Warning for language.
I'm a bit of a history nerd. I've always loved learning about the past and seeing how people and events and movements have led to our world today. But despite my love for history, I don't often feel an emotional or personal connection to it by just taking a history class or reading a textbook.
However, if there's one thing in my life that has really made me feel like I could relate to people from the past, it's the musical Hamilton. Alexander Hamilton was the first Secretary of the Treasury of the United States. He helped generate a lot of the ideas behind the U.S. Constitution and created the national banks. Hamilton is the story of Alexander Hamilton's life and the lives of his peers and friends told through song and dance.
This musical has made me laugh, cry and feel invested in the lives of people that have been dead for...a very long time. It makes history feel alive, and here's why I think it does that.
1. It shows us Hamilton's and all of the other character's accomplishments...but also their mistakes.
I think one of the biggest mistakes we make in our American history classes is portraying the founders of the United States as almost god-like, perfect people who had perfect ideas. That wasn't the case. Yes, they did some really great things, but they also did a lot of bad things. Finding this balance brings them down to our level.
Hamilton tells the story of a man. A man who was powerful, energetic and brilliant but still just a man.
2. It's electric.
It's fast-paced, incorporating hip-hop and other styles of music that aren't usually associated with musicals. It sets up the energy that Alexander Hamilton himself possessed, and it really gave me a glimpse into his life. There was incredible turbulence and idealism in that time, and this show really helped me connect to it emotionally. It feels present, like these are actual things that happen throughout history and aren't just old facts. As evidence, here's the song "My Shot."
While it's primarily narrated by Aaron Burr, so many other characters take center stage. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander's wife Eliza...there's so many more! Alexander Hamilton was a big force in many people's lives, whether that influence was good or bad.
Some of my favorite perspectives throughout the show are from Eliza and her sister Angelica. They were truly some fantastic, strong women and have some of the greatest songs in the show. The perspectives they offer on Hamilton are insightful (and maybe not always flattering) and come from two women that were both very close to him during his life.
4. We learn not only about Hamilton himself, but about everyone else who influenced him.
There's so much more to history than the people who were at the forefront of it. Hamilton also tells the story of the people who were behind the scenes and rarely recognized for their work and ideals. The character development in this show is phenomenal and really gives us a sense of who these people were.
One of my favorite characters in this musical is George Washington. His integrity regarding the war and our new-born government is truly inspiring, and this is evidenced in one of my favorite songs from the show, "One Last Time."
5. It's funny.
If there's one thing about history textbooks I don't like, it's that they're rarely funny. Hamilton, however, is hilarious.
While I don't think it could ever be called a "comedy," there's certainly a sense of the ridiculous in the everyday and even the monumental. And the puns!
6. It's genuine.
There's so much genuine feeling in this musical. I never feel like my emotions are being manipulated when listening to it, even though I feel very intensely and empathize with the characters deeply. It feels like it's just telling the truth about all people through the story of some very iconic people.
If you're still on the fence about trying it out, I suggest the title song, "Alexander Hamilton." I think that it really gives a good overview about what the show is all about and it is, in my opinion, one of the most memorable songs in the show.
Have you heard the music from Hamilton? If so, what do you think?