Kate (kate_nepveu) wrote,

the actual post about Hamilton

Hamilton is a Broadway musical that posits that the music of the American Revolution and the early days of the United States would be hip-hop and tells the story of Alexander Hamilton through that lens, using a main cast that's all POC except King George III. It is musically brilliant and emotionally engaging and entirely not for everyone; I'm setting a timer (I am, in fact, going to write like I'm running out of time) and in that time I'm going to try and give you, dear reader, a sense of whether it's for you.

First, content notes: (history is spoilers) major character death; death of adult child; infidelity, layered with some pretty gross sexism; period-typical literally toxic masculinity; mentions of slavery; anti-immigration rhetoric.

Second, well, it is about the American Revolution and the Founding Fathers, from the perspective that the project and the people were flawed but on the whole were positive. And if that's not a thing you want in your entertainment, that's cool. Here are some dogs photographed mid-air.

Third, the music. You absolutely don't need a background in hip-hop to appreciate this (though you'll recognize a lot of references if you do; ditto Broadway musicals), but if rap isn't your thing for reasons of taste, auditory processing, whatever, this is not going to work for you: not all of it is rap, but enough is that it'd be a dealbreaker.

Here's the bit that sold me, the third song, "My Shot." The entire album is on Spotify; someone's also put it up on YouTube, which might be authorized, so here's a link. The first song sums up Alexander Hamilton's life before he hits New York (orphaned, self-taught immigrant, came to public attention by writing a poem); you can hear an early version of it that the creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, performed at the White House. The second song introduces Hamilton to Aaron Burr, who gives him the unwelcome advice "Talk less. Smile more." and brings in three supporting characters, the Marquis de Lafayette ("America's favorite fighting Frenchman!"), Hercules Mulligan (here aged down to a tailor's apprentice), and John Laurens (abolitionist).

Here are their introductions in "My Shot" and Burr telling them to pipe down, which are annotated over at genius.com (the album comes with lyrics, thank goodness):
I dream of life without a monarchy.
The unrest in France will lead to ‘onarchy?
‘Onarchy? How you say, how you say, ‘anarchy?’
When I fight, I make the other side panicky.
With my-


Yo, I’m a tailor’s apprentice,
and I got y’all knuckleheads in loco parentis.
I’m joining the rebellion cuz I know it’s my chance
to socially advance, instead of sewin’ some pants!
I’m gonna take a-


But we’ll never be truly free
until those in bondage have the same rights as you and me,
you and I. Do or die. Wait till I sally in
on a stallion with the first black battalion
have another-


Geniuses, lower your voices.
You keep out of trouble and you double your choices.
I’m with you, but the situation is fraught.
You’ve got to be carefully taught:
If you talk, you’re gonna get shot!
And here's Hamilton's response, a.k.a. the bit that made me laugh out loud and love this forever:
Burr, check what we got.
Mister Lafayette, hard rock like Lancelot,
I think your pants look hot,
Laurens, I like you a lot.
Let’s hatch a plot blacker than the kettle callin’ the pot...
What are the odds the gods would put us all in one spot,
poppin’ a squat on conventional wisdom, like it or not,
a bunch of revolutionary manumission abolitionists?
Give me a position, show me where the ammunition is!
I just. That's amazing. The end.

And yet, the same song, later on, combines both the reason why the form of this musical is genius and why its subject matter isn't for everyone:
Scratch that,
this is not a moment, it’s the movement
where all the hungriest brothers with
something to prove went?
Foes oppose us, we take an honest stand,
we roll like Moses, claimin’ our promised land.
(The question mark is in the album lyrics; I wouldn't have transcribed it that way.) Because yes, hungriest brothers and the movement, and no, not your promised land, not promised to you, not your land, no.

Anyway. The music is catchy as fuck; I've already mentioned "My Shot," and while I don't love "Wait for It" the way some people do, "The Room Where It Happens" is growing on me, and I share the love for the Darth Vader Boyfriend Britpop of King George III ("and when push / comes to shove / I will send a fully armed battalion to remind you of my love!"). It's also very cleverly structurally, though my experience with musicals is limited so I'm not sure if that's an ordinary selling point for the form. You can understand almost everything by just the cast album, because everything but one scene (note: history is spoilers) is in it.

(Also, here's a cut rap dissing John Adams because I love it; NSFW because of audible cursing.)

Quick last thoughts:

Don't be like me and listen to the last several songs while driving! I knew it would be emotional but I was not just leaking tears but flat-out sobbing while driving, which was really stupid and unsafe. (It didn't occur to me to, uh, stop listening, because I wasn't thinking clearly.)

(Edit) Passes Bedchel by the skin of its teeth, but the women are amazing and I love Eliza and Angelica's relationship, and that Eliza gets the last word. (However I really hate the treatment of Maria, even though it's Alexander POV.)

Here are some more introductory links and discussion from [personal profile] rydra_wong. Here is a delightful (spoilery, naturally) summary of each song in one line in case you can't remember which song is which: side a, side b (as reblogged by Miranda himself).

#Ham4Ham is a thing where they do lotteries for cheap tickets, and sometimes do shows before the lottery drawings; this is one where they do a whole song, “Ten Duel Commandments”, with the stage manager calling the lighting etc. cues in the background, so you can actually get a sense of how the song is staged.

And now I'm out of time. In the sense that my timer has been beeping.

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Tags: theater: hamilton

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