Az’s Thoughts, Issue #1: Hamilton

Written by DarkAngelAz

“I’m thrilled the Whitehouse called me as I’m working on a hip-hop concept album about someone who I think embodies hip-hop Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton. You laugh but it’s true. He was born a penniless orphan in St Croix of illegitimate birth, became George Washington’s right hand man, became Treasury Secretary, caught beef with every other founding father and all on the strength of his writing, I think he embodies the word’s ability to make a difference.” – May 12 2009. 

This was how Lin-Manuel Miranda introduced the world at large to his new idea, which eventually became the worldwide musical and cultural phenomenon that is Hamilton. In its own way it is every bit as much an event of cultural significance as when Star Wars first debuted at the cinema, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby first released a comic book (The Fantastic Four), or when JRR Tolkien first had The Hobbit published. These starting points massively influenced and impacted the genre that came after them and set a standard that at times has been surpassed, but that will always serve as the benchmark. Miranda had previously had success on Broadway with the New York set latino musical In the Heights (soon to be released as a motion picture starring Jimmy Smits [Bail Organa]),would go on to write the music for Moana,

and then develop his own acting career in Mary Poppins Returns and His Dark Materials. 

From that one-shot performance with Alex Lacamoire the idea changed over time to go from being a concept album to a musical the likes of which had never been seen before. 

The show catches your attention with an all encompassing opening number 

This introduces the hero, Hamilton, as well as the main protagonist (Aaron Burr, who serves as the show’s narrator) and provides the counterpoint to Hamilton’s rise and fall. The show moves from song to song almost seamlessly blending different musical styles and performances which are truly jaw dropping. From the memorable My Shot,

to the fast-talking, three words a second, incredible rat-a-tat, balance shifting genius rapping that is Guns and Ships 

The sheer variety is astounding. Most musicals and songwriting will stick to one style because trying to do more adds a level of difficulty like trying to make a coherent trilogy with different writers and directors for each part. It blends rap from sources such as the Notorious B.I.G and Kendrick Lamar with elements and references to Gilbert and Sullivan, Wagner and other operatic forms. The leitmotifs and reprises for characters are technically brilliant and will be recognized, even if the listener may not hear them for what they are. 

The women of Hamilton, Angelica, Eliza (and Peggy) add a level of romance and glamour and their own musical style from the way they are introduced, 

to the single hardest song in the entire show to perform

It is not really for me to relate the entire story here, because that should be discovered by each of us as we listen to show first and then watch (trust me this makes following everything that happens on the stage easier) and the wonderful delight of how much it resonates. Not everyone will like it because there has never been a show, film or book that everyone who experienced it likes. There never will be because we are all different. And you know what that is absolutely fine. I don’t like reality TV or soaps. Plenty of others do. 

How does this all fit with today’s world? Because in the same way that what we have been exposed to constantly in terms of how history is portrayed and how major historical figures have been shown on the big screen as well as on television colours how we think about them, what will happen should the show grow and grow as it is expected to, is that many people perceptions of America’s founding fathers will be of confident black men fighting for equality and a chance at self-determination and right now that is massively important. 

I am not a person of colour so I can not speak with any authority on how that feels, I can only say that most people who are not wouldn’t trade places and that tells me that treatment is not equal and has to change; shows like this are a step towards that. The historical inaccuracies matter far less than the message. 

We all come from different fandoms here and many of them overlap and none of them are really exclusive in that if you like one show or series you can’t like another. That has never made sense to me and in the end its all entertainment and an escape from reality. But they almost all have the same underlying message. You all see it and know it is there. Luke raging against galactic oppression, the Avengers fighting Thanos, Frodo’s quest to Mount Doom, The Doctor and her obsession with keeping one small planet safe, and brave investigators resisting the charms of the Great Old Ones. Build and fight for a better world for everyone. 

If you haven’t already watched it on Disney Plus or better yet seen it in a theatre, give it a try. You might not like it but it is worth a try given how much has already been taken from us this year. Without writers, artists, singers, songwriters, musicians, ??? who will provide our entertainment? 

History Has Its Eyes on You. 

**Note – This piece doesn’t really fit with any of the others I have written for I Rebel and yet it does. I was lucky enough to introduced to this by a remarkable lady who had a passion for the stage and social justice. To draw some parallels with the world as it is now. This is the time when we must stand against oppression, tyranny, weapons grade populist ignorance (thank you James O’Brien for this utter gem) and those who would erode our rights and the rights of loved ones just because they were born a different colour, in a different place, have a different gender, or having a baby. And thanks to JediGeekGirl for letting me stray into different places here. 

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