It comes as no surprise that in almost two years since its original Off-Broadway debut, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s magnum opus, “Hamilton: An American Musical,” has become the recipient of not only enough acclaim to last a lifetime, but a variety of prestigious awards and accolades that have amounted to its recognition all around the world.
A biographical tale-turned musical of the political and social complexities that followed Alexander Hamilton from his childhood as a curious orphan in the Caribbean, through his successful career as a Founding Father, and ultimately to his tragic death by consistent frenemy Aaron Burr, “Hamilton” has transformed American history into a household topic. With a loyal fan following, a new tour leg beginning in March, and tickets in unbelievably high demand, the musical still continues to sweep crowds off their feet, and the original Broadway cast recording album of the music of “Hamilton” remains within the iTunes top ten.
My personal experience with “Hamilton” dates back to early June of last year, when I enrolled in a five-week long summer world history class. Looking back, I remember that even having been a freshman-year drama ensemble member (and, admittedly, a strong “Glee” devotee), I had never considered myself a so-called “theatre kid,” and therefore never had a second thought about “Hamilton.”
My summer school instructor happened to be a true fanatic of the musical, and for the sake of historical connections, he suggested that his students sample some of its songs via YouTube a few times during the first week of class. Unbeknownst to me, I would soon begin binge listening to the album, but for the time being, I innocently had started to listen to a few of the catchiest songs on replay.
Having always had a strong affinity for music, I somehow suddenly found myself immersed into the tracklist, to the point where I was listening non-stop (pun fully intended) not only to the upbeat melodies and sharp, clean-cut rapping, but to the clever rhyme patterns, references, and plays-on-words within the lyrics. It’s no secret that most of the praise for “Hamilton” comes based on the fact that Hamilton’s significant role in the development of our great nation has been successfully converted into a hip-hop/R&B-style format, thus making it more applicable for teens and young adults alike. However, what I found more compelling and mesmerizing than the music itself was how well the story was expressed through Miranda’s lyrics.
I found myself sympathizing with Angelica’s painful selflessness in “Satisfied,” fully invested in the conflict between Hamilton and Jefferson in “Cabinet Battle #2,” mourning the last of Washington’s presidential presence in “One Last Time,” feeling Philip’s anger in “Blow Us All Away,” and nearly weeping with Eliza’s monologue in “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story.” It had quickly become more than just a musical about history to me– it had gotten me involved in the story, curious to know more, and dare I say, emotionally attached.
I came to realize that history truly does repeat itself, in the sense that although the time leading up to the founding of the United States of America seems so far away, the basic behaviors of man ring true as the same. Had I been living in 1776, my thoughts, feelings, and even learning experiences would be strikingly similar to what they are 241 years later in 2017. It is undeniable that we have developed significantly as a society, but Hamilton was one of us, and his story involves the very same struggles we face today.
The impact of “Hamilton” on my former perception of the relatability (or lack thereof) of historical figures to people in our modern society has been monumental. Though its implications may seem trivial, “Hamilton” has inspired a new way of thinking within me and changed me for the better as a result.