In 2016 you can be sitting in a waiting room while the couple next to you passionately discuss the love life of the first Treasury Secretary of the United States. Friends are debating the prudence of the US sending aid to France during the French Revolution. What is happening? Why is revolutionary history suddenly so popular? Why are people declaring that “They are not throwing away their shot!”? Blame the Grammy winning Broadway musical about Alexander Hamilton. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s production “Hamilton: An American Musical” uses a mix of rap and hip hop performed by an extremely talented cast to bring the world of Hamilton to life. It is unique and powerful and has become a sensation. Who would have seen this coming? Maybe only a visionary like Alexander Hamilton.
Lin-Manual Miranda said that he randomly picked up a biography about Alexander Hamilton and was fascinated. Hamilton had a uniquely American life, from that of a penniless immigrant to a founding father whose portrait is on the ten dollar bill. Miranda read about his journey and was hooked, and an award winning musical featuring rap-battle style cabinet meetings was born. With a sold-out shows in New York, what is a Hamilton crazed person to do? We hope these suggestions can help.
You can also listen to Lin-Manual Miranda’s other Broadway hit, the Tony Award winner for Best Musical, “In the Heights”. The story is set over the course of three days, involving a cast characters in the neighborhood of Washington Heights in New York City.
“Blending hip-hop, rap, jazz, pop, salsa and merengue, this buoyant musical also nods reverently to the traditions of the show tune. An uncalculated charmer.” ~Variety
If it’s a revolutionary musical you want and need to hear Jefferson sing, don’t forget about 1776 . This is another musical celebration of the founding of The United States.
If you can put up with a few commercials, then enjoy the entire cast album on YouTube.
The biography which Miranda picked up that inspired his musical was Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. It is a fascinating read that really captures the exciting, crazy, “this can’t all be true” elements of his life. Be aware the only way to truly capture his life is by devoting 800 pages to it.
If you are looking for a title that is not as long but will still give you a look into “The Ten Dollar Founding Father’s” life , check these out:
One of the themes of the musical is how Hamilton “writes like he’s running out of time”. To read his powerful words, take a look at The Federalist Papers . These are a historic collection of 85 articles and essays written (under the pseudonym Publius) by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay promoting the ratification of the US Constitution.
The Man Who Shot Him!
Hamilton’s story ends abruptly, thanks to Aaron Burr. The saga of their deadly rivalry and duel is a juicy subject, so if you want to know how something like this could happen many authors have given their take:
In the musical Burr and Hamilton tell (or sing) about defending a client in the first murder trial in the brand new United States. If you want to know more about that:
What happened next? Burr lived a fascinating life before and after the infamous duel. In Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr author Nancy Isenberg takes a long at his life that was so overshadowed by “The Duel” and later his trial for treason. Was Burr really a villain? Isenberg lets you decide.
Miranda’s musical is a favorite to win the Tony for Best Musical and has created cultural phenomenon. All of this started because he decided to pick up a book on someone that he knew little about but thought looked interesting. It’s one of those moments of serendipity librarians live for where the right book finds the right reader. What he learned, mixed with his natural talent and the hard work of many talented artists, brought Hamilton:An American Musical to life.
Emily Fowler Central Library