Hamilton Redefined

By: Hannah and Sheera Kraitberg  |  November 2, 2016

hamilton-an-americanAs most know by now, Hamilton is Broadway’s blockbuster, record-breaking phenomenon. The musical focuses on the life of Alexander Hamilton, the Founding Father and first Secretary of the Treasury, detailing his life and his untimely death by duel in 1804, as well as the legacy he left behind including The New York Post, the United States Coast Guard, and the country’s financial structure.

Though it’s impossible to get tickets for this sold-out musical, the recording claimed the spot for highest amount of first week digital cast album sales and reached #3 on the Billboard 200 charts. Listeners worldwide learned more about Hamilton, infusing new life into this historical and political saga.

While theatre does deal with historical and political subject matter, in reality, there is normally not much of a crossover between political happenings and the shows playing to audiences in New York City. However, Hamilton, which opened on Broadway in 2015, saw the opportunity for influence and became very involved with American political events and the current election season.

As Lin-Manuel Miranda pitched Hamilton during his October 8th hosting duties of SNL, “If you get to New York, please see Hamilton. It’s such a nice escape from all the craziness in our world right now. It’s about two famous New York politicians locked in a dirty, ugly, mud-slinging political campaign. Escapism!” This obvious interrelated political comparison is not the extent of the musical’s involvement with the upcoming election; Hamilton has been politically involved since day one, supported the election, and culturally raised awareness in many intriguing ways.

Hamilton began as just an idea that Miranda had after he read Alexander Hamilton, Ron Chernow’s biography. After being invited to the White House’s poetry slam in 2009, Miranda performed a song from a hip-hop mixtape album he was writing about the life of the first Treasury Secretary. The room erupted in giggles after that declaration, but surely those audience members now realize that this Founding Father truly can be the subject of a hip-hop musical. That song Miranda performed is now Hamilton‘s famous opening number.

On March 14th, 2016, the entire cast of Hamilton visited the White House and performed from what is now a full-fledged, award-winning, Broadway musical. No longer just a mixtape, the Obamas, along with high schoolers and motivated teens, heard a number of songs from the musical—seven years after Miranda’s first introduction of the project when the subject matter resulted in laughter.

Hamilton does not simply portray politics and historical moments onstage. The show and cast have been increasingly involved and invested in the current election. Not only did the Broadway cast encourage Americans to vote by organizing registration tables outside the theatre, but Hillary Clinton, who has seen the show multiple times, even used tickets to the buzzed-about musical as bait in her fundraising. As part of her campaign, emails were sent out detailing the chance to win a trip complete with airfare, a hotel stay and tickets for her supporters that donate. She is also known to have referenced lyrics from the show during campaign events and on her Twitter account.

The Clinton relationship did not end there, with Hamilton hosting a fundraising performance on July 12th supporting her campaign. Fans and supporters paid upwards of $2,700, with some premium seats that included exclusive meet-and-greet opportunities rising to prices of $100,000. This endorsement by the musical reinforced their political ties, which were further solidified as Clinton’s speech after the performance echoed the show’s messages.

Instead of solely proving to be an influential force in a political sense, the cultural phenomenon of Hamilton has been groundbreaking. Not only did the Broadway cast recording become mainstream, which is very unusual for a Broadway musical, but Alexander Hamilton is suddenly a household name.

Because of the piqued interest and curiosity about the life of Alexander Hamilton due to the musical, The New York Public Library created a free exhibition through compiled authentic documents relating to his political contributions and private life. Personal notes from Hamilton to Eliza and Angelica, his written version of Washington’s farewell and even an original Reynolds Pamphlet can be viewed in the statuesque Stephen A. Schwarzman Building along with many more historic texts.

Additionally, the United States Treasury Department announced plans to remove Alexander Hamilton from the $10 bill and replace him with an American woman. However, the current mania and obsession revolving around Hamilton caused the current Treasury Secretary to quash that agenda, instead vowing to keep the ‘ten-dollar Founding Father’ in his well-deserved place.

Hamilton is not just a Broadway show; it is a musical, historical, cultural and political beast. It has changed the way people view history, and it has made history itself. When was the last time that a Broadway show was so fully involved with politics, both onstage and off? It is practically unheard of for such an extensive ripple effect to emerge from a Broadway show, but Hamilton has proven time and time again that it is no ordinary musical. Alexander Hamilton was one of the Founding Fathers of this country, and he was extremely crucial to the backbone of what America is today. In the final song, “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story,” President Madison says “I hate to admit it, but he doesn’t get enough credit for all the credit he gave us.” Hamilton may have not received the acclaim and fame that his fellow Founding Fathers did in his time, but Hamilton has changed his legacy forever.