Alexander Hamilton was this country’s first banker-in-chief, a job which the young revolutionary fulfilled with the same brilliance and passion of all his endeavors. We commemorate him on our ten dollar bill, but are largely unaware of his contributions to his country of choice –yes, he was, like so many of us, an immigrant.
Alexander Hamilton’s life played out on the broad stage of a nascent United States.
Lin-Manuel Miranda has put him center-stage in the radically new bio-musical, Hamilton, which recently transferred from the Public to the Richard Rodgers in an open run.
The trip uptown from Astor Place has only given Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton a bigger stage on which to play out its amazing history of the founding of the United States. The stage at the Richard Rodgers should be familiar to Lin-Manuel Miranda since his Tony winning In The Heights was there for nearly three years, with Miranda in the lead as Usnavi for a good chunk of that time.
In Hamilton, for which he created the book (based on Ron Chernow’s biography, Alexander Hamilton,) wrote the lyrics, and composed the music, Miranda is the titular striver. The story follows Alexander Hamilton from his arrival as an impoverished 19-year old to New York from the small island of Nevis in the Caribbean through his illustrious career as revolutionary, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and George Washington’s (Christopher Jackson) Secretary of the Treasury. Hamilton is a firebrand, and his fervor spills over making his relationships, even with Washington who is supportive of his ideas and career, difficult. (See our tweet as part of this commentary.)
Aaron Burr (Leslie Odom, Jr.) advises Alexander early on to “talk less, smile more.” Eventually, Alexander Hamilton, despite his contentious personality. forges a near miraculous agreement with Thomas Jefferson (Daveed Diggs) and James Madison (Okieriete Onaodowan). The Congress approves a unified central bank under which the new democracy flourished.
Alexander Hamilton was nothing if not determined. As he and the Marquis de Lafayette (Daveed Diggs, again) put it, “We’re immigrants; we get things done.” Hamilton gains General Washington’s trust because he never gives up on his principles.
Hamilton’s wife, Eliza (Phillipa Soo), and her sister Angelica (Renée Elise Goldsberry), from the prominent Schuyler family, are both devoted to him. Angelica is his intellectual equal and a champion of his ideas. Their sister, Peggy (Jasmine Cephas Jones) looks like she, too, fell under the spell of his charismatic drive. Alexander Hamilton was something of a lady’s man, it seems.
In the course of some three hours, the United States emerge from the colonies, America elects its third President– Thomas Jefferson, who wins the 1800 election against Burr with Hamilton’s endorsement–, and Burr is embittered by his failure to prevail. All this history unravels in anthems of rap and hip hop, pop and love songs. King George (Jonathan Groff) laments his unfaithful colonies in a British pop tune mode. This tuneful sampling is a brilliant reflection of the spirit of revolution and renewal that Hamilton (and the period it depicts) represents.
The outsider’s story is America’s story. We are a nation, like Alexander Hamilton, of people who came from elsewhere to succeed, or as a Hamilton song puts it get “My Shot,” here.
Hamilton, under Thomas Kail’s direction of the no-less than brilliant cast and with Andy Blankenbuehler’s choreography for the excellent ensemble of “back-up” dancers and players, is the most entertaining history lesson ever devised. Hamilton is no less than genius!
(Previous mentions on T and B On The Aisle and elsewhere by Tamara Beck may have understated how great a musical Hamilton really is: http://wp.me/p5jq0w-mW, http://wp.me/p5jq0w-5e, http://wp.me/p5jq0w-iK, http://wp.me/p5jq0w-vx.)
Also, see what I had to say about Hamilton at VevlynsPen.com.
For tickets to the season’s hottest new show, please visit www.hamiltonbroadway.com/