When my four sisters and I were kids, it was an everyday occurrence for some record to be on playing musicals in the house. We knew them word for word and belted them out at the tops of our lungs. We created dance moves, improvised props, and made up our own harmonies. I can’t remember them all, but I still remember “Evita”, our vinyl version brilliantly headed by Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin. I can still sing along with most of the lyrics even 40 years later (although I gotta hang more with Mandy now than Patti these days).
After my fifth or sixth go-through, I am certain if we were still kids our Evita today absolutely would have been “Hamilton”. I knew nothing about it except the hype when I picked it up last month. My first thought was “Come on. Who out there thought they could top ‘1776’”? Hey, I don’t claim to be the most tuned-in person on the cutting edge of modern musical theater, so a small break please? 🙂
Anyway, like many of you, I learned my lesson. But it’s not my intention to write a review. I’m just feeling grateful for having it in the world right now and wanted to share. So let me just leave it at the top 10 things that keep me playing this over, and over, and over.
- Perfect overlay of overtly revolutionary themes on a historical backdrop, ones that urgently resonate with vital current issues. I’m sure there are ‘establishment’ people everywhere singing along enthusiastically, yet wondering why such great music should make them feel vaguely nervous.
- Brilliant use of rap and hip-hop at one of the things they do best: create rich, lyric-dense story telling power that can dance back and forth between elegant fencing duels and sledgehammer brawls.
- At least one lovely and not-quite gratuitous Gilbert and Sullivan reference.
- Casting cabinet meeting debates in the form of freestyle rap battles. (Yes, I know what those are, and yes I learned about them from 8 Mile. Sue me).
- A tour through a plethora of musical styles that typically get snubbed by musicals. (Yes, jefe, I know what a “plethora” is)
- Homages to a multitude of artists that helped create the aforementioned musical genres. I wish I knew them well enough to call them out by name, but I heard them in there. If you don’t know, now you know.
- An utterly heartbreaking epilogue.
- The most sincerely cheery royal death threat I have ever heard set to music. Almost made me feel bad for leaving him. Almost. (I didn’t need it to love this show, but part of me was delighted there was a role in my wheelhouse if I ever got a shot at it.)
- A French privateer rap. No, really.
- Finally, that the architect of this masterpiece, Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel), tweeted all through his vacation back to Puerto Rico, and shared like he was talking with family. (I had to look up Boricura, and Dale Duro, but I’ve got a bit of a read on his uncle now).
As an aspiring creative artist, a work like this is both profoundly intimidating and profoundly inspiring. It is no coincidence that I am pushing harder into my writing and acting now. A work like this produces gale-force winds, torrentially blowing energy into your soul that you wouldn’t have created on your own. I’m not the hurricane, but I can be some of the waves crashing on shore.
So go get it. If you don’t like history, go get it. If you don’t like musicals, go get it. If you don’t like rap, go get it.
I’m serious. Just get it.