Tuesday, November 10, 2015

How 'Hamilton' Revolutionizes Broadway

About midway through the first act of the new Broadway musical Hamilton you may begin to ask yourself: Will the stomping and the rapping and the snapping and the hip-hopping and the leaping and the bopping ever cease?"
And then you remember: This is a musical about a revolution. Revolutions are big, raucous, messy things.
But what's going on onstage is more than that. It's also a musical theater revolution in and of itself. It rips the lid off our traditional notions of showbiz -- of theater and music and movement and dance and razzle-dazzle.
Hamilton is big (no question about that) but it's also spare. The sets are minimal. The costumes are authentic but still relatively simple. There are no pyrotechnics, no special effects, no ascending or descending stage platforms, no glitter, no sequins, no stars, no streamers.
We're in an atmosphere of weathered wood, of ropes and docks, of brick and mortar, of barrels and casings.
This is the American revolution and we're moving from the 1770s into the mid 1780s as the story of Alexander Hamilton, his life and legacy unfolds.
The naturally-gifted and brilliant Hamilton was a propagandist, a patriot and a zealot.
His boundless energy and passionate convictions kept him moving onward and upward no matter what.
His accomplishments take your breath away: He was a Founding Father of the United States, chief staff aide to General George Washington, one of the most influential interpreters and promoters of the U.S. Constitution, the founder of the nation's financial system, the founder of the Federalist Party (the world's first voter-based political party) the Father of the United States Coast Guard, and the founder of The New York Post.
As the first Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton was the primary author of the economic policies of the George Washington administration. Hamilton took the lead in the funding of the states' debts by the Federal government, the establishment of a national bank, a system of tariffs, and friendly trade relations with Britain. He led the Federalist Party, created largely in support of his views. He was opposed by the Democratic-Republican Party, led by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, which despised Britain and feared that Hamilton's policies of a strong central government would weaken the American commitment to republicanism.
Yes, Hamilton was a Very Important Person, indeed.
But he was also an outcast and a masterful provocateur. Born out of wedlock, raised in the West Indies, and orphaned as a child, Hamilton pursued a college education through the help of local wealthy men. He was an American immigrant who at once admired and despised his benefactors -- those who were born and raised under more fortunate circumstances. He not only married up himself but he also clawed his way up through a combination of street smarts, guts, conviction, self-promotion and good timing.
But Hamilton had fatal flaws.
So, this musical is a complete Greek tragedy.
So much is contained in the experience, personality and accomplishments of this one man. And though Hamilton's is a unique story, it's also a uniquely Americanstory -- an instructive story parts of which are told over and over again in the lives of so many Americans.
And, thanks to Hamilton's young, energetic cast, inventive direction and groundbreaking book, music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda (who also stars in the show) this is an exhilarating experience -- a celebration of the human spirit that sends us soaring out of our comfort zone and into a realm that makes us think anew about what it means to be "We the people . . . "
There are moments in this show that will touch your heart, that will make you angry, that will make you wonder about "the course of human events" and that will cause you to question what your learned about our founders and our founding. But you will also feel pride both in Hamilton's journey and the journey of our nation.
This is daring, adventurous theater. And it's nothing short of astonishing.
Sung through with moments of grandeur and pathos, triumph and tragedy it is at once a landmark American musical and a modern-day rap opera.
Get in the hunt for tickets now.
You'll have to wait, but it's worth it -- worth the wait and worth the price of admission.

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