Hamilton, an American musical about the life of statesman Alexander Hamilton, with libretto, music, and words of Lin-Manuel Miranda, has earned the recognition of critics and box office success. A special feature of the musical is the use of rap and hip-hop music along with the usual Broadway melodies. Composer and singer Lin-Manuel Miranda had the idea of a musical in 2008 during the reading of the biography of Alexander Hamilton. The musical composition of the musical is ethnically diverse, the so-called color-blind casting, and it does not reflect the real race and nationality of historical figures. The musical part of the show consists of a unique mix of hip-hop, R&B, dancehall, funk, and traditional musical melodies. The composition has references to rap compositions of hanging artists and groups. School teachers recommend Hamilton to their students so that they could learn more about the history of the United States.
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Structure of the Musical Hamilton
The main Broadway sensation of this season and the last few years is the musical Hamilton. Alexander Hamilton is the person whose face can be found on a ten-dollar bill, but he got there for a reason. At first glance, his biography is not a typical material for a Broadway musical, but the singer and composer Lin-Manuel Miranda has turned Hamilton’s life into an exciting musical adventure. In 2008, an idea to revive old portraits came to the mind of this young rapper when he was reading Chernow’s biography of the great statesman. Thus, Miranda chose the father of the American financial system, Alexander Hamilton, as the main character. For Miranda, a Puerto Rican by descent, the life of this historical personality became an embodiment of the American Dream. Nevertheless, the main idea of ??one of the best modern musicals is to show those, whose portraits everyone is used to seeing on their money, as real people of flesh and blood, to create the image of young desperate fighters for freedom. Miranda wanted to explain why they had decided to challenge Europe and take the independent path. This paper notes the challenge and considers the benefits of showing the wish to study history of the USA and the interdisciplinary ideas of poetry and melody in such a genre as the musical as well as show the combination of different musical genres and the innovative structure of this piece.
Alexander Hamilton, an illegitimate son and an orphan, grew on an island in the Caribbean, far away from civilization. Since childhood, he had manifested his sharp mind and showed a real talent for writing long texts. The local authorities promptly gathered some money and sent the smart young man to college in New York (Chernow, 2016). Thanks to this, Hamilton managed to participate in the War for Independence and helped in the creation of the Constitution. Moreover, he became one of the active inspirers of the idea of ??the struggle for independence. Furthermore, he was the right hand of George Washington and the hero of the battle in Yorktown that became among the decisive ones for the outcome of the War of Independence. After the war, Hamilton became the first finance minister and first secretary of the US Treasury. He was also the founder of the modern banking system and the developer of a set of measures to stabilize the economy. Even today, these measures are taken in the event of a financial crisis. A natural speaker and thinker, he was the only of the founding fathers who died before the age of 50. Hamilton was shot dead in a duel by his old acquaintance and political rival, the US Vice President Aaron Burr. Alexander Hamilton was an amazing personality with an incredible biography.
Americans respect their founding fathers, but powdered wigs and caftans, stately poses and stuffy stories about Washington’s childhood remind many people of school history classes and boring textbooks. However, these were living people imperfect and quick-tempered who argued and quarreled with each other. Miranda made Hamilton and other heroes of the American Revolution speak the language of rap fluently. Never before had the USA seen its founding fathers dashingly dancing hip-hop. The author almost did not deviate from the historical truth, as far as it was generally possible in a musical.
Musical Structure as Main Original Feature of the Musical
Turning a massive biography of a person into a musical requires great talent, which Lin-Manuel Miranda has in abundance. The musical is based on the book Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. A special feature of the musical is the use of a mixture of hip-hop, R&B, dancehall, funk, and melodies, traditionally used in musicals. In the compositions, one can find references to the famous rap compositions of such artists and groups as Notorious BIG, JD, DJ -EKS, Grandmaster Flash & Furious Five, Beastie Boys, Mobb Deep, A Tribe Called Quest, and many others. On Broadway, the show received rave reviews from critics, a Grammy Award for the Best Album based on a theatrical musical, and the Pulitzer Prize for Best Dramatic Product. Two weeks after receiving the latter, the show was given 16 nominations for Tony Awards, which was a record number, and its box office revenue was incredibly high (Binelli, 2016). Such was the recognition of this musical in society. Lin-Manuel Miranda is an artist, enterprising recorder, and rewriter. He has managed to create a mixture of genres, giving a fresh modern rendition of an episode of American history. MacGregor (2015) calls the musical a traditional American genre on par with jazz or hip hop. Hamilton is a very smart, complex but simple musical at the same time.
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In addition to the usual Broadway tunes, which one can regularly hear in such kind of productions, Miranda has also used energetic hip-hop. Owing to this blend, the musical often wins as dialogues become clearer, more rigid and sharper, while the cabinet talks turn into ruthless rap-battles. Someone might not like this approach, but it works. Broadway hip-hop musical is a unique idea in its form and ??setting. In addition, some classical theatrical performances and musicals, which have been in theaters for decades, already make the audience feel bored. Therefore, the New York theater fans want something quite modern and refreshing, Hamilton is the ideal solution to this problem.
If one wants to feel the spirit of modern America, Hamilton is what they need. Its bright, loud, spectacular, and even somewhat aggressive staging is filled with shrinking plastic and brain-raising recitative, successfully replacing the classical vocals of musicals. Dark-skinned actors with the energy and conviction, which sweeps away everything on their path, rap without missing a bit. All of this, coupled with light and movement, brings viewers into a kind of trance that is impossible to shake off. If historic characters were revolutionaries who had built the country from scratch, they must be not only warriors but also thinkers and orators. Moreover, hip hop is the best embodiment of oratorical art in music. Thus, Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, Madison, and Burr are in front of the viewer, they wage the war and win, write the Constitution and argue about economic reforms.
The musical part of the show consists of a unique mix of hip-hop, R&B, dancehall, funk, reggae, soul, jazz, and even Brit-pop, industrial and techno. Moreover, all characters are characterized not only by the manner of singing and speaking as, for example, George Washington differs from others with his much more melodic, “high” style. Music also differentiates characters from each other. R&B in the spirit of Destiny’s Child sounds for three sisters Skyler, one of whom will become Hamilton’s wife (“The Schuyler Sisters”). For Thomas Jefferson, who is significantly older than the rest of the characters, Miranda chose traditional southern African-American motifs such as reggae and jazz in “What Did I Miss? “), a mockingly passionate love pop ballad in the spirit of Elton John is the sound of the British King George III (“You’ll Be Back”).
Moreover, rap is on its way to entering the Broadway melodys tool compartment as a helpful and welcome new alternative. Rap music will be most imaginatively significant as a medium for portraying youngsters in vernacular settings. For instance, as of not long ago, African American pop authors legitimately felt that traditional Broadway style was not what they wanted to express. Moreover, contemporary young African American characters who sing the traditional Broadway tunes would feel unnatural and fake in modern climate full of diversity (McWhorter, 2016). The show, the action of which takes place during the American Revolution, creates a new niche for the musicals with African American characters with stories that have never been told on Broadway. Rap in these stories is the language that would be used had someone decided to make a musical out of one of Spike Lees movies (McWhorter, 2016). Thus, rap becomes a universal language for musicals.
It is interesting and exciting to understand all this because any booze is a call for revolution, the cabinet meeting is a real rap battle between opponents, where Boston tea drinking, the whiskey revolt, and the first economic crisis are mentioned casually. At the same time, Hamilton is the story of great love and friendship in the era of change. Moreover, the lyrics of this musical deserve a separate study, both for the beginners in English and for those who already know the language well. Thus, the play of words, aphorisms, and expressions here are a special pleasure. It is hard to say what Hamilton can do. Judging by the passages, the production cannot boast of the high cost of costumes or scenery. They dispense with one stage and mobile wooden structures. The change of crowd scenes are shown by means of changing coats and competent choreography. Moreover, if one takes away all the brilliance of this musical, the question arises what would remain without it. However, the story remains, which is a great one about the evil friends/loyal enemies of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. This is a story about the birth of a new country that has decided that it will no longer tolerate the oppression from the Crown. Hamilton is the story about love, fathers and children, betrayals and conspiracies. As it turned out, everything in Hamilton’s life was enough. This is a truly exciting story with duels, wars, love intrigues and political battles, and it is told in a surprisingly modern, talented, and unexpected way.
Press About the Plot of Hamilton and the Musical as a Whole
The creators of the musical moved towards the impact of the phenomenon of the establishing fathers. Furthermore, they took a creative license for Hamilton. Alexander Hamilton is portrayed as a transformed abolitionist, which was not the case. Hamilton had always opposed slavery. He was the founder of the New York Society that advocated the provision of freedom to slaves. After all, his wife’s family had black slaves, and Lin-Manuel Miranda found it possible to hide this fact from the audience.
Hamilton is seemingly the most watched American social phenomenon of the present time. Frank and Kramnick (2016) stated in their article that Miranda ought to have offered a more adjusted depiction of Hamilton. Nevertheless, the part of Hamilton’s life he celebrates, which is the self-production entrepreneurialism of the American Dream, cannot be completely understanding without including Hamilton’s relentless and earnest inegalitarianism (Frank & Kramnick, 2016). Hamilton and his counterparts comprehended these apparently opposing positions as two sides of a similar coin. Disregarding one side, as Miranda has done, clouds their association both at that point and now.
Hamilton’s organization makes this extensive musical quite divers since all important parts, with the exception of King George, are played by performing artists of different nationalities. Solomon (2015) calls this color-blind casting, while this expression has been used by various articles about the show. Race and ethnicity are huge in this musical, they should not be disregarded or discarded easily. Seeing Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and others, whom African American, Latino, and Asian-American artists portray, is not just a narrative snag, as Solomon (2015) calls it. This is theater, where people pretend to be other people. Performing artists depict particular characters, from whom they differ immensely even when belong to the same similar race, and the viewers believe them. In any case, Hamilton would not have had such a success had white players been cast to play these parts. Neither script nor the score cannot convey the fact that the history of the USA as well as the future rightfully belongs to people of color just like to the representatives of any other race (Solomon, 2015). This dramatic reality gives Hamilton some honest dynamics.
The main narrative in the musical is handed over to the protagonist/antagonist, depending at which side to look, and the main political rival of Hamilton – Aaron Berra. Throughout the musical, the audience observes the interaction of these characters since this entire story is built on it. While having similar goals, both men operate in quite different ways. Thus, Hamilton is not afraid to risk and make enemies, while Burr is a much more cautious and quirky person. Burr performs several brightest and the most successful numbers, both in terms of scenography and in terms of lyrics, such as “Wait for It”, which everyone loved immediately, and the absolutely incredible “The Room Where It Happens” (Miranda, 2015). That is why this musical is a triumph of all actors and people, involved in this performance.
The beauty of this production is that it is a mixture of different genres of music, where classic melodies are mixed with hip-hop, rap, and flavored with R&B. This is quite an original idea. It was very difficult to combine completely different sounds into one first-class, chic composition, which Manuel-Lin Miranda had managed to do. For Miranda as a screenwriter and the main actor, this was not an easy task. Nevertheless, he had written a thematically suitable and interesting script in a modern format. Miranda aimed to tell the story of one of the most famous people of the USA and competently merge with an uncommon musical series. In total, 46 beautiful songs in this musical can be listened to as a soundtrack and separately. The action in Hamilton is the best. From the very first song, the sensation of something unusual makes the audience feel excited, wanting for more. The quality of the songs and the story was rewarded by numerous awards, including Grammy.
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The musical is played and sung as something very fresh, melodic, and bright. Those who saw this performance live on Broadway were stunned by what they had witnessed. Hamilton is truly something new in its genre. Some reviewers may say that the actors are not like the real historical figures they portray. Nevertheless, this is not the backbone of the aforementioned performance since the artists have done their work perfectly. Everyone is in their place, including the crowd. This musical is a very lively, sometimes touching, sometimes joyful presentation. Decorations and costumes, used for the background, are surprisingly easy to combine with music and with all parts of the musical. Despite the fact that there are some historical inaccuracies in Hamilton, it does not mean that one should not see it. On the contrary, such independent steps give this work a greater artistic expressiveness. Numerous ovations from the audience after the show are the proof of the impressive quality of this work.
At one point, the foreign press could not stop writing about Hamilton. Moreover, even now, discussions have not stopped despite the fact that the production is on a winter hiatus. Someone without prior knowledge will find it difficult to understand why there is so much attention to a humble musical about American history. Only after listening to all songs, preferably several times, one can understand that it is not just a matter of music or poetry. This is Miranda’s simple ability to tell such an understandable and human story.
In addition, the simplicity and humanity of Hamilton are a part of it charm. Despite the fact that songs contain talks about financial decisions and internal political squabbles, they do drag or stifle the plot. On the contrary, they add to the main story of the man who has not broken under the weight of circumstances, but who has achieved everything with the help of his talent and intelligence. Hamilton is not an ideal hero, but he is a simple person, and it is hard not to empathize with him when he again meets cunning Burr or tries to help create a new state.
The main thing is that owing to the excellent songs in this musical, spectators have been completely absorbed by Hamilton, which has enabled them to plunge into the world of American history. The story is rich and extremely brazen, like Alexander Hamilton himself. Miranda and the whole ensemble have managed to achieve such an immersion solely with the help of music and poetry, which in itself is an excellent achievement. The musical of Lina-Manuel Miranda has caused an unprecedented public excitement, which can be attributed to its unordinary structure. However, probably, the most important success lies in the fact that Miranda and his work have awakened the interest of American teenagers to the history of their country. The musical shows the most atypical image of the leaders. Nevertheless, its main idea is even deeper since it implies that viewers are people, real, different, the same at the same time as they believe, they suffer, and they want the best possible life for their children.