The Hamiltome for Hamilton Newbies/ posted in: Reading Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jeremy McCarter
on April 12th 2016
Published by Grand Central Publishing
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in New York
Winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama
Lin-Manuel Miranda's groundbreaking musical Hamilton is as revolutionary as its subject, the poor kid from the Caribbean who fought the British, defended the Constitution, and helped to found the United States. Fusing hip-hop, pop, R&B, and the best traditions of theater, this once-in-a-generation show broadens the sound of Broadway, reveals the storytelling power of rap, and claims our country's origins for a diverse new generation.
HAMILTON: THE REVOLUTION gives readers an unprecedented view of both revolutions, from the only two writers able to provide it. Miranda, along with Jeremy McCarter, a cultural critic and theater artist who was involved in the project from its earliest stages--"since before this was even a show," according to Miranda--traces its development from an improbable performance at the White House to its landmark opening night on Broadway six years later. In addition, Miranda has written more than 200 funny, revealing footnotes for his award-winning libretto, the full text of which is published here.
Their account features photos by the renowned Frank Ockenfels and veteran Broadway photographer, Joan Marcus; exclusive looks at notebooks and emails; interviews with Questlove, Stephen Sondheim, leading political commentators, and more than 50 people involved with the production; and multiple appearances by President Obama himself. The book does more than tell the surprising story of how a Broadway musical became a national phenomenon: It demonstrates that America has always been renewed by the brash upstarts and brilliant outsiders, the men and women who don't throw away their shot.
I probably would have never even heard of Hamilton if not for the rabid fangirls on Twitter.
I tried to listen to the soundtrack on Spotify once just to see what the excitement was about. It was ok but I wasn’t overwhelmed. I never made it all the way through. I did like the official website though that had historical notes along with the lyrics.
When the book came out I decided to try again. I was interested in hearing the story of how the idea came about and how that idea was transformed into a hit musical.
The book covers the history of the show. It starts from an idea that Lin-Manuel Miranda had while reading a biography of Alexander Hamilton on vacation during a time when there was a lot of discussion in the theater world about the possibilities of using hip hop in musicals. It covers the next six years of writing songs and trying them out in front of different audiences and workshopping the show. Interspersed are the songs with the stories of their inspiration and the historical background to each one.
The people involved in the show are profiled. It isn’t just the actors. Choreography, directing, set design, and costumes are discussed.
I listened to each song on Spotify as I came to it in the book. I finally made it the whole way through the show.
Am I a lyric quoting fan girl now? I’m not nearly as obsessed as the people who introduced me to this show on Twitter but the songs do get stuck in your head.* I appreciate it a whole lot more now that I know more about the creation and musical influences and history. If you aren’t sure what all the fuss is about, I’d recommend reading this book to get you up to speed.
*Ok, full disclosure, since I wrote this post:
- I’ve had songs stuck in my head at all times
- I bought the soundtrack
- I was drawing blood on a cat and heard an announcement on the radio that the tour is coming to town in 2017. I immediately started making plans to get tickets up to and including buying a season pass to be guaranteed a seat.