My April FAR post introduced the phenomena that was sweeping the nation; Hamilton the Musical blending contemporary hip hop to the Broadway musical scores. The show has been breaking barriers with its success, intelligence, and fortitude. Hamilton is showing that a diverse cast can be successful. “Hamilton has created a space on Broadway for black and brown performers that otherwise wouldn’t exist. Opening up roles designed specifically to be played by performers of color means encroaching on that space.” It is showing mainstream that including dialogue surrounding immigration, race, class, and gender equality can be highly successful. The director has stated that this show is about America, past and present and one can look at the cast to see it is true.
Looking at the cast, the diversity is depicting our nation. This diversity is resonating across America. Representation of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson as other than stiff white men, have allowed for a deeper discussion. Discussions of what it means to be American, what it means to be racially diverse. Actor Leslie Odom Jr. (Aaron Burr) talks about the power of Broadway;
We can make it whatever we want it to be. Kids can play adults. And old people can play young people. And black people can play white people and Asian people can play black people. If it’s done with a thoughtfulness and a care and a reason, we can do anything.
People across social media have stated what it means to see women and men of their similar ethnic background being onstage, and in highly positive roles. (One of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s main goals was to write and produce plays which spoke to minority groups.) It is also prudent to mention that since the lyrics and songs were largely written in the mode of hip hop and rap, the actors cast would have to echo that.
But “Hamilton” is a musical that lives and breathes hip-hop. Its music and diverse cast, juxtaposed with the story of a country just beginning to find its voice, perfectly reflect the complex racial history and identity of America. That’s integral to the story. That’s a non-negotiable.
Lin-Manuel has been very vocal in the importance of the diverse cast. He has also been very vocal in how this show could continue to grow.
In March 2017, Hamilton will start touring across America. It has also been announced that when the musical hits the local theater houses and high schools – the casting calls are open to Non-white casts as well as all roles for all genders.
This is done to continue the push to maintain the diverse cast but it has gone further, it allows for gender to become part of the dialogue. There is now potential in women playing the roles of George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and so on.
By focusing on a diverse cast, by setting the music to hip hop, Miranda helped place them into the halls of history. History which is open to entire communities which had been denied access to putting themselves into the American narrative.
It’s amazing that “Hamilton” has managed to capture the hearts and minds of so many people, but it’s also important to remember that, at its core, the show is exploring the ways in which race, ethnicity, and nationality intersect.
Hamilton is successfully showing the core issues of America, which have been present from its very early creation.
Another one of Hamilton’s importance is the female characters. Hamilton’s story and more importantly America’s, is laden with women’s involvement. History books do not show the important roles that Angelica and Eliza Schuyler played. We have correspondences between Angelica, Hamilton, Washington, Jefferson, and Lafayette. Miranda does not shy away from her or her intelligence. During the song “The Schuyler Sisters,” Angelica confronts Aaron Burr in his attempt to woo her that she is a woman with her own mind.
“You want a revolution? I want a revelation. So listen to my declaration. We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal. And when I meet Thomas Jefferson, I’m going to compel him to include women in the sequel.” (The Schuyler Sisters)
The play is very clear in the fundamental message that all genders and all races are valid.
The show is able to make permanent waves due to its large portions of historical accuracy. Miranda had access to Ron Chernow’s biography as well as historical archives which have preserved the personal correspondences of all the characters in the play. Miranda evens incorporates actual lines written by them into the song lyrics. This has allowed Miranda a space to which to change the narrative. People are eating it alive. Social media has exploded with how through Hamilton, they have looked intin the amount of visitors to the gravesite of Hamilton and the Schuyler Sisters. There is a new initiative o American history and the people that shaped it. Trinity Church in New York has seen a huge increase starting that is allowing students to attend shows at a low price.
Hamilton is changing the narrative with its fresh beats, catchy lyrics, and its diverse vision with its cast.
Anjeanette LeBoeuf is on the verge of taking her qualifying exams in Women Studies in Religion at Claremont Graduate University. Her focuses are divided between South Asian religions and religion and popular culture. She has become focused on exploring the representations of women in all forms of popular culture and how religion plays into them. She is an avid supporter of both soccer and hockey. She is also a television and movie buff which probably takes way too much of her time, but she enjoys every minute of it. She has become quite infatuated with the musical Hamilton and has written one post, Hamilton Part 1 – “History Has Its Eyes on You” and another coming next month.