Friday, August 14, 2015

Alexander Hamilton Hits Broadway

After a successful off-Broadway run at the Public Theater, Hamilton: An American Musical officially opened on Broadway earlier this month at the Richard Rodgers Theater. In a perhaps unlikely bit of artistic imagining, writer and lead actor Lin-Manuel Miranda has crafted a hip-hop musical depicting the life of Alexander Hamilton in which most of the actors in starring roles are black or Hispanic. The playbill from the Public Theater version asks, "Who lives? Who dies? Who tells your story?" Miranda has said he became interested in Hamilton after reading Ron Chernow's 2004 biography.
    The play has won the enthusiastic approval of both historians and theater critics. It has been discussed twice on the early American history blog, "The Junto": first by Benjamin Carp in its off-Broadway incarnation and again by Christopher Minty, who attended the Broadway version. It won a rave review from Ben Brantley of the New York Times. Christopher Minty writes,
by putting history back in the public domain, Miranda’s Hamilton is playing an important role in influencing how we remember eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American history. . . . Hamilton: An American Musical should bridge the gap between “popular” and “academic” audiences. . . . Most important, Hamilton is a powerful reminder that history does not belong exclusively to those who study it for a living. Far from it, in fact. As is shown by a cast of multi-ethnic and -genre performers, history is something which everyone has a right to engage with and interpret for themselves.
    The New York Public Library has created a summary of Hamilton's life as depicted in the play using its own digitized collections.
   Readers can see a YouTube video of a CBS interview with Miranda and excerpts from the musical in its Public Theater version.