Lin-Manuel Miranda described Hamilton as a combination of fourteen distinct artistic genres including, dance, fashion and music. That is easily applicable to any show on Broadway or the West End and is broadly combined under the shelter of the musical. If one was to ponder upon the central theme of this show, then you would struggle to name just a single predominant idea. It is as if Lin-Manuel walked into the sweet shop and refused to pick just one sweet, but Hamilton is not a show of over-indulgence despite being almost three hours long. In fact, that one aspect satiates the desire for more and provides complete contentment and satisfaction. There is everything in this musical and something to adore for everyone in attendance, that is what makes it so special but also so utterly engrossing.
Ignore the crowds on the street, ignore the prices hikes, ignore the incredibly long wait times and just look at the premise of the show. The birth of America is a beautiful one indeed, as it encompasses the pure of heart defeating the firm grip of tyranny. The exploitative and superior British rulers were overthrown by rebel immigrants through a belief that freedom is the ultimate goal. Those born in poverty rising up to build a new nation, the meek inheriting the earth, overcoming the entitled ruling class. There is a purity of thought that echoes through the years, and as those sounds reach the current day, we are reminded of how far we have come. Recent real world events may have shaken the foundations but those grounds are rooted in equality and righteousness and will never come apart. Just as hip hop music will always be known for its insurgent positions and deliberate abrasiveness, the United States of America will always be known for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Those words will never be unread or unwritten just like Fight the Power and The Message will never be unheard. There is no reason why a man dressed in colonial garb shouldn’t be spitting a verse about the founding a new nation. Lin-Manuel realised that concept and ran with it, and he ran pretty far.
Not only are the songs in Hamilton enriched with samples and lyrics from Biggie, The Pharcyde and Mobb Deep but there are rapturous musical solos. There is a subtlety in the flow of the words that produce a script like quality to the rapping that lends to the theatre environment. The singing and poetry intertwine and shine together throughout with wonderful repetition of poignant lines, impressing the feelings of the character that possesses them. The construction of this musical is so layered and overlapping that every time you listen there is something new to rejoice in, such as the use of the ten count to accentuate the notion of not wasting your shot or the pain of a child’s lullaby at the death bed. It is almost cruel to see such words that brought such joy then strike with such pain, but that is testament to the ingenuity of creators of this music. Above all else the key must lie with the pure aesthetic of the song, with the ability to keep you listening and wanting to listen more. Ignore the sheer bravery and uniqueness of a rap battle eliciting the pitfalls of a national bank, and just listen to the opening synopsis of the show and the bravado of the gambit that is My Shot. If the complexity of these tunes fail to hit the repeat button, then the emotional impact of Burn and One More Time will be sure to move you. Like I said, Lin-Manuel left the shop with all of the sweets he could fit in his pockets.
The construction of the stage provides the illusion of continual movements and separated spaces. The dancehall moves as the dancers’ dance and the heights provide the physical distance between lands. It not only provides hidden highlights to adorn but a sense of space from one character to another. The ensemble are integral to showcasing the events of the play, whether they are holding up the desk upon which Hamilton writes, being the bullets that whizz past his head or acting as the metaphorical hurricane of the mind. Their swing style-come-top rocking footwork produces wonderful dance sequences and the physical effects of the events in every scene. Their absence is duly noticed when the King graces the stage but it provides breathing space to the sheer brilliance of the physical comedy act of Rory O’Malley. Undoubtedly the pinnacle of the set and cast is the scene where Angelica recounts her first thoughts upon meeting Alexander whilst introducing him to her sister that occurred earlier, whilst delivering a maid of honour speech at the wedding. A feat so momentous that they manage to bring pure simplicity of thought and emotion to something considerably complex. It is a scene so truly breath taking that these secrets no one would ever wish to give away.
There is not a single named character that this show is not dedicated towards, because they all have their trials, victories and failings. Everyone starts with bold and pure intentions with a glint in their eye, none more so than Alexander Hamilton. But as time passes, the true harsh reality gets in the way and the fallibility of the human condition becomes apparent. This is not a story dreamed in the mind of an artist but one taken from the historical accounts of the United States. There are no true heroes or villains, everyone is all too human and the glamorisation of the events does not extend to the people within it. Burr states that he has become the villain of the story but death doesn’t discriminate between the sinners and the saints. Hamilton spends much of the second half of the play indignant and arrogant, without consideration of the feelings of others. Javier Muñoz plays him particularly aggressively and takes the sheen off his character. Brandon Victor Dixon radiates such charm that Burr’s fall induces heart breaking pity. The bounteous beauty of Lexi Lawson’s voice sheds tears from the audience as she mourns the loss of so much. We all begin with such noble intentions that it devastates to look at where we are from where we started. Therein lies the real secret to the story, the United States is a young country built on the august principles of grand men but is a place not yet able to live up to them, much like the characters in this play and everyone else in this world.
I wish I could have seen this (with him in it).