It's not just a history lesson, it's a revolution.
You might have caught wind of this mind-blowing musical when the cast walked away with a Grammy for Best Musical Theater album two months ago, but if you're a showtunes nerd you've probably been obsessed for a lot longer. No matter who you are, you need to know that much like the titular founding father, Hamilton has changed the game for good. Let's count, shall we...
1. "A bunch of actors of color were onstage and they made money."
And when I say money, I mean MONEY. Broadway has been struggling for a while (and the high-priced tickets really aren't helping). And often the excuse for a lack of diversity in casting or show choices is the 'risk factor'. For a very long time, casing nonwhite people in shows has been considered a risk, or a gimmick. And Hamilton stomped on that baseless assumption. Turns out people are interested in the stories and performances of nonwhite people. This really should not be news.
2. It's not really about the founding fathers.
This show is about rewriting history. The contributions of women and people of color in American history have been dismissed, ignored, and forgotten. We learn about Paul Revere, but not James Armistead Lafayette or Sybil Ludington. That's not a mistake- that's the direct consequence of our nation's heritage being kept by racists and misogynists. By casting nonwhite actors in the roles of America's historical heroes, Hamilton is taking back the narrative that was stolen.
Case in point: Eliza Schuyler is the only reason we know anything about Hamilton at all. His widow documented Alexander Hamilton's life, and without her work we would know very little about the man who shaped our country. Work that she was not credited for, because it was taken for granted that she would do it.
4. It's about shaping the future.
The legacy of this show will not be limited to the year that a musical was the top selling hip-hop album on iTunes. Even though tickets are costly, the show reserves seats for NYC school kids for $10. Twenty-thousand young students will see this show (via). Broadway has a reputation, which it has earned, for being elitist. For being something that only the very rich and the very refined should access. But live theater is a part of our heritage as human beings, and this show is determined to make sure EVERYONE can access it.
5. It's changing the face of the word 'revolution'.
We take it for granted that Washington was a revolutionary. The American rebels were fighting against a tyrannous, corrupt government. Why don't we call the Black Panthers revolutionaries? Even though we've known for decades that the United States government was murdering its citizens, illegally wiretapping free people and violating their civil rights, and still had racially oppressive laws on the books that the Panthers were fighting, we still call them terrorists. The fight for freedom didn't end in 1783, and we'd better remember that.
Haven't heard this musical yet?
Get on it! Hamilton is on Spotify. Give yourself a night to just listen. Then you'll know what we're all talking about.
And for everyone who's already a Ham fan, I'm sure you can help me expand this list!