Legacy. What is a legacy?
This question (posed by “History Has Its Eyes on You,” the nineteenth track of the groundbreaking musical “Hamilton”) seems to reside at the heart of the ongoing conversation surrounding “Hamilton” and its indefatigable success. More than two years have elapsed since its Off-Broadway premiere at The Public in February of 2015, yet the momentum around this production has yet to subdue as the show continues on its international tour.
The legacy of “Hamilton” as a game-changing addition to the Broadway lineup is undeniable. But, perhaps more importantly, its potential to be “the one thing that can unite our very divided country” (as remarked by LA Times Editor-in-Chief & Publisher Davan Maharaj) is a testament to the durability and ubiquity of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s work.
“Hamilton” has found its way into classrooms across America as a way to engage scholarly discussions about historical topics and emerged as a pioneer in eliciting conversations about casting diversity.
High School Insider Rhiannon Rogers “believes Hamilton has become a hallmark of the American theater in such a perilous era in our history with timeless style. On all fronts the show has indomitable conviction. It addresses history through the modern American and in doing so has created a new standard of what is expected and possible in both theater and ourselves.”
Monday evening at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre witnessed more than 2,000 fans of the musical convening for an Ideas Exchange with the show’s Tony-award winning creative heads. Moderated by LA Times Assistant Managing Editor Mary McNamara, the panel included “Hamilton”’s music supervisor Alex Lacamoire, choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler, and director Thomas Kail.
Walking into the theatre, the enthusiasm was palatable: audience members had spontaneous karaoke sessions to the soundtrack booming through the theatre.
As Insider Kevin Camargo remarks, “At first, I wasn’t sure what exactly was ‘Hamilton.’ I’ve heard about it, but never really looked into it. After Monday, I see how big this is for many people.”
The energy in the room carried through the entirety of the event, with applause at every mention of Miranda’s first Broadway musical “In the Heights” and cheers each time Miranda’s name entered the conversation.
Although Miranda is often treated as the face of his hit musical, the talk elaborated on the true collaborative spirit of “Hamilton.” Kail remembers when Miranda first brought up the idea (notably through a g-chat message from Miranda’s Mexico vacation) and initiates the discussion on how the creative team of “Hamilton” became like a presidential cabinet of its own (save for the rap battles).
Seventeen High School Insiders rode the red line from the Times’ offices to the Pantages to experience the Ideas Exchange. HS Insider even got a specific shoutout from Maharaj in his opening remarks.
Insider Blake Atwell recalls, “I was really surprised, and also super excited, when Davan Maharaj gave us a shoutout and told us to stand up and be recognized. I’ll always remember that moment.”
Aside from Maharaj’s shoutout, Insiders had the opportunity to have some of their questions answered.
Expanding on Jessica Zhou’s question of whether “Hamilton” has inspired a new genre unto itself, Blankenbuehler comments that it has taken “this long for hip-hip to seep into someone’s DNA” so that the genre was ingrained in Miranda’s songwriting approach.
Drawing connections to the 1994 musical “Rent” that inspired a similar culture impact, Blankenbuehler predicts that time will continue to produce fusions of musical theatre and new genres. He reflects on the inspiring quality of listening to musical soundtracks with years of imagination in his head in lieu of seeing physical productions. This directly speaks to the impact of “Hamilton”’s Billboard-charting albums which has the power to bring theatre into homes across the world.
In response to Joey Safchik’s question regarding who has been the most difficult audience to reach, the focus turned to the generational bridging “Hamilton” encourages. Blankenbuehler recounts seeing a 70-year-old grandfather and his grandson at an early preview and being heartened by how different “generations can be moved by the emotion of the material.”
Finally, Maya Maharaj’s inquiry into how the creative team keeps the magic alive sparked a conversation about the individuality of each production. Lacamoire spoke on the slight technical shifts that naturally spawn from what each new actor brings to the show, but was emphatic about how the emotional core of each moment stays constant.
And constant is a suitable descriptor for the musical. In a true embrace of the spirit of Alexander Hamilton, this American musical has remained relentless and ceaseless following its meteoric rise. It’s difficult to imagine a day when the pulsing beat propelling it may fade into the melody of phenomenons past. But for now, “Hamilton” has left its fingerprint on the tapestry of musical theatre and American history, its silhouette enduring.
Hamilton is now playing at the Pantages Theatre as part of its national tour.