I finally got to see the musical, Hamilton, when it toured through San Diego in January. I went in knowing Hamilton is not an ordinary Broadway show. With my expectations high, it still managed to be even better than I imagined. Hamilton is nothing less than a remarkable achievement of creative genius. Lin-Manuel Miranda, the youthful composer who wrote the music and the script for Hamilton, gave us a glimpse into the extraordinary way he sees the world. Miranda has said that in his mind, he sees the founding fathers as “rock stars,” and that is exactly how he portrayed them – with all of the peacocking and eccentricities that go with the job. The show, while obviously dramatized, was fundamentally true to history: inspired by the Ron Chernow biography of Alexander Hamilton that Miranda read several years ago while he was on vacation.
Lin-Manuel Miranda was born in New York in 1980 and spent Summers in Puerto Rico with his grandparents. His mother is a clinical psychologist, and his father is a political consultant in New York who now chairs the Latino Victory political organization. I actually wrote about Latino Victory in a previous blog. Miranda, who also has ancestors from Mexico, considers himself three-quarters Puerto Rican and one-quarter Mexican. His take on politics is positively inserted in various elements of the show. One example is in the script when a character proudly exclaims, “Immigrants, we get the job done.” Miranda has said that the line has served as a counterbalance to the xenophobia that has recently become part of our political discourse. However, without question, the most emphatic political statements in the show were Miranda’s use of rap music and his choice to cast the show with exclusively Black and Hispanic actors. That’s right; Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton and Madison were all played by Black and Latino actors. While this attracted some criticism – surprisingly from progressives – for having Black actors portraying slave owners, the strategy worked spectacularly. If nothing else, it made the show much more hip and contemporary, but it also tells the story through a lens of what America looks like today. In Hamilton, Miranda shared a momentous piece of American history and wrapped it in a supremely entertaining package while taking the liberty to underline some of his own perspectives. Note to self: controlling the narrative is everything. If you have the chance to see Hamilton, don’t pass it up.