1/24/17

#Hamilton

By Pete Souza - Behind the Lens: 2015 Year in Photographs By Pete Souza, Chief Official White House Photographer, Public Domain, 
It started when I was procrastinating for my spring 2016 finals when I finally decided to listen to the Hamilton cast album and see what it was all about. That then turned into a downward spiral full of expensive button sets (the shipping was more expensive than the buttons themselves), Ham4Ham videos, Hamilton cast member interviews, any other youtube related Hamilton videos, getting the physical CD version of the musical and listening to it twenty million times in my car, pining over Hamilton clothing and the book that I don’t have the money for, reading the biography that inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda to write the musical, and more. Honestly, it’s my second favorite fandom, right behind The Hunger games. And if I had the money I would have gone to see the musical by now (and paid off my tuition while I’m at it.)
But anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot about why I love it so much and it's predominately because of these four reasons.

It has a diverse cast
One thing that you don’t often see in Broadway or popular stories in general. There’s mainly Latinos and blacks, with a scattering of white people, and not really any Asians (which isn’t surprising because Asian parents want their kids in the science/engineering, medical, business, and lawyer fields, nothing creative.) And I remember hearing somewhere (Lin?)  that the reason for the diverse cast is to show that history, especially the history concerning the founding fathers, doesn’t just belong to white people. It also belongs to us, marginalized people. Literally, America was founded on black slavery and the genocide of indigenous Americans*. So, it’s nice to see marginalized people in positions of power instead of the other way around. And it’s nice to see how it relates to now, how freedom is still being fought for every single day by marginalized people. Especially blacks because the United States specializes in anti-black racism that’s very systematic. So, it’s important for this musical to show that yes, black people and people of color are just as equal as whites.
*As well as the Chinese labor on the railroads and in general the exploitation of people of color.

The fashion
Instead of stiff white wigs, white powder, and the hot multi-layered clothing, there’s beanies and some traditional colonial clothing but with a modern twist that would have been scandalous back then (Ahh! People in their underclothing! *Faints*). And it’s better that way because it connects the audience to the history of the founding fathers better. Especially to all the teens that are being bought to see the play for pretty cheap. And again, it’s also showing that that kind of history isn’t just white history but our history, a history belonging to everyone.

Burr is the narrator
Typically, the “villain in your history” doesn’t narrate the protagonist’s life story. However, Burr does, and Leslie Odom Jr. does it in a way that’s very Tony worthy. It’s funny because Burr and Hamilton are frenemies, friends at one point, and enemies at another. And Burr isn’t really a villain until later on when he kills Hamilton (though I’m sure some historians disagree). Plus, all villains see themselves as the protagonist of their own story (no one really sees themselves as a bad guy). Plus, there are times when Burr is humanized. The most famous being when he sings “Dear Theodosia”, you see him as a proud father at that moment. And upon one of my internet stumbles, I found a Hamilton workshop song, the “Dear Theodosia” reprise. And it’s heartbreaking because Burr’s voice cracks when singing because his wife just died. Another time when Burr’s voice cracks is when he sings “I don’t want him to make an orphan of my daughter” in the duel song between him and Hamilton. Even though, if I remember right, Theodosia was already married and was in her twenties when the duel happened. In other words, Burr being a father who really cares about his family humanizes him. Another thing, it’s better that Burr is the narrator because of his cautious side that makes you curious as to what’s going on (as seen in “The Room Where it Happens”). If the narrator was Hamilton he’ll overspill his life story which would be a bit overwhelming.

The music
It’s the main reason why I love the whole musical. Since the tickets are probably my whole college tuition for one semester, the only way I can really experience the musical itself is through the sound recording and a few clips of the musical. And the songs are pretty unique. The musical may not be the first rap musical in history (if I remember right, the first rap musical was released in the 90's but it wasn't as well known), but it may be the first historical rap musical. But the musical is not all rap, it does have a bit of 80’s, R&B, etc. If it was all rap, it would be interesting but a bit boring. And that’s what a story needs, a variety of elements like metaphors, irony, imagery, etc. If it doesn’t have variety, it’s not going to do well. And that’s why Hamilton does so well (along with a lot of celebrity endorsements), it has a variety of songs that appeals to a wide audience like the Obamas, BeyoncĂ©, teenagers in AP U.S. History class, etc.

Note: This was one of the posts that I've written for my reading and watching journal that I had to do for one of my classes last semester. And I already know that Leslie Odom Jr. isn't Aaron Burr anymore.

And now the weather:
~ Stacy N.

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