Review: ‘Hamilton’ Ushers in a New Era of Musical Theatre

Review: ‘Hamilton’ Ushers in a New Era of Musical Theatre

Meaghan Luong

By Meaghan Luong and Nirupa Abraham

Staff Writers


Who would have thought that Alexander Hamilton, a Founding Father of the United States, would be in the spotlight of a Broadway must-see? Upon its opening at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York City, the musical about Hamilton’s life and achievements has received critical acclaim. Mixing hip hop music and non-fiction may seem strange; however, “Hamilton” does it perfectly while attracting audiences of all types and ages and thus reinventing the world of musical theatre.

The show’s immense popularity comes across as a surprise for some, for its incorporation of multiple music styles, such as hip-hop, rap and jazz, into history is something that is rarely seen in the musical theatre world. The show’s fast-paced music attracts younger audiences, while its historical plot appeals to history fans and older audiences. “Hamilton” is able to bring people of different ages and interests all under one roof. Although historical musicals filled with modern music have been done before such as “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson,” none can match the success of “Hamilton.” The musical has been so successful that it has caught the attention of President Obama as well as Democratic candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, with Clinton going as far as to quote the musical in one of her tweets. “Hamilton’s” rising popularity adds to its role as a revolution in the world of musical theatre.

Its popularity, stemming from its unique musical score, has made the show an instant success. Tickets for the hit musical have been sold out regularly since its debut in 2015, and will continue to be until fall 2016. “Hamilton’s” lead and creator Lin-Manuel Miranda was inspired by Ron Chernow’s biography Alexander Hamilton. As the playwright, composer, lyricist and star of the musical, Miranda is often praised for his enterprising spirit. He utilizes his understanding of social media to connect with fans, and being a writer as well as a performer allows him to actively promote his musical. Miranda made every decision of his musical, including the cast, which is composed of talented people of color, a cast that fans praise as mostly young and multiethnic. Even President Obama said in his introductory speech before the show, “[‘Hamilton’] reminds us that this nation was built by more than…a few great men.” Nevertheless, great success also brings controversy. “Hamilton” was under fire when it had an open casting call searching for “nonwhite men and women” to audition. Actor’s Equity, a union that represents theatre actors, criticized “Hamilton’s” casting call, claiming that auditions should be open to everyone.

“Hamilton’s” popularity skyrocketed even more when The President and First Lady invited the cast to the White House on March 9 to host local student workshops, conduct a Q&A and perform. Known as #Bam4Ham, the day of highlighting the different types of arts received various praise. As a supporter of the musical, President Obama said “we hope that the remarkable life of Alexander Hamilton will show our young people the possibilities within themselves.” However, the highlight of the day was when Obama had Miranda freestyle in the Rose Garden, using words that were given to him.

“Hamilton” is not without its share of accolades either. Even with tough competition from great productions like “An American In Paris” and “The King and I”, the musical emerged as the winner of Best Musical Theater Album at the 58th Grammy Awards. To top it off, the cast gave an exceptional rendition of their opening number “Alexander Hamilton”, broadcasted live from Richard Rodgers Theatre. “Hamilton” is slated to win big at the Tony Awards, with a record-breaking 16 nominations that include coveted titles like Best Musical, Best Original Score and Best Actor nominations for both Miranda and Leslie Odom, Jr., who plays Aaron Burr.

Equally promising are future prospects for the production, like a national tour scheduled for 2017. After a September 2016 run in Chicago, the musical will open in March of 2017 at San Francisco’s SHN Orpheum Theater. It will move on to Los Angeles after 21 weeks, then to other cities. Eager theatre fans in Boston will definitely be pleased to hear that “Hamilton” plans to arrive at the Boston Opera House as part of the tour. A recent announcement from “Hamilton” producer Jeffrey Seller states that they are working with “Broadway in Boston”—an organization that presents touring productions—to bring the musical here; however, the downside is that audiences will have to wait until 2018 for the show.

Just like Alexander Hamilton himself, “Hamilton” continues to be recognized for its talent. The show has been a hit since its Off-Broadway debut in February 2015, and it continues to stun all types of audiences by its creative songs and extremely talented cast. After winning 11 awards at the Tony Awards on June 12, “Hamilton” may go down as one of the most popular musicals of the decade.