‘Hamilton’s America’: the PBS documentary on ‘Hamilton: An American Musical’

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July 9, 2017 by Hope W.

Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton in Hamilton: An American Musical

So I finally watched the PBS documentary about the making of Hamilton: An American Musical which I have been planning to for months. It’s the record-breaking musical about one of America’s founding fathers whom I (and most Americans and the rest of the world) barely knew anything about before Lin-Manuel Miranda created this sensation. It became a phenomenon because it subverted the traditional musical and used rap and hip-hop and R&B etc. — styles that aren’t usually used in musicals — to tell the story of the American founding fathers, while casting them all as blacks and Latinos. It gave the musical an exciting urgent feel, especially with how fast they’re rapping and spitting out words all the time. (Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote all the songs, is a freestyling genius with words and flow.) And it helped that the Obama White House really loved and championed the musical and so did many other prominent politicians and celebrities.

This is “Alexander Hamilton”, the first song he wrote and tested in 2009 when he was invited for a Poetry Jam at the White House, and as you can see, it was a hit. It’s the early version of what would become the opening number in the musical. You can hear the final version in the video below starting from the 9-min mark:

The way they speak is so fast that I can never catch all the words. But every time I listen to the soundtrack, I discover more things that I didn’t hear the previous times, which makes every time a revelationary experience.

I wish I could have watched it with all its original cast. Many of the main members of the original cast have moved on to other things. As it is, I’ll be lucky to catch it at all, since tickets are fully sold out months in advance, and I don’t know when I’ll ever be back in New York.


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