The Phoenix

Hamilton: What all the fuss is about

Shea's recently hosted a traveling production of the hit Broadway musical, Hamilton.

Samantha Kinnaird

Shea's recently hosted a traveling production of the hit Broadway musical, Hamilton.

Samantha Kinnaird, Staff Writer

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When the Broadway hit Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda hit the stage, I was not on the bandwagon. Even though I am a major history fan, something just didn’t seem right about seeing history on stage this way. The musical follows the life of Alexander Hamilton, one of the founding fathers who saw the creation of the United States through the Revolutionary War. Lin Manuel Miranda stars in the role of Alexander Hamilton and the cast includes other notable actors and performers like Leslie Odom Jr. and Daveed Diggs.

The story is told through song and in some cases, more importantly, rap, which is a red flag from many history buffs and musical lovers alike.This unusual twist has led to some raised eyes at the musical and possibly accounts for its sudden rise to fame. According to a study done by Americans for the Arts, overall theatre attendance has been declining since 2003. Even others report that this has been going down since 1992 despite there being mixed reports in a rise in opera viewings.

There can be many reasons for this.

New technologies in streaming services and CGI has Hollywood pushing out movie after TV show after movie. To add to that, 300 hours of content are uploaded to YouTube alone every minute! This overload of content gives viewers too many choices and wanes the luxury of going to a live performance. Why pay $50 to $100(the average amount for a professional live performance ticket) when you can watch YouTube for free? To make matters worse, pirating sites stream recordings of performances, making them cheaper to watch from home.

Then there is the issue of convenience. Shows have set times, which makes it much harder to attend. An inconsistent work schedule can diminish your chances of ever catching the matinee at your local theatre. Then in some cases, when a show goes on the road, there’s a limited amount of days that it is shown. A musical or play may only be live in a theatre for three days! With a movie or video you can start or stop anytime you want. Have to make a quick bathroom break? Don’t count on the live performers calling cut.

So why even go? And what about Hamilton stirred up so many people to attend the theatre?

The most simple and basic answer anyone can give is that it’s part of our culture. From the beginning of times man has sought information. Cavemen told stories around the fire as a release from the terrors of everyday life. We do the same today to get rid of the stress of just existing. But what has Hamilton got that others don’t?

A reality check.

As a fan of Broadway and musicals, I have a hard time saying anything bad about the productions. However, a large part of what they are lacking is relatability. You can’t entice a generation who grew up with pacifiers in one hand and smartphones in the other with something old. They like new and shiny. To give writers and composers credit, shows like Once on this Island and The Lion King do wonders blending new and old, but we need more. Hamilton features 46 fresh songs, with two dedicated to rap battles about Congress meetings (of all things)! Even the style of dancing has been updated to appeal to younger generations.

All that aside, we have the original cast of which none of the main characters were caucasian. Theatre has been stereotypically white, an undeniable fact. Seeing this diverse cast just further pushes the point of relatability. It’s no longer a matter of are you the right color to play this role, but can you hit that note?

And can we talk about the story line for a second? Lin-Manuel Miranda did nothing to hide the downfalls of his main character. There is an entire score dedicated to Hamilton’s “torrid affair” with Maria Reynolds. No one is a saint, not even you. We all have our flaws and make our mistakes and it’s time that theatre starts showing them. Seeing and feeling that embarrassment of Hamilton hits the audience like a sledgehammer. It really connects the audience with the performers.

Recently, I had the absolute honor to attend Hamilton live at Shea’s Performing Arts Center. Even though I missed out on seeing the original actors, the show was still magnificent. I’m not an overly emotional person, but I left the theatre in tears. I could feel the pain of the characters. I think that relatability is honestly what caused this show to be such a success.

Works used as references for this article:

Cox, Gordon. “Legit Theater: Why It’s Too Simple Just to Say the Audience is Dwindling.” Variety. 14 Nov. 2013. https://variety.com/2013/biz/news/legit-theater-audience-dwindling-1200827636/. Accessed 11 Dec. 2018.

36 Mind Blowing YouTube Facts, Figures and Statistics.” Videonitch. 13 Dec. 2017. http://videonitch.com/2017/12/13/36-mind-blowing-youtube-facts-figures-statistics-2017-re-post/. Accessed 11 Dec. 2018.

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