By this time I’m sure that even those who’ve never even heard of theatre are familiar with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s, Hamilton. This musical has expanded the boundaries of theatre unlike any show in recent memory. Critics have recognized it as such and their praise has been “non-stop.” In addition to the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, it’s also received several Tony Awards along with a variety of Drama Desk awards. That’s just the short list of its accolades as of this writing.
“We know” Hamilton is a show that would “blow us all away” like a “hurricane.” Unfortunately, I’m “helpless” to “take a break” and see it in “the room where it happens.” I didn’t want to “wait for it” to pass me by since I may not get “my shot” to see it performed on Broadway. Fortunately, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter “satisfied” my curiosity about “what’d I miss.” They crafted a remarkable book exploring both the show’s content and its history. How could I “say no to this?”
Hamilton: The Revolution contained all of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s lyrics. As a bonus it included his personal commentary on them. His witty observations enhanced the book. When Alexander Hamilton sang the line “I may not live to see our glory,” Mr. Manuel Miranda explained, “Yes, these lyrics are foreshadowing, but they’re no more dire than most pub drinking songs.” (Page 35)
In a later scene Hamilton ordered his men to remove the bullets from their guns. He didn’t want anyone to prematurely alert the British to an attack. Mr. Manuel Miranda wrote:
This seems so counterintuitive but it’s what happened: Leave it to Hamilton to make his men remove their bullets to ensure no one would give away their sneak attack. That’s some control-freak realness. I can relate. (Page 121)
Mr. McCarter’s portions of the book described the many facets of putting together the first Hip-Hop musical. The author performed extensive research by interviewing myriad people involved with the show. In addition to the foundations of Hamilton, he included insights on casting, the choreography and costuming. I appreciated reading about all these different components of the show. I marveled at how these diverse aspects all came together into a cohesive unit.
The book contained a number of memorable quotes. One participant expressed the following trenchant take on Hamilton. When reflecting on its predominantly minority cast members he called it, “A story about America then, told by America now.” (Page 33) Mr. McCarter observed, “The past places no absolute limits on the future.” (Page 88) An artistic director gave Mr. Manuel Miranda the highest compliment imaginable for a playwright. He said, “Lin does exactly what Shakespeare does…He takes the language of the people, and heightens it by making it verse.” (Page 103)
Hamilton: The Revolution contained a host of photographs. I found them an excellent supplement to the text. Many original cast members have moved on to other projects. The pictures allowed me to feel like I was with the show from the beginning. Since I haven’t watched it performed, yet, I got a sense of how magnificent it must appear on stage.
“What comes next?” readers may wonder. Mr. Manuel Miranda’s and Mr. McCarter’s book made me even more interested in watching the musical performed. I may not be able to escape it. In a few years, community theatre groups and high school drama clubs will be able to stage Hamilton. This means that for those who’ve already seen it performed on Broadway, “You’ll be back” “one last time.”