by Andrea Vega
Photography by Madeleine Arch
Eleven Tony Awards, the 2016 Pulitzer Prize and hundreds of rave reviews—it’s safe to say that Broadway’s newest production has received its fair share of hype.
Hamilton, the groundbreaking musical that blends American history and rap, has been the topic of conversation since its debut at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in August 2015, all while managing to break most of Broadway’s traditional casting rules.
Its star, Lin Manuel Miranda, who played Alexander Hamilton until recently, also wrote the show and has been called the Shakespeare of his generation. The Boston Globe called the show “stylish and electrifying,” while the New York Times simply stated, “Yes, it really is that good.”
But non-theatre junkies may still be wondering why it’s such a great success.
Miranda, through his mic drop-worthy Tony Awards speech and his powerful political statements, has created an image for himself and his work that is difficult to overlook. His retelling of one of the most important stories of this country’s history, through such a modern medium, opens the Broadway world to a millennial audience.
Youth involvement in political conversation has already experienced a high due to the controversial 2016 presidential election, and Miranda’s raps remind young people, “History has its eyes on you.”
“Hamilton is a unique show because I think it creates a bridge between our nation's history and the present through art,” said Teresa Morin (CAS ’17). “The story of Hamilton and the ideas he stood for are just as important today as they were in 1776.”
The show’s cast, which includes a black actor, Chris Jackson, playing noted slave owner George Washington, further pushes the activist agenda with which Miranda is now so famously associated. Miranda has done what few entertainment industries have had the courage to do: refuse to take race into casting consideration.
“Lin Manuel Miranda, between In The Heights and Hamilton, has added new dimensions to Broadway: racial blindness and hip-hop,” said Kelly Gore (COM ’18). “Historical cabinet battles are portrayed through rap battles. Lin Manuel and Hamilton are going into unchartered theatrical territory.”
Indeed, it’s incredible that a story about the conception of the United States, a time period of extreme racial injustice, is being portrayed as ‘color blind.’
“While I loved it, I think a lot of the hype comes from the changes and influence it has through the album, casting, and storytelling style, not the performance itself,” said Hanna Anderson (COM ’17), who has been working with BU On Broadway since she began at BU..
“The music was amazing, but seeing the show was actually less life-changing than I expected,” Anderson said.
Despite varying opinions, there is no doubt that Hamilton will go down in history for rejecting the norm of an extremely traditional industry. Broadway casting, Tony nominations and musical soundtracks now have a paved road for innovation and the green light to think outside of the typical ‘show tunes’ box.
Although the Hamilton waitlist is practically impossible to get past, there are plenty of Broadway and off-Broadway shows in Boston for students interested in musical theatre (and its changing landscape). See below for some suggestions.
Jersey Boys, Boston Opera House October 4-16
A Gentleman’s Guide To Love & Murder, Shubert Theatre October 18-23
BU On Broadway’s Anything Goes, Tsai Performance Center November 3-5