An Ode to Hamilton

Hello there, bibliophiles and lovers of words! Welcome to the Thursday evening post at the blog where it happens! I’m pretty excited about tonight’s rambling, most-likely fangirl entry. I have to say that it does become difficult to choose what to write about when it comes to Thursdays simply because I feel there are a lot of subjects to choose as a “hot topic”.

Also, I’d like to hear from those of you who are lovely enough to pay attention to my blabbing (haha). I’d like to know what you’d like to talk about when it comes to any aspect of literature, words, what have you. Don’t be shy!

Anyway, after a few ideas being juggled around in my extremely exhausted, work-overloaded brain, I’ve settled on talking… Broadway (?) tonight! What can I say? I didn’t want to throw away my shot.

If you haven’t guessed by now, tonight, I’m talking about the splendor and magnificent sensation that is Hamilton and it’s genius of a creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda.

If you’re not familiar with one of the most infamous Founding Fathers of America, maybe you’ll know the story, Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow, which served as the inspiration for this iconic and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical.

Before I really dive into my appreciation for every aspect of this production, there’s probably something you should know about me. I adore words. For as long as I can remember, words have really resonated with me, however, I’m slightly indifferent when it comes to music. Let me explain before you take out the torches and pitchforks. Of course I listen to music and enjoy it, but it’s beyond rare that a song will punch me right in the gut and stick with me and make me feel something on an emotional level. Weird, right? Maybe that’s why I’m moved to write about this show so much. Not only is it Revolutionary History (which I’m an absolute sucker for), but the lyrics, melodies, and structure of Hamilton from start-to-finish is sheer brilliance. I felt I’d discuss how much it’s moved me in the past year plus that I’ve been listening to the soundtrack.

To begin, if you want to feel inspired, you should grab a copy of Chernow’s book. I’m listening to Alexander Hamilton on Audible right now, and while it’s a LOT to handle, I’m also blown away, impressed, and gobsmacked at how much the founding father-turned-secretary of treasury accomplished before his untimely death at the age of 49 (so it’s estimated since historians don’t know for sure when he was born). Lin clearly had a lot to work with, and work with it, he did.

It took Lin over six years to put together all 46 songs that would become Hamilton. It was worth every ounce of effort he put his blood, sweat, and tears into. Using hip hop, blues, jazz, pop, rock, and r&b, Miranda weaves together Alexander’s tale for his audience. From his time as a child in the Caribbean, his journey to America, working with Washington, the Revolution, politics, writing the Federalist Papers, his tumultuous affair, the duel that led to his death, and ending with his legacy he left to a new nation, the journey is an emotional one that unfolds like poetry.

I wish I could break this musical down song by song and just gush about what I love when it comes to each one, but instead, I might just pick a few for you to listen to and fall in love with on your own (if you haven’t already.. it has been around awhile). Just a head’s up, I’m keeping it narrowed to three that stick out to me the most, and it’s a near-impossible feat.

  • My Shot

After Hamilton arrives in New York and begins to establish his allegiances, this is a very “seize the day” sort of song that sets up the rest of the first act. I’m past patiently waiting, I’m passionately smashing every expectation, every action is an act of creation…I’m just like my country, I’m young, scrappy, and hungry. 

  • Non-Stop

Hamilton proposes that Burr help him defend the new U.S. Constitution by contributing some essays that would later become The Federalist Papers. How do you write like you need it to survive? How do you write every second you’re alive? 

 

  • The World Was Wide Enough 

The moment of the duel where both Hamilton and Burr question their mortality, discuss deception, and get philosophical as the show reaches its climax. Legacy. What is a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see. I wrote some notes at the beginning of a song someone will sing for me. America, you great unfinished symphony, you sent for me! You let me make a difference, a place where even orphan immigrants can leave their fingerprints. 

I know Lin has been on the radar for years with other shows and writing projects, but a work like Hamilton really seemed to be a game-changer for him. If you’d like to know more about Mr. Miranda, check out some fun facts that’ll make you feel like quite the under-achiever here. If I sat here listing all of his accomplishments, this post would border on the likes of a novella at least.

The main reason for this appreciation entry is to demonstrate how powerful words are. Not only do we as the audience learn history, we take away personal lessons from this musical. Plus, it’s one of the most versatile productions we’ve encountered in awhile. It’s won 11 Tony awards out of the 16 it was nominated for in 2016, plus it also took home a Pulitzer in drama, has multiple Drama Desk Awards, numerous Obies, Critic Circles, Grammys, and even a MacArthur Genius Grant and soon-to-be star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Miranda. Not too shabby for a seemingly humble writer and composer who started his career as an English teacher. The Smithsonian Magazine wrote up an awesome article and interview with Lin about his personal journey with Alexander if you want to know more about the man behind his opus. Check it out here.

I guess I’m simply fascinated by not only Lin’s process as a writer from start-to-finish with this show, but also the beauty and build of the words throughout the show, and how a fun version of an important history lesson teaches us so much about our own legacy. I’ve always admired ambitious individuals and greatly envy their natural born talents. It’s only something I wish to emulate one day. Bravo to Miranda and to the phenomenal cast and crew who brought Hamilton to life. Now, if only I could snag some tickets to the hottest seat in town.

If you haven’t already, I can’t urge you enough to check out this musical. Download the soundtrack, enjoy the book, and absorb the power of the words. They really will make you ponder who lives, who dies, who tells your story?

 

 

 

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