It’s a simple question, accompanied by a catchy string of stylish *snaps*, that sets the stage for the Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton.
“How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the caribbean by providence impoverished, in squalor, grow up to be a hero and a scholar?”
If you’ve any interest in the world of musical theatre (or have been on Twitter anytime over the last year), you’ve probably come across Hamilton before. However, for most of Australia, the hugely-successful hip hop musical is a more unknown quality.
With the production coming to our shores next year, here’s what you need to know:
Based on the life of America’s first treasury-secretary, Hamilton is split into two acts. The first part of the musical follows Alexander Hamilton from his humble beginnings as a young writer through to his time fighting as a soldier on the frontlines of the American Revolution. This part of the story is all about establishing the relationships and important figures in his life – from mentor George Washington, rival Aaron Burr and wife Elizabeth Schyuler.
The second act, picking up a few years after America secures its independence from Britain, sees Alexander do battle against the other factions within Washington’s government. Hamilton wants to establish the national bank but the Democratic Republicans, led by Thomas Jefferson, aren’t having any of it.
To sum it up: Hamilton is a story about ambition, friendship, politics, legacy and how they all intersect. All the good stuff.
Don’t let the historical context of Hamilton scare you away. The whole idea of the endeavor is to take these figures of the past, often seen as boring, and revive their humanity. Alexander Hamilton is a young scrappy upstart, Aaron Burr is a Littlefinger-esque political conniver, Thomas Jefferson is basically a swaggering rockstar and King George III is pretty much how you’d expect (in the best possible way).
On top of all this humanising-business, Hamilton also boasts a deliberately diverse cast. According to Miranda, “It’s a way of pulling you into the story and allowing you to leave whatever cultural baggage you have about the founding fathers at the door.”
The final element that makes Hamilton such a success is the music – which is fantastic. It’s fresh, catchy and works build a bridge between the audience and source material. The contemporary quality of the music invites you to avoid percieving the story as ‘old’ or ‘boring’ and jump on-board.
Like the cast, the soundtrack is also very diverse. There are rap battles, breakdowns, sing-a-longs and love ballads. There’s a lot of variety here, and the structure of the play is riddled with clever lyrics and rich melodic motifs.
Hamilton began life as such a humble and simple idea but executed so well and with such passion it’s nigh-impossible not to get dragged along by it all.