Who would have imagined two years ago that a hip-hop edition of the history of Alexander Hamilton would become a sensation? Although initially it may have seemed like a crazy idea, “Hamilton’s” creation was supported by many talented and passionate artists, each enthusiastic about transforming this historical figure’s life into an understandable, catchy musical.
I, along with sixteen other HS Insiders, was given an opportunity to receive a behind the scenes look at the origins and development of this award-winning show. This discussion, moderated by LA Times Assistant Managing Editor Mary McNamara, featured the director Thomas Kail, the choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler, and the music supervisor and co-arranger Alex Lacamoire as part of the LA Times Ideas Exchange series. It was an experience like no other.
Immediately after getting off the Metro, we were all dazzled by the glamorous Pantages Theatre, covered in the prominent silhouettes of poses by the cast. Rushing in along with 2,500 other “Hamilton” fans, we found our seats in the ornate theater, dumbfounded as we stared at the famous set pieces, as if we were about to see the actual show itself.
Soon after, the creative geniuses entered, and the conversation began. The fervor and passion that Kail, Blankenbuehler, and Lacamoire held for their creation was undeniably reflected in the audience, who seemed to hang onto each word with reverence. As they explained their entrance into “Hamilton”, each gave praise to the original Alexander Hamilton performer and lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda, focusing on his natural flow to create songs and his devotion to this project.
From their decision to make Alexander Hamilton’s story into a musical, the team utilized their collective efforts to create the songs as they went along. Even with their unique genre, each poured their soul into the musical. Kail stressed that “as much as our show might nudge the form, it’s also an absolute love letter to everything that we are made of.” With this mindset, they worked to create a cohesive, understandable story through the powerful tunes.
The team was proud to express their love for “Hamilton,” recounting their collective efforts to create the songs as they went along. From their first collaboration with Lin in “In the Heights,” they have worked together seamlessly, easily forming chords or dance moves with each note.
“You just got to be elevated and didn’t have to be grounded in real all the time,” Lacamoire answered to a question regarding the development of the tracks. He emphasized the ease of expressing heightened emotions during a song in contrast to simply acting them out, allowing audiences to truly comprehend and connect with history.
These creators then focused on the relationship between Hamilton’s era and our world today, emphasizing the flaws and humanity of these historical figures through the rhythm of their songs. As Blankenbuehler states, “The beat that never stops in our show continues to remind us that the show is about ourselves.”
Their stress upon the connection between the past and the present did not go unnoticed by the audience. HS Insider Jenna Dyer commented, “I love how archetypes that everyone can relate to are intertwined with the past and I can still understand them now. The rap and hip hop makes it modern and relatable and it speaks to me on a deeper level than just some show tunes would.” Completely inspired by the event, she adds that she’ll use these ideas in her own ventures.
Similarly, Insider Vanessa Vuong remarked, “Hamilton has been able to reach out to so many audiences because of their portrayal of history has made it current, something people can relate and want to relate to, rather than just boring facts in a book.” However, she emphasized the significance behind Hamilton’s story and how it “connects to the emotions people are feeling now, especially with what is going on in the world and our nation currently.”
I am in complete agreement with them all. “Hamilton” has left a massive impact upon the theatre industry and the world in general, completely altering what was once known. From casting characters based on their persona instead of their appearance to removing bonnets to highlight the casts’ contemporary hairstyles, they have impeccably blended the modern society with the Revolutionary periods. “Hamilton” has created a “beat” that has surpassed centuries, beautifully unfolding Alexander Hamilton’s relentless struggles through life. By keeping it “Non-stop,” this musical has reminded everyone of the importance to look back upon history and see the links that connect us all.