It’s that good. There’s probably not much to say that’s not already been said. But I have to talk about it anyway. The music of course is dynamic, pulsing, dramatic, emotional and is the vehicle through which the story is told. As another review said, it is so much more than hip-hop; there are ballads (Dear Theodosia, Take A Break), blues/swing (What’d I miss), Showtune/Jazz (Room Where it Happens), broadway style (Story of Tonight), lots of driving hip-hop (My Shot, Yorktown), and some really cool indefinable, almost mystic moments (Satisfied).
But the genius of Hamilton isn’t just the music, storytelling and choreography - it is the fusion of these elements that brings the passion and ideological (if not fufilled in practice) genius of the American experiment into the modern age. Hamilton makes the American Revolution come alive in a way at least I’ve never seen before. For me anyway, the American Revolution has been shrouded in myth and contradiction no matter how much I have read about it. Here, the humanity of each of the Founders comes through through this modern telling of our story. We don’t just get to know the key characters in a fun and engaging way; we the audience are joining the revolution and experiencing all of its emotions and contradictions.
The first few songs introduce us to Hamilton and the passion and camraderie driven by the desire for freedom. We get a glimpse of the madness of King George III, followed by the bonding of Hamilton and Washington together in common cause. Throughout the production, the relationship between Hamilton and Washington is both at once human and transcendent. We get brought into the inner circle of Hamilton’s life with his intoruction to the Schulyer sisters, in the song Helpless. Angelica’s pain in Satisfied sears through us, her situation emblematic of the contradictions of the age and the revolution that promises freedom - but not for everyone. We see Aaron Burr advising Hamilton to “talk less, and smile more”, and wondering what drives Hamilton’s energy and success. When in the song Yorktown the words “ the world turned upside down” come floating from the stage after the battle has ended, it felt like we in the audience were also on the cusp of a new national adventure. I got goosebumps.
The musical then takes a new turn with Jefferson’s introduction and the debates that follow, which make the formation of the country come alive, between What’d I miss and Cabinet Battle #1. Burr’s longing for power comes through in The Room Where it Happens - in my opinion, one of the best moments of the whole musical, combining key elements of conflicting storytelling, politics back room dealing and how deals get done. One of Hamilton’s last great political acts was to help George Washington talk to the nation, highlighted by One Last Time, in which Washington and Hamilton teach the country “how to say goodbye.” What follows are a series of tragedies and setbacks to Hamilton’s life, including his affair with Maria Reynolds and subsequent revelations that prove disasterous to Hamilton’s poltical career. Without Washington as a ballast, Hamilton makes poor judgments in his life, and ultimately winds up in his fatal duel with Aaron Burr.
Contradictions are the hallmark of Hamilton; the diverse cast, along with modern music puts the contrast between the words of the Declaration of Indepencence and the Constitution, and the lack of freedom for many people in the new republic in full, unvarnished view. But the ideas propounded by the Founders still ring true and come through in Lin-Manuel’s telling of our story, reminding us of the America that we still can strive to be. I truly believe this is one of the great works of art that will be produced in our lifetimes. I’ll leave you with my favorite song, Yorktown, if you haven’t listened then I would say you’ll feel like you won the revolution after you do.