelling of a historical figure’s life and its tackling of today’s important issues. It was one of the most popular musicals to incorporate hip-hop music.
Hamilton the musical tickets sale amounted to $1 billion in less than two years of its run, exceeding all box office records. It had also reaped awards from left to right, including the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
From its exploration of American history to its use American popular music, Hamilton was understandably dubbed as the American musical.
Churchwell, Sarah. 2016. “Why Hamilton is making musical history.” Guardian, November 5. Accessed September 14, 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2016/nov/05/why-hamilton-is-making-musical-history.
Kot, Greg. 2017. “A music critic goes to ‘Hamilton.’” Chicago Tribune, March 29. Accessed September 14, 2017. http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/music/kot/ct-hamilton-music-kot-ae-0402-20170328-column.html.