Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Hamilton (The Musical)

The newest hit Broadway sensation is a production called Hamilton, presenting a musical interpretation of the life and times of one of America's founding fathers: Alexander Hamilton.

I've never seen a Broadway musical in person (maybe someday~), but I did listen to the cast recording. Short review: it's excellent. Who knew that writing a musical about the one the most interesting figures from one of the most interesting moments in history would turn out well?

Though American currency had been popularly referred to as "dead presidents," two of the seven denominations feature people who never actually served in the office of President of the United States: the $100 bill features famous founding father Benjamin Franklin, of course, and the $10 bill features Alexander Hamilton, another founding father that many people simply never learned very much about in school despite his prominent place on our currency.

In addition to helping to fight the American Revolution as George Washington's senior aide, Hamilton also helped to construct our Constitution and fought hard to have the document ratified in the United States by writing 51 of the 85 essays that constitute the influential Federalist Papers. In many ways, he's one of the main reasons our Constitution exists, and his writing is a major influence on our interpretation of the document. He was also instrumental in establishing the U.S. Treasury, hence his appearance on our currency.

However, Alexander Hamilton has historically not been well-regarded by historians. He founded the Federalist Party, the opposition to historic golden child Thomas Jefferson's Democratic-Republicans. Hamilton was for big government and was anti-slavery, neither of which were popular concepts at the time, and continued to be fairly unpopular until fairly recently. In relation to the current political parties, his pro-government ideas put him at odds with the Republicans, and his anti-Jefferson stance put him at odds with the Democrats, who generally worship Thomas Jefferson as the founder of their party. As such, with the effective death of the Federalist Party in 1800 and his own death in 1804, Alexander Hamilton fell out of political (and, therefore, historical) relevance.

That said, I like him the more read about him.

The Broadway musical about his life takes some liberties with his story, but the gist is there, and the music is incredibly good. Go ahead and just listen to the first number of the cast recording and see if you're not interested in hearing more:

The entire recording is available on YouTube, for convenience.

If the setup hooks you, keep going. The musical takes you from his early life to the American Revolution, through his decades of political relevance, and up to his death.

Though the musical takes some liberties (apparently Hamilton and Burr's relationship was not as close or amicable as the play suggests, for instance), the story itself is that kind I enjoy so much: the story of someone who, with great conviction, dedicated their life to a cause and sticks to their principles, even when doing so makes their path difficult. The story of someone who works hard to accomplish great things through sheer determination, with a little talent and luck thrown in. Stories about people who are passionate about things the way I'm passionate about things or, at least, the way I wish I was.

These are the stories that inspire me to focus on the work that's important to me, and to make better use of my time while I'm alive and able to do so. In the end, I want my life to mean something, and to that end I feel it's important to learn everything I can from people whose lives did mean something. Especially when, like Hamilton, what they stood for was important to me.

Also, the King George III numbers were pretty fun:

In the end, there are definitely worse ways to learn about history and feel engaged in the conflicts and struggles of historical figures than Broadway musicals. Well done. The hype for this production is well-founded.

No comments:

Post a Comment