Hamilton, an album that excellently depicts American politics, culture, and education peaked the Billboard 200 chart and finally debuted as a musical movie and we are head over heels for it. It was just in time for the 4th of July as it got released on 3rd July, awakening patriotism amongst Americans. It was first showcased as a musical on Broadway back in 2015 and got a superhit. It is finally in the form of a movie on Disney Plus and is streaming Worldwide.
The story of the movie is described as being about “America then, told by America now”. Hamilton tells the story of one of the Founding Fathers of America, Alexander Hamilton who accomplished a lot of feats and made his way up to the most influential personalities of America. The music in the movie is mainly derived from hip-hop, soul, pop and R&B. The person behind the creation of this masterpiece is Lin-Manuel Miranda who first created a rap about Hamilton back in 2008 and performed it at the White House Evening of Poetry, Music, and the Spoken Word. The musical itself was created in 2015 with Miranda as the main character. With the series of Hamilton’s musicals being performed on different occasions, it gained a lot of popularity and positive reviews, leaving Miranda with a bunch of prestigious awards. The album itself became the highest selling album of the year 2015.
The musical is divided into two acts and depicts some of the most important aspects of Hamilton’s life. The cast for this musical is very versatile and includes actors of color. If we go back to the history of America, we see that all Founding Fathers were white and even owned black slaves. Miranda could have casted all white actors. However, he had other plans. Miranda said at one instant “Our cast looks like America looks now, and that’s certainly intentional. It is a way of pulling you into the story and allowing you to leave whatever cultural baggage you have about the founding fathers at the door. We’re telling the story of old, dead white men but we’re using actors of color, and that makes the story more immediate and more accessible to a contemporary audience”
- 1 SIGNIFICANCE BEHIND CASTING ACTORS OF COLOR
- 2 HAMILTON MOVIE PRESENTATION
- 3 MAJOR CHARACTERS
- 4 ACT I- EXPLAINED
- 5 ACT II- EXPLAINED
- 6 CONCLUSION
SIGNIFICANCE BEHIND CASTING ACTORS OF COLOR
The reason why Miranda chose actors of color for his musical was to create a positive image of immigrants and to nullify the claims of White Founding Fathers of the country. The characters were chosen regardless of their ethnicities and they seemed perfect for their roles. The cast perfectly depicts how current America looks like with all the immigrants and it seems culturally accurate, if not historically accurate. The struggle of immigrants for proving their self-worth seems parallel to the struggle of Hamilton to prove his self-worth because of the casting of actors of different ethnicities. Miranda wanted this story to be relatable and relevant to everyone. He piqued the interest of men and women of every color and ethnicity while educating them about the history of America in a great way. He wanted to break this wall between the past events and the current events, making them unified and closer to the heart.
The significance behind casting actors of color for this musical was the actual depiction of cultural appropriation. With rap and hip-hop being the medium of conveying the message, it could not be done any better without casting the actors of color. If he ended up casting all white actors, it would have been a disaster.
HAMILTON MOVIE PRESENTATION
When you get to see the movie on your TV, you will notice that it feels like you are actually sitting in a theatre and watching the musical on stage. The tickets for the musical when it was first performed back in 2015 were very hard to get. People had to take part in some kind of lottery to get their hands on the ticket. However, now since the movie it out, it claims to give you a live-theatre experience and also gives you an access to the best possible seat while being at your home. The musical has been filmed to give you the comfortable and the best possible view while being in the comfort of your own home. It gives you an intimate look of the show that you cannot replicate. It also has done an amazing job by adding crowd noise that gives an amazing live-theatre experience. The entire stage has been utilized. The cinematography for this movie has been done with great care. The director knows very well what you should be seeing and the camera zooms in at just the right time where it should. DisneyPlus has done a great job by letting more people have access to it which was not possible back then.
The movie is 2 hours and 40 minutes of back to back musical numbers that keeps you engaged throughout the entire time. There are 46 musical numbers and each portrays different events of Alexander Hamilton’ life and some of the very significant events. Lin-Manuel Miranda himself played the role of Hamilton with perfection. His acting and tone, both energetic and fresh keeps you active and engaged till the end. His emotions felt so real and relatable. As an immigrant himself, Miranda was able to perfectly showcase the exact same emotions felt by the immigrant Alexander Hamilton of the past.
The roles of Hamilton’s enemies, Aaron Burr and Thomas Jefferson are played by Leslie Odom Jr. and Daveed Diggs respectively. Daveed Diggs really suits the character of Thomas Jefferson because of his looks and the way he acts. He brings a snarky energy to the character of Thomas Jefferson and they both perfectly complement each other. The dynamics between his character and Miranda’s character perfectly work well with each other. Miranda is the true star of the show because of his unmatched acting and real emotions. We are also able to capture the perfect smirk of Daveed Diggs who played the role of Lafayette in the first act and Jefferson in the second one. Both the characters played their role perfectly well and also in coordination with each other.
ACT I- EXPLAINED
“Alexander Hamilton”, being the opening song, feels very energetic and powerful. It introduces other characters like Thomas Jefferson, Aaron Burr, John Laurens, James Madison, George Washington, Marquis de Lafayette, Elizabeth Hamilton, Maria Reynolds, Hercules Mulligan, and Angelica Schuyler. This song briefly describes the characters’ relationship with each other. We can also see Hamilton being called some of the most derogatory terms throughout the song that shows his history and how he was brought up. This is something Hamilton himself wanted to change and let people know his worth. “Aaron Burr, sir” is the second song in which Hamilton meets Aaron Burr, Thomas Jefferson, John Laurens, Hercules Mulligan and Marquis de Lafayette. It is one amazing song that shows Hamilton’s excitement when he meets Aaron Burr. There is a clever exchange of phrases between Aaron Burr who looks down on Hamilton.
“My Shot” is the third song and it lets us know how Hamilton wants to start a revolution and prove his worth to everyone. He also impresses other young rebellions that include Thomas Jefferson, John Laurens and Marquis de Lafayette by using his amazing verbal skills. This song is about the courage of young revolutionaries that are ready to throw even their lives away for the revolution and betterment of their country. They exchange their revolutionary goals with each other as they sing. Aaron Burr warns them to keep their voices low and be careful as they may also be surrounded by some loyalists. But the young rebellions ignore his warnings and keep singing at the top of their lungs about how they are not going to throw away their shot.
‘’The story of tonight’’ showcases the four young revolutionaries drinking alcohol at a bar and promising their loyalty to each other. The rebels declare their fidelity and devotion to the revolution and that they will never back down from it. They toast as they say that their freedom can never be taken away from them. The actors did an amazing job while acting for this song. They seemed so into it.
The song “The Schuyler sisters” introduces the three sisters Angelica, Elizabeth and Peggy, showcasing their different personalities and ideals. Burr tries to flirt with Angelica but she ignores it saying she is in search of a “revelation” and not a “revolution”. The song “Farmer refuted” shows us how Hamilton argues with Samuel Seabury when he tries to warn everyone about the danger of Congress. Hamilton completely refutes his ideas and believes that colonies can be loyal to the King as well as be against Parliament’s acts.
“You’ll be back” showcases the concerns of King George and how he imposes his authority by insisting that how American colonists will be back to the British Empire once their rebellion goes down the dump. This song is not sung in the classic rap or pop style. It is a ballad song and fits perfectly with King George. “Right hand man” portrays the start of the American Revolutionary War and shows how Hamilton is brought to the limelight. George Washington takes notice of Hamilton’s frustration and appoints him as his right-hand man.
We notice in the songs “A winter’ ball” and “Helpless” how Eliza Schuyler falls for Hamilton and marries him soon after. Angelica Schuyler is the one who introduces Eliza to Hamilton. Angelica falls in love with Hamilton as they share the same ideas upon striking a conversation. But then she comes to know that her sister Eliza is in love with Hamilton as well so she gives up on him and lets Eliza have him.
“The story of tonight (Reprise)” shows the scene after the wedding ceremony when everybody was drinking. Burr had secured the position of Lieutenant Colonel and Hamilton shows his envy towards his position, saying that he wished he had Burr’s position. Burr congratulates Hamilton on his achievements and thinks about how Hamilton has come in the limelight. He decides to patiently wait for his turn to shine.
Charles Lee is introduced in the song “Stay Alive” and is given the position of Major General in the Battle of Monmouth. Because of his failure in getting things done right, he is dismissed. He tries to badmouth General Washington and then loses his position as well. There happens a duel between Charles Lee and Laurens which ends when Laurens shoots Lee. Laurens does not kill Lee because Hamilton had warned him if he killed him then he will end up throwing away his shot.
The song “Meet me inside” shows how Hamilton got suspended over the duel because he could not stop it. When he goes home, his wife breaks the news of her being pregnant and urges him to take a break from everything and take things slow.
Hamilton is called back to work as Lafayette urges Washington to bring him back because of his unmatched capability. This happens in the song “Guns and Ships” when he suggests involving France with them.
History Has Its Eyes On You
“History has its eyes on you” portrays George Washington’s deep regret over his past actions when he was unable to contain things and ended up getting his men killed. He warns Hamilton that history might also judge him if he is unable to do his part right now that he is promoted and is in a command position. In the song “Yorktown (The World turned upside down)” It is revealed to Hamilton that Mulligan was working as a spy and will help them take the British down.
After the victory at Yorktown, King George mocks the colonists on how they will take care of things on their own in the song “What comes next”. In the song “Dear Theodosia”, we are shown that Hamilton and Burr both became fathers of a son and a daughter respectively. They both tell their children how they will do anything to protect them.
The song “Tomorrow there’ll be more of us” breaks the news of the death of Laurens in the Battle of the Combahee river” when Hamilton receives a letter from his father. The letter his father wrote to Hamilton reveals how Laurens kept his beliefs till the end. It is noticeable in the movie when Laurens comes on the stage every now and then. He sings some of the lines from the song “The story of tonight” to how he held his ideals tightly till the end. Act 1 ends at the song “Non-stop” when Eliza begs Hamilton to stay for the sake of his family and Angelica moves with her new husband.
ACT II- EXPLAINED
In the song “What’d I miss” Thomas Jefferson makes his entry. He had been away this whole time and returned in 1789 after being the US Ambassador to France. “Cabinet Battle#1” shows us how Hamilton and Jefferson had an argument over financial proposals at a meeting. Hamilton loses the debate and Washington urges him to win over Congress by compromising.
“Say no to this” reveals how Hamilton gets into an affair with Maria Reynolds. Her husband then blackmail’s Hamilton and demands money if Hamilton did not want him to tell everything to his wife. “The room where it happens” reveals the secret meeting of Hamilton, Jefferson, and Madison who decide to help Hamilton to fulfill his plan. Burr’s jealousy towards Hamilton is also noticeable. In the song “Schuyler defeated”, Burr defeats Philip Schuyler and makes Hamilton his enemy by switching parties.
Hamilton and Jefferson argue again in another Cabinet meeting over an issue of France assisting the United States. Hamilton wins this argument by winning General Washington’s side. After this, Jefferson gets Burr and Madison to his side to push Hamilton aside. General Washington decides not to run as a President and asks Hamilton to help him write his Farewell address. The song “One last time” is inspired by Will.I.Am’s “Yes we can” as it was a speech by President Obama.
“The Adams Administration” marks the arrival of John Adams as the new president who fires Hamilton upon his arrival. In the songs “We know” and “Hurricane”, Hamilton reveals his affair with Maria Reynolds to everyone. This ruins his relationship with Eliza. Eliza gets heartbroken and burns all the letters written to her by Hamilton in an attempt to remove her name from history. They are reconciled when their son Philip dies in a duel between him and George Eacker in the songs “Blow us all away” and “Stay Alive (Reprise)”.
“Your obedient servant” lets us know how Hamilton was challenged for a duel by Burr through letters and accepts his challenge. We witness a duel between Hamilton and Burr in the song “The World was wide enough”. Hamilton dies as a result and Burr regrets that even if he is alive, he will be remembered as the bad guy who took the life of Hamilton. The movie ends on the song “Who lives, Who dies, Who tells your story”? that portrays the historical events, showing how Eliza held onto Hamilton’s ideas and kept his legacy alive.
Having American history compiled in the form of a movie that piques the interest of everyone and keeps them engaged as well was an incredible idea to begin with. Undoubtedly, Miranda did an amazing job creating this brilliant piece of work. The stage, the costumes, the actors, the cinematography, everything is on point. More importantly, the songs that portray the most significant events in the lives of our Founding Fathers are compiled in a beautiful way that urges us to pay attention to them and learn about our history. This movie reminds us of our country’s purpose, making us revive the multicultural patriotism and nourish the original idea behind it. You definitely need to watch this masterpiece if you haven’t already.