On Aug. 11, Broadway phenomenon “Hamilton” came to the Pantages Theatre, giving Angelenos a chance to sit in “the room where it happens.” The revolutionary musical written by Lin-Manuel Miranda fuses a variety of genres, including rap, pop, hip-hop, rhythm and blues, and classic show tunes, into an unforgettable experience.
Operating under the original director Thomas Kail and choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler, the show recounts the story of the orphaned, impoverished West Indies immigrant Alexander Hamilton, who rose to prominence at the dawn of the American Revolution to become one of George Washington’s most trusted advisors and a chief architect of our nation’s financial system. Through the lens of Hamilton’s life, the audience is given a glimpse into the birth of America and is shown new perspectives on figures like Aaron Burr (who famously killed Hamilton in a duel), Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.
But, by no means is Hamilton or any of the founding fathers portrayed as perfect; Miranda goes to great lengths to show their fallibility, including Hamilton’s adultery and brash personality, James Madison, Jefferson, and Washington’s ownership of slaves and implicit support of slavery, and John Adams’ use of racial slurs to attack Hamilton.
Powerful songs like “Burn” illustrate the anger with which Eliza, Hamilton’s smart, educated wife, responds to her husband’s unfaithfulness, and both “Cabinet Battles” deride Jefferson’s possession of slaves. Thus, Miranda exposes the detailed, messy, and complicated history of our country’s creation in a manner accessible to audiences through exquisite, precise language and song.
Some have criticized exorbitant ticket prices as large barriers to accessibility, but the show has made efforts to be inclusive in theatres across the country. In Los Angeles, the Pantages Theatre offers a lottery, giving out 40 seats for $10 each show. The Hamilton Education Initiative, which focuses on giving high schoolers a chance to see the show, has already brought 40,000 New York and Chicago students to the theatre for $10 each, and Mayor Eric Garcetti is working on a transportation plan for Los Angeles students.
“Our goal is to ensure that all students have a shot to see ‘Hamilton’ and use its words, music and staging to further their enjoyment of American History, music and drama,” producer Jeffrey Seller said, as quoted by The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, one organization helping to subsidize costs for student viewing.
More than anything else, “Hamilton” is a multiracial show that celebrates immigrant culture. The play conveys important social messages like immigrant pride in the song “Yorktown” with the lines, “Immigrants/ We get the job done,” reminding the audience who is responsible for the creation of our nation. This message is particularly pertinent in Los Angeles, a city of immigrants. The cast reflects the country whose story they tell, with roles intentionally expansive to allow portrayal by actors of any race.
The show will run in Los Angeles through Dec. 30.