Saturday, July 2, in the Year of our Lord two thousand and sixteen, I had the best day I will ever have. It was the day I saw Hamilton, original cast intact, and my soul then promptly ascended to the heavens. I now wander the earth as a ghost, spreading the good news of Lin Manuel Miranda. I’m a Hamissionary, if you will. I was ready to run into traffic for tickets, but in an incredible twist, got surprised with tickets for my birthday. We laughed, we cried, we saw Dan Stevens (aka Matthew Crawley, and apparently Olaf the snowman was with him), we went to grief counseling once it was over to cope with the harsh reality that nothing could ever be better than that.
I’ve actually struggled to find a way to express how great Hamilton is, because any time I’m asked, all I can muster up are some stutters and a loud “SO GOOD YOU DON’T EVEN UNDERSTAND.” Even the love of my life, Trader Joe’s, has gotten on the Hamilton train, squeezing in an incredible amount of references into a paragraph on mangoes.
So why is everyone losing it over this musical? If you take the time to listen to the album and read through the lyrics at the same time, it becomes so clear that Lin Manuel Miranda is a genius. One of Hamilton‘s greatest strengths is its historical accuracy – Lin wanted to make sure historians could take the musical seriously. Alexander Hamilton’s life needs no fictionalization to make it interesting. So much happened to our forgotten founding father, and rap becomes an incredibly effective storytelling technique. Every single line in the musical has some meaning – there are no accidents. The rhythms, wordplay, and an amazing story come together in a really powerful way.
Here’s just one example: in 1774, Samuel Seabury decided he was against separating from England and told everyone by writing a pamphlet called “Free Thoughts on the Proceedings of the Continental Congress” under the name ‘A. W. Farmer’. Alexander Hamilton replied by writing “The Farmer Refuted”. Lin portrays this exchange by having Seabury sing his lines, and then using Hamilton’s part as a counterpoint to the melody while Seabury repeats his lines. Hamilton’s lines mimic and expand on Seabury’s original lines:
Heed not the rabble
Have not your
He’d have you all unravel at the
Sound of screams but the
Revolution is comin’
The have-nots are gonna
It’s hard to listen to you
with a straight face
Sounds amazing, right? It’s so well written, right? The guy sitting next to me in the theater fell asleep. Some of the biggest fans have never seen the show. Some paid a fortune to see a show they didn’t fully appreciate and will never admit that they didn’t love it. Hamilton is amazing, but it’s extremely difficult to appreciate unless you’ve taken the time to sit down, listen to the lyrics, see how much went into it, and understand everything that happens. It moves quickly, friends, and the best way to see what it’s about is to listen to the soundtrack and read the lyrics, or just listen non-stop until you no longer need food and drink – Hamilton is your sustenance. The hype is real, but you can appreciate the genius behind the show without selling your organs on the black market to get a ticket to actually see it.
Fun fact: my mom worked with Lin’s father for a short time. She remembers him talking about his son, who was writing a musical for school about living in Washington Heights. We’ve been supporting our Boricua brother since In the Heights’ early days on Broadway, and I’m so happy to see someone so talented get the recognition he deserves. Beyond being an incredible musical, Hamilton has led to some important conversations and made history more relatable for students. Much like Alexander Hamilton, Lin is using his position as a megaphone, fighting for a better world. Lin’s making his mark, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.
The musical ends with a question:
Will they tell your story? Who lives, who dies who tells your story?
Judging by the crowd’s reaction at Lin’s final performance, his story is going to be an amazing one.
Carleigh Bettiol, Hamilton snapstory, June 9, 2016