When there is as much hype surrounding an event as has happened with the block buster show Hamilton, one can only wonder if it is as good as advertised. The answer is an enthusiastic YES! I held off going during its Houston run because the tickets are pricey, but at the last minute there were some single seats available for a somewhat reasonable price, and I bit ending up with a great seat close to the stage.
What immediately grabbed me is the energy of the production which the audience responded to in kind. Throughout the performance, theater goers were showing their appreciation with cheers and hands together. I was among them, but there was something else that generated my response, and that is the sheer genius of the show.
As the story goes, the creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, was inspired by Ron Chernow’s book Hamilton. Now, I read the book and while I learned much about Alexander Hamilton and his contemporaries, I got so bogged down in detail that I couldn’t imagine being creatively inspired. Thankfully, Miranda did not have the same response. As a result, he presents American history with a lesser known founding father, Hamilton, as the central character surrounded by the more familiar Washington, Jefferson, Madison and others.
There is no question that Hamilton is successful theater, but I think it is more than that. It is a reminder that perhaps we don’t know as much about history as we might. Alexander Hamilton has been little more than a blip on the screen with reference to him being that he was the first Secretary of the Treasury and that he was killed by Aaron Burr. What the play does is enlarge his role among the founding fathers and engage an audience by entertaining with fact. There were a lot of young people in the theater, and I doubt they were thinking about Hamilton being a learning opportunity but there it was. As I observed their faces and responded to their cheers, I couldn’t help but wonder if they might be inspired to pay more attention to history and current events if it were presented more creatively.
Not often do I leave theater with so many thoughts swirling in my head. I have such appreciation for Chernow for having written a book about a relatively obscure historical person and for Miranda whose unique creative response has had such impact. Not everyone will have the opportunity to see Hamilton on stage, but I’m betting its influence will be felt far and wide. It is not theater that I will soon forget, and it will be interesting to see what the followup is.
Oh, if you happen to have opportunity to see the show, I recommend listening to the music in advance as it makes it easier to follow during the performance. The soundtrack is on uTube.
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