Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Magical Music Unfolds US, Uniquely
by Ilinca P. & Rachel Korsunsky
As a kid in 6th grade learning about the American Revolution, I was not very interested in U.S. history. When I first heard of “Hamilton: An American Musical”, I expected another boring history lesson.
I didn’t understand why my classmates were hyping up the show so much. When the movie version came out on Disney Plus in July, I decided to give it a go. Before I knew it, I was watching it for the fourth time and memorizing Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hoppy songs.
Hamilton inspires us in Gen Z to learn more about our nation’s history through his rainbow of music styles, such as: jazz, hip hop, and rap. The powerful songs are delivered by a diverse cast of all POC—except for Jonathan Groff who plays silly, hilarious King George III.
While other historical plays use dated English dialogue, making it hard for young audiences to follow, “Hamilton” is full of modern lingo and modern music to keep us on the edge of our seats. And the cast is the most diverse, ever–with Miranda as Hamilton, Daveed Diggs as Jefferson, Leslie Odom Jr. as Burr, Renée Elise Goldsberry as Angelica, Christopher Jackson as Washington, and Phillipa Soo as Eliza.
“Hamilton: An American Musical” casts an aura of perspectives, unlike in textbooks, where we see history as one sided. Miranda’s musical presents Hamilton’s ‘frenemy’ Aaron Burr as a complicated man with emotional trauma, unlike textbooks which present him as simply the “bad guy.”
Miranda brilliantly adapts our 200-year history to current issues, like feminism. The show explores how Alexander’s wife Eliza (versatile Phillipa Soo) deals with the tragedy of losing her son in a senseless duel.
Later, when her husband also dies in a duel, we see her standing up for herself. When she finds out that Alexander has cheated on her, she withdraws, emotionally, touching our hearts.
Soo rises to new heights after Alexander dies, as Eliza ends the heartbreaking song: “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?” We feel strongly that Eliza is a powerful woman who uses her tragedy to help others. She uses her fortune to start the “first private orphanage in New York City.” When Eliza looks at the children, she asserts, “In their eyes I see you, Alexander. I see you every time.”
At the beginning of the show, Miranda repeats seven strong beats to echo the name “Alexander Hamilton.” But, as the music evolves, the tune is used less and less, symbolizing the fading of his outsider, immigrant role. He becomes a force in his own right.
Miranda uses melodies to foreshadow as well. When we first see Philip Hamilton as a child, he is singing “Un, deux, trois, quatre, cinq …” Miranda uses the same tune for the son’s deadly duel in “Blow us all away.” Eliza also hums the tune, as her son takes his last breaths, making the moment even more touching.
Though it may appear that at first glance, the hip-hop musical is about Alexander Hamilton’s life, it is really about the impact and the legacy that he and Eliza have given our nation.
Miranda helps the world learn about the “forgotten founding father” and what he did to set up a diverse, immigrant nation through a beautiful and heartwarming performance. We are thrilled to watch “Hamilton: An American Musical,” again and again.
“Hamilton” –book, music, & lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, directed by Thomas Kail, inspired by Ron Chernow‘s biography Alexander Hamilton, orchestrations by Alex Lacamoire, choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler—Streaming at: DisneyPlus.com
Cast: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Phillipa Soo, Leslie Odom Jr., Renée Elise Goldsberry, Christopher Jackson, Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan, Antony Ramos, Jasmin Cephas Jones, and Jonathan Groff.
Banner photo: Phillipa Soo, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Jasmine Cephas Jones. Photos: Disney Media Relations