Hamilton Couterpoint


Mac McDonald and Brandon Pohl

Brandon’s Point:

Hamilton is a truly amazing production and possibly one of the best musicals of all time; it was given 11 Tony awards, just short of the record held by The Producers, and deserved every one. Lin-Manuel Miranda shows the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton with an interesting twist; he uses hip-hop, rap, and jazz mixed with classical musical-style, all influenced by his experience growing up in Washington Heights in New York City, not far from where Hamilton himself lived. The birth of America has never before been displayed in this way, and it may be the first time Alexander Hamilton has been brought to the mainstream and has been given the credit he rightly deserves in all he did to create a successful America.

 One of the most interesting things about Hamilton is the detail Miranda put into his songs. For example, at the beginning of the musical, Lafayette uses very simple rhythms in his raps, but in his last song he uses very complex rap patterns; this is meant to show Lafayette’s English improving over time. Another example is when Thomas Jefferson comes home from France singing a Jazz song, instead of the typical hip-hop style of the musical. This is meant to show Jefferson being out of touch with American culture because of the time he spent away in France; Miranda’s attention to detail is part of what makes Hamilton such a great musical.

 Miranda also did an expert job in tying all the songs together throughout the musical. There is parallelism between not only the lyrics of his songs, but the music as well. One such song that does a particularly good job of demonstrating this is Non-Stop. It alone sample lyrics from the choruses of Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, Sir, My Shot, Right Hand Man, Helpless, Satisfied, Wait For It, Stay Alive, That Would Be Enough, and History Has Its Eyes On You. Almost every song in the musical pulls samples of lyrics and music from other songs in the musical. His skill of mixing is particularly evident in the song Farmer Refuted where Miranda layers music and lyrics on top of each other to create an amazingly original sound.

 Miranda also spent months of research while writing his musical. He visited the places Hamilton lived and visited, and he read all the things Hamilton wrote (and he really did write like he was running out of time). He incorporated some actual writings into his music in songs like One Last Time, The Reynolds Pamphlet, and Your Obedient Servant. The inclusion of quotes from historical documents in the lyrics of the songs really brings the historical context of the musical back into focus; this keeps a balance between the rap, hip-hop, and the historical accuracy of the musical.

 What makes Hamilton so popular with so many people is the multitude of different interests it appeals to. Many people who love Hamilton have never been very into musicals in the past, but love the different sound that isn’t typically found in a musical. Many people love it for its historical content. It portrays a very popular time period, the American Revolution, from a point of view that is typically forgotten. This is what makes Hamilton so popular, and that is why it truly lives up to its hype.

Mac’s point:

In 2009, Tony award winner Lin-Manuel Miranda stood on stage at the White House’s evening of Poetry, Music, and the Spoken Word. Miranda stood on stage and began to talk about a concept hip-hop album about a founding father who, rose from povetry, became George Washington’s right hand man, caused fights with every other founding father, all because of his eloquent writing. Seven years later, this narrative song became the opening number of the Broadway blockbuster Hamilton: An American Musical. Like most musicals, Hamilton started as an Off-Broadway. The show opened in February 2015 at the Public Theatre in the East Village of Lower Manhattan. In August of 2015, Miranda’s show moved into the Richard Rodgers theatre on Broadway. Seven months into its run on Broadway, Hamilton was nominated for 16 awards and won 11 of them. Hamilton had almost beaten The Producers record for most Tony’s won. In October of 2016, Hamilton opened in Chicago; the show is sold out until March 21st. Hamilton is a successful musical, with mixes of the classic underdog story and a style of music anyone would hear on the radio. Even though the show is very popular and successful, Hamilton the Musical is way overhyped.

 Hamilton is well known for introducing rap and hip-hop on stage, but this isn’t the first time rap and hip-hop music has been introduced to the Broadway stage. One of the first rap songs on Broadway was “Rock Island” in Meredith Wilson’s The Music Man in 1957. In 1987, the Witch in Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods has a rap. Then in 1996, Angel Dummott-Schunard from Rent, has a rap about how they drove a dog insane to the point of the dog committing suicide. In 2008, Miranda had a show called In the Heights that used quite a bit of rap and hip-hop in it. But compared to Miranda’s first show, Hamilton has won by a landslide. Rap, Hip-hop, and R&B are not new to Broadway, yet everyone is acting like Hamilton is ground breaking and a brand new idea.

  In theatre, originality and imagination can make or break a show. Hamilton is not a new idea. Miranda had put alot of effort in researching every aspect of Hamilton’s life to create a wonderful show. He sat in the Hamilton estate and wrote in Hamilton’s bedroom. Miranda even held a 19th century duling pistol that caused Hamilton’s death. He even read letters that Hamilton and Burr wrote to Jefferson after Jefferson was elected vice-president. Those letters became lyrics to the song “Your Obedient Servant” in Act 2. Miranda has created Hamilton to be a story about America’s past being represented by America today. All of the characters in the show, with the exception of King George, are played by people of color. That is how the show was cast. But Hamilton is still a story about white people. Rent the Musical is way more deserving of the hype. Johnathan Larson wrote Rent to be a story about everyone. Seven out of the eight lead characters are people of color, four of those characters have AIDS, and four out of eight characters are apart of the LGBTQ community. Hamilton may be known for including people of color onstage but Rent is more inclusive for including people of various sexualities too.

 Hamilton has received a bunch of hype for including the style of music most people listen to on the radio. But Rent the musical has a better selection of popular music style. Rent is a modern take on the Puccini opera La Boheme. Back in the 90’s, the composer Larson, wanted to bring people who don’t usually go see a Broadway show to the theatre. While he was writing the show, many popular musicals from England were taking over to Broadway like Les Miserables, Cats, and Phantom of the Opera. Hamilton may be known for having hip-hop, R&B, and Jazz, but Rent brings more to the table. Larson wrote powerful rock anthems, soulful gospel tunes, tear-inducing ballads, and peppy up-beat pop songs on his show. Both Rent and Hamilton have more of a mainstream sound. Rent is more original than Hamilton.

 Even though Hamilton is nothing like typical Broadway classics such as The Music Man, Oklahoma, Hello Dolly, or Carousel. it is still pretty good. However, Hamilton doesn’t feel as special anymore because of it’s popularity making it too over hyped.