Okay, so you know when your friends, your mom, your dentist, and probably the guy who checks you in at the gym all tell you that you have to go to so-and-so place to eat? You simply must go there, they assure you, because they have the best … whatever (insert random highly sought-after food item here—let's just say pizza). You really like pizza, so you take their advice and go—except that you have to wait two hours for a table because everyone else has also heard how great the pizza is there. Then you pay five times more than the going rate for pizza, sure that this will be the best meal of your life, only to have a lukewarm, bland, rather overrated pizza delivered to your table that is, frankly, just mediocre. You eat it anyway because it still tastes good enough, but you leave disappointed, wondering why you didn't just order Domino's, which you find nearly as satisfying.
This is what I feared might happen when I finally managed to get tickets to Hamilton. How could a show that is so popular, so in-demand, possibly live up to the hype? Hamilton has won 11 Tonys, a Grammy, and a Pulitzer. It is one of the highest-grossing Broadway musicals of all time, at $463.3 million, and still going strong. Tickets often start at around $300 each, with the top price going for over $1000. That's more than most people pay for rent! So naturally, I was curious to know how the show had earned such esteem—how it had managed to garner such unmatched acclaim and almost a cult following. I pretty much expected that Hamilton was going to be the Broadway equivalent of overly hyped, just so-so pizza—good enough, but not worth all the rave reviews. Because it couldn't possibly be that good, could it? Nothing is that good.
Nothing, that is, except Hamilton.
Yes, I was wrong. Hamilton is every bit as fabulous as everyone makes it out to be, and I finally understand why the show is so endlessly popular. It deserves all the hype—and then some.
Hamilton is a musical written by Lin-Manuel Miranda and based on the historical biography of Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. It tells the story of Hamilton's rise from being nothing but a "bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman" to a Revolutionary War hero, George Washington's right-hand man, a skilled writer and politician, and everyone's favorite treasurer. While many people love this show for its hip-hop heavy score, there is something for all musical tastes here, including ballads, rock, jazz, soul, and classic showtunes. And all the songs, as well as the lyrics, are excellent.
Another plus is that you likely can't find a more entertaining way to get a good history lesson than with Hamilton. Though Miranda admitted that he took certain liberties when writing about the man behind our $10 bill, overall, the story sticks pretty closely to the script of history. Probably the most talked-about deviation from the American archives is in the casting, since many of the historic white dudes are played by people of color. Miranda was quoted as saying, "We're telling the story of old dead white men, but we're using actors of color, and that makes the story more immediate and more accessible to a contemporary audience. 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." That's right, Aaron Burr and Lafayette are black, Thomas Jefferson wears a bright burgundy velvet coat and matching breeches, and our founding fathers rap and beatbox the Declaration of Independence. It's how history should have been!
The touring show features Joseph Morales as Hamilton, Erin Clemons as his wife Eliza, Nik Walker as Aaron Burr, and Marcus Choi as George Washington, among many other talented cast members. Jon Patrick Walker plays a hilarious King George who, despite only performing about three numbers, is nonetheless one of the highlights of the show.
Hamilton shows us a major part of American history, while also challenging and putting a spin on some of our past that we might rather not focus on. It balances historic accuracy and historical revision, throws in some really cool songs, some impressive dance moves, a little romance, drama, and scandal, then mixes in a bit of tear-jerking stuff, and tops it all off with a dose of educational enlightenment.
Ben Brantley, a reviewer for The New York Times probably said it best, in the words I can only wish I had found first: "I am loath to tell people to mortgage their houses and lease their children to acquire tickets to a hit Broadway show. But Hamilton … might just about be worth it."
Hamilton is playing at the Saenger Theatre from now until March 31. Located at 1111 Canal St., 504-525-1053. Show times vary. For more information or to buy tickets, click HERE.
Photos courtesy of Joan Marcus.