'Hamilton' release: How did the Founding Father become a cultural phenomenon through the musical?
Alexander Hamilton, once a small character in history textbooks, is now a cultural phenomenon
It takes an astounding amount of creativity and craft to create a cultural legend out of a person whose story had remained between the pages of history books for centuries. Alexander Hamilton was something of an anomaly. There had been no solo films about him and he was possibly the last person one might believe could transition into the status of a mythical legend.
Of course, that's also partly because there were many aspects about him that don't quite serve well today, as he was an elitist, and he supported life-long presidency. He also cruelly suppressed the Whiskey Rebellion, which was in fact fuelled by the expansion of his own government in 1794. Obviously, these tidbits of history don't make it to the musical, that instead focused on the American dream: A man's story from rags to riches, through intellectual pursuits and meritocracy. It's a far cry from the real story, but theatrically, it has done wonders. After all, isn't that the point of a myth?
Nevertheless, Hamilton brought 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 US' economic success. However, his life came to an end after an unsuccessful duel with the 3rd US Vice-President, Aaron Burr. After that, Hamilton was just in history books, and most of the times, he was marginalized from several accounts. Picking up on this exclusion, Lin-Manuel Miranda decided to give him a voice.
In 2015, Hamilton was brought to life again. That's the genius of Lin-Manuel Miranda, who not only brought him to life, but used rap to tell his story. It is the strangest mix of popular cultures thrown together, but it stuck. 'Hamilton', the Broadway Musical, which debuted in 2015, has become a cultural phenomenon. American history is meshed with current politics, with contemporary music that compliments the oscillation between the past and present. There was hardly any dialogue and history was made in the musical-standoffs. Another reason why Hamilton resonated strongly with the audience was that it had a non-white cast that played the Founding Fathers. The Broadway hit became a sharp social commentary on the racial lines that divide society. It smashed all box office records, sold $1 billion worth of tickets, walked away with every theatrical prize (including the Pulitzer Prize for Drama) and received glowing praise for its soundtrack.
The stage-to-screen adaptation of the Broadway musical will release on July 3 on Disney+.