February 7, 2016 at 8:15 am (Musicals) (1776, Aaron Burr, advancement, Alexander Hamilton, America, American history, bettering your situation in life, Broadway, bros, class, duel, dueling, duels, elders, Fathers, fathers & sons, founding fathers, freedom, Hamilton, hip hop music, history, homogeneous society, icons, immigrant, immigrants, legacy, librarians, musical, musicals, New York City, paternity, politics, privilege, rap music, respectability, revolutionary war, Schuyler sisters, Secretary of the United States Treasury, smile more, soap opera, sons, talk less, The West Wing, war, war of independence)
Hamilton is a hip hop musical about the first Secretary of the United States Treasury. Alexander Hamilton was an immigrant, a revolutionary and a founding father. Born out of wedlock, raised in the West Indies, and orphaned as a child, Hamilton traveled to New York City where he pursued a college education with the help of local Caribbean philanthropists.
Hamilton is a musical about freedom and war; about taking one’s shot and improving your situation in life. It is a story of an immigrant who bettered his adopted country. It is a love story and a family saga.
At the beginning we meet the bros, the young men who are future revolutionaries, as they meet Alexander Hamilton. Here are the ruffians enraptured with war: John Laurens , an abolitionist who fought for equal rights for all men regardless of colour, Lafayette, the future French revolutionary and Hercules Mulligan, future spy.
Here also are the elders; the men whom Hamilton looks up to because of their wealth or family. Here is the fellow orphan, Aaron Burr whose father founded a major university, who cautions Alexander to “talk less and smile more.” Alexander looks up to Burr because he wants what Burr was born into, a respectability that comes from having the proper family and background.
Later on, there will be appearances by presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. We even get to hear from King George.
These men were not just the United States’ founding fathers, they were also just men. Anything that makes as see these icons as regular people is good. You can feel the characters aging and changing as they grow from young men into statesmen. You start to feel sorry for contemplative Burr as the cocky upstart Hamilton keeps outpacing him.
This is a man’s musical with its issues of paternity, privilege and legacy. It is a story of fatherless sons with issues. Hamilton bristles over Washington calling him son. Listen to his tone in Meet Me Inside as Hamilton demands of Washington – “Don’t call me son.”
Hamilton’s lack of a father makes him try twice as hard to be better than everyone else in all aspects of manhood. (He was such a rake that Martha Washington named her tomcat after him.)
Burr’s lack of a father taught him to be unassuming and cautious in stating his views – he strives to stay congenial.
Yes, there are women in this play. The Schuyler sisters are New York elite not beyond slumming in the city scooping out the poor soldiers. They are portrayed mainly as sisters, wives and mothers although the eldest, Angelica is shown as a smart and curious woman easily Hamilton’s equal in thought,word and deed.
Hamilton is a soap opera-ish musical about American politics. It reminds me of the television series The West Wing which was my introduction to the business of politics. I am educated by Hamilton. I did not know that originally the losing presidential candidate became vice-president or that Aaron Burr was one of the first to campaign door to door. It is the best musical to listen to now as the United States gears up for another presidential election.
I also didn’t know that the first government sex scandal involved Alexander Hamilton. Sex and money – the eternal duo. For Hamilton song annotations go here.
I did know about the Hamilton/Burr duel. What I didn’t realize was how common duels were back then.There are three duels portrayed in this musical.
First, Laurens and General Charles Lee dueled just outside Philadelphia after Laurens took offense to Lee’s slander of General George Washington’s character. This was a duel for honour and George Washington knew nothing of the duel until it was over.
Second, Alexander Hamilton’s eldest son Philip is killed in a duel avenging his father’s good name. I always cry at this point in the musical as this nineteen year old boy dies and his parents can do nothing but grieve and reminisce. Musicals don’t usually make me cry!
The third duel occurs during the conclusion of the piece and is between Hamilton and Burr and will be well known to any connoisseur of American history.
I am a connoisseur of American history. I took my “first history course just for fun” the first time I went to University. It was History 1212: History of the United States to 1877. I drew pictures alongside my notes (look there’s Lincoln in his stove pipe hat) and everyone wanted to borrow my notes.
Hamilton is not just a history lesson it also touches on other subjects, like language. In the song, Take A Break, we hear a treatise on the nuances of love and comma use. What is the difference between “my dearest Angelica” versus “my dearest, Angelica?”
If I had grown up near Broadway I would have eaten rice every day just so that I could save up enough money to see ALL the musicals/plays. I’ve never seen Bernadette Peters or Mandy Patinkin on the stage and so want to. I want to watch Into the Woods and Sunday in the Park With George live not only on PBS (though thank the stars PBS exists and broadcasts Broadway plays or I’d have not seen one until I was in my thirties).
I also thank the stars for access to the Tony Awards as this has always been my conduit to Broadway. Is this how I first heard about Hamilton? I don’t remember. How many Tonys did Hamilton get in 2015? None it seems. “Hamilton,” did not get any Tony nominations in 2015 because it first ran off-Broadway during that year and transferred to Broadway later in the summer. It will be the musical to watch for during the 2016 Tony Awards Show.
So, I can’t tell you how I first became aware of Hamilton because I don’t remember.
I grew up in an homogeneous society; I didn’t encounter a black person until I was in my teens and did not become acquainted with openly gay people until I entered university for the second time when I was in my thirties.
However, I have always tried to keep myself open to all points of view even though I have very little money to explore other places. I mostly travel to the past, present, and future through the written word. I travel through books and through story – including musical depictions. Long before I got to see Angels in America, I listened to the soundtrack over and over and over again. I create the look of story characters based on my own knowledge and life experience.
I am proud to call myself a Hamilton fan and a story aficionado.