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Encouraged by rosefox here and rmc28 here, I bit the bullet and forked out €15 (the first time I've bought a music album for myself for over a decade) for the Broadway cast recording of Hamilton, the musical about the life of Alexander Hamilton, based on the Ron Chernow biography which I read in 2006, and starring a mainly black cast.

Gosh. It hooked me less than two minutes in:
Well, the word got around, they said, “This kid is insane, man”
Took up a collection just to send him to the mainland
“Get your education, don’t forget from whence you came, and
The world is gonna know your name. What’s your name, man?”

Alexander Hamilton
My name is Alexander Hamilton
And there’s a million things I haven’t done
But just you wait, just you wait...
And then I couldn't stop listening. I'd loaded up the iPod with the album, and casually thought I'd listen to it on a long walk after a day of travel. But I found I just had to get back to the computer and read through the annotated lyrics right through to the end. It is fantastic.

I love the clever wordplay, including the repeated use of "satisfaction" and "time" and "I will not throw away my ... shot" hurtling towards the awful conclusion; I loved the many nods to Les Miserables; I loved the Schuyler sisters as Destiny's Child; I loved the successful attempt to set cabinet meetings to music; I loved the epilogue sung by Eliza about her fifty years of widowhood. This is one of the most amazing musicals I have experienced, and if I get a chance I will try to see it on stage in New York.

Here is Lin-Manuel Miranda performing the opening song at the White House in 2009.

What I find interesting is that the audience, including the President of the United States and the First Lady, think it's rather funny that anyone should try and write a hip-hop opera about the only one of the Founding Fathers who didn't become President because he got shot dead by the sitting Vice-President in 1804. I don't think they're laughing now.

For more info here's a short documentary about it.

Go get it, listen to it.



( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 28th, 2016 10:56 pm (UTC)
Also a fascinating thread through the musical: counting to ten.
Jan. 28th, 2016 11:00 pm (UTC)
Wow. I've read a lot about this show, but this is the first I've seen/heard of it, and now by God just maybe I will buy it.

But I don't agree with your value judgement of the Obamas. Consider
• the date: The opera was not anything like so well known as it is now.
• the context: An entertainment at the White House. No one would be expecting anything socially shocking, and clearly the audience in general found it entertaining.
• the sequence of events: At the revelation of the contrast, of course the duel hasn't been mentioned yet, and although we all learned about it in school it's hardly going to be at the front of anyone's mind.
• the contrast between subject matter and style: An opera about a major historical figure? Great! A hip-hop opera? Yeah! A hip-hop opera ... about a major historical figure? ... Now, there's a surprise, an unexpected contrast: one of the biggest weapons in the comedian's arsenal. And it works here.

Edited at 2016-01-28 11:10 pm (UTC)
Jan. 29th, 2016 08:21 am (UTC)
Miranda has noted that everyone laughs the first time they hear the premise, and everyone stops laughing by the end of the first song.

Also, at the time of his performance at the White House, that song was all there was. The show wasn't yet a show--as he notes, he was thinking of it as a concept album--and he hadn't yet written the rest of it.

Edited at 2016-01-29 08:22 am (UTC)
Jan. 29th, 2016 07:49 am (UTC)
Very interesting!
Jan. 29th, 2016 08:20 am (UTC)
Jan. 29th, 2016 09:11 am (UTC)
Hello! I'm here via steepholm, who knows I'm a huge Hamilton fan. Isn't it wonderful? And because the cast album is such high quality and because the show is sung-through, the album itself is a rich and deep and full-feeling version of the show. Excellent luck for those of us who may never see it.

It's not a mainly black cast, it's a mainly POC cast. The book specifies that all the principals except King George be nonwhite, and King George is to be white. There's going to be big dustups about this specification in the future when rights go out to schools. It's so important that it stays cast this way in all productions: it's the core of the show, the heart, and provides many layers of meaning. It wouldn't be the same show without that casting.

For your pleasure, here's a vid of most of Yorktown in case you haven't see it yet. Welcome to Hamilton fandom. :)
Jan. 29th, 2016 02:43 pm (UTC)
It's not a mainly black cast, it's a mainly POC cast.

Although you're right, the original cast is a mainly black principle non-King-George cast -- at least 6 out of those 9 actors, depending how you count. That does matter and I should have phrased more carefully. I think it's also important to note the prescription, which so wonderfully makes the two racial casting categories white and nonwhite.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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