“Hamilton” is a modern take on an important story in America’s history, celebrating our freedom and the impact that people can still have today in our country and world.
“Hamilton” follows the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton (Tré Frazier) through hip-hop music as he finds his place in the American Revolution and the government that follows the war. The entire show is completely done through song and rap.
I saw the musical written by Lin-Manuel Miranda at the Fisher Theater in Detroit.
Going into this show, I did not know anything about what I was seeing. I knew that people had been raving about “Hamilton,” and I did not want to miss my chance to see it. I think it was perfect that I did not know any of the songs or the plot (beyond my limited historical knowledge of Alexander Hamilton).
There are almost 50 songs and over 20,000 words in this play. The rapping was at a slow enough tempo that I could understand what characters were saying and follow the storyline.
I can’t stop listening to the tracks to hear all the funny or important lines that I may have missed during the actual performance.
Additionally, many lines were repeated throughout the songs so that when I left the musical, I felt like I could already remember many lines, including Hamilton saying:
“I am not throwing away my shot. Hey, yo. I’m just like my country. I’m young, scrappy, and hungry, and I’m not throwing away my shot.”
These repeated lines were important because they embodied the main themes of the show. This shows the idea of taking action to make change.
After doing some research, it is clear that Miranda worked hard to make “Hamilton” historically accurate.
For example, in the song “The Reynold’s Pamphlet,” Miranda used lines directly from the real Reynold’s Pamphlet. Additionally, throughout the songs, references are made to actual letters Hamilton wrote to the Schuyler sisters and other historical figures.
However, some changes were made as the show is considered a work of historical fiction. The relationship between Hamilton and his wife Eliza (Hannah Cruz) is very romanticized during the show. This is also enhanced by the changed timeline. Miranda moved around many events to create a more dramatic and romanticized storyline for audiences.
One thing that made this production different than others I have seen, was the set. The background was a Colonial-era building that is under construction.
Throughout the almost three-hour musical, the set never changes. Initially, I was worried that no set changes would cause the show to be less exciting. However, the set designer David Korins, was able to bring the set alive.
Two spinning rings are located on the ground that allow the characters to move while standing-still. Korins said he intended for this to represent the cyclical relationship between Aaron Burr (Josh Tower) and Hamilton as they spiral around each other in both their careers and lives. The rotating stage created excitement and allowed the story to move without an extreme set change.
Frazer as Hamilton did a fantastic job of making me both love and hate his character. While Hamilton has many flaws that are portrayed throughout the show, Frazer was able to create a character that was captivating and inspiring.
Hamilton is portrayed as a tragic hero, his main flaw being his obsession with leaving his legacy. In the song “Burn,” he is referred to as Icarus, the Greek mythological character who, in his hubris, flew too close to the sun and perished. Similarly, Hamilton was so obsessed with becoming richer and creating a legacy, that he neglects his family and dies to protect his legacy.
At the beginning of the play, a voice over welcomes us to King George’s show. King George (Peter Matthew Smith) had a starring role with three hilarious solos. Miranda took his chance to mock King George as the villain in this story.
In the song “You’ll Be Back,” the king is arguing that he will win the war and America will remember they belong to him. This is accompanied by the line, “And when push comes to shove, I will send a fully armed battalion to remind you of my love.”
One of my favorite lines of the show was near the beginning. In the song “The Schuyler Sisters,” Angelica Schuyler says that she has been reading Common Sense by Thomas Paine, which stated that all men are created equal.
Angelica replies to this saying, “And when I meet Thomas Jefferson, I'm ‘a compel him to include women in the sequel!”
I cannot let this review end without mentioning the role of Thomas Jefferson. Bryson Bruce played an amazing and surprising Jefferson. In my mind, I have this idea of Jefferson being a serious founding father and president. However, Miranda made him an awesome and hilarious man. Bruce’s voice and dancing created a funny role that I did not expect. His mannerisms had the audience laughing out loud in their seats.