'Hamilton': Here's how the Broadway musical mirrors the rags-to-riches American dream perfectly
What's intriguing about Lin-Manuel Miranda's play is that it has mostly non-white characters and it is a cutting commentary on the racial politics prevalent in society today
Founding Father Alexander Hamilton is the star of the Broadway Musical that has walked away with 11 Tony Awards, the Pulitzer for drama and made around $1 billion ever since its debut in 2015. Written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who plays Hamilton, the musical is a curious blend of the past and the present, with an immortal soundtrack. It is American history, stirred with current politics along with an inventive infusion of rap. Walking politely away from historical accuracy, 'Hamilton' serves as the mythologization of the man who was just an anomaly in textbooks, and even sidelined later from many accounts. The musical carefully dodges the facts about Hamilton that make us uncomfortable, the fact that he was an elitist or that he supported lifelong presidency or his rather ruthless suppression of the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794.
Instead, in the musical, we see the vision of the American dream — a man who went from rags to riches. We see him earning his place in the world due to hard work and his intellectual pursuit. Miranda must be given credit for he has carefully crafted a myth out of a man and made him into a shining symbol of immigrant inclusiveness. Historians might shake their heads at this long stretch, but theatre-lovers give it an appreciative nod. It is the epitome of the American dream in all sense of the phrase. 'Hamilton' shows the burning passion and ambition of the young man who wanted to reach the heights of fame despite his humble origins. Another recurring theme throughout the musical is the constant worry about failure and discontent with one's achievements.
The musical begins with an orphaned Hamilton leaving his island of Nevis and arriving in New York and impressing everyone around him with his eloquence — another example of the trope 'making it big in the city'. He has some radical goals that he wishes to achieve. As the story progresses, Hamilton's politics are clear and he is appreciated and for a while, he has tremendous sway in the government, but only for so long. Soon, it leads to his downfall. The grand life ends with a melodramatic death, as Hamilton dies in duel with sitting vice president Aaron Burr. And so, you become drawn to this character, who was once just mentioned in history textbooks. It is the genius of Miranda, to create a legend out of him, and that's why it is a cultural phenomenon.
It is also the musical's theme of inclusive immigrants that contributed to its fame. Hamilton helped bring about the American Revolution and was the nation’s first secretary of the treasury, the co-author (with James Madison) of The Federalist Papers, and strongly advocated federal government over state government. He demanded a National Bank, created the national reserve as well as the national debt and laid the foundations for the economic success of the US. Yet, while others like Washington and Jefferson have been analyzed and given life in several films, Hamilton has been neglected. The others even have their own musical 1776, but surprisingly, Hamilton hasn't even been mentioned in it. Miranda, the son of Puerto Rico immigrants, seemed to have related to this sidelining, and this sparked the musical, where cultural and political inclusion was the heartbeat. What was more intriguing about the play was that it was mostly non-white and it became a cutting commentary on the racial politics prevalent in society today.
The stage-to-screen adaptation of 'Hamilton' will air on Disney+ on July 3.