Is it humanly possible for a Broadway musical to be able to be filled to the brim with American history and yet perfectly embody the spirit of hip-hop and rap, and for that one-of-a-kind creation to go on and become a massive cultural phenomenon? One could not have imagined it but then along came Lin-Manuel Miranda dazzling the world with his musical Hamilton.
Shaking the world of Broadway to its core, Hamilton went on to win several awards and high critical acclaim from the first time it opened on Broadway in 2015 to 2020, when it first premiered on Disney+ for the world to witness its magic. Hamilton has done what no other musical could do – ushered in an era of redefining the musical identity of Broadway. Never before in history has rap been the singular medium of conveying a history lesson that, admittedly, one cannot get enough of.
Miranda tells the tale of Alexander Hamilton, one of the lesser-known Founding Fathers of America, the first State Secretary of Treasury who was a politician, soldier, lawyer and scholar among other things, and the film tells the story of the birth of America through Hamilton’s eyes. An orphan and an immigrant, he moves to New York with a singular intention – to make his own American Dream. Through ingenious rhymes, Miranda spins and weaves the world of Hamilton with other Founding Fathers – Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, James Madison, his family, his friends and finally, his foe Aaron Burr.
Here is a story not just about a brilliant scholar who laid the foundation of the American Government and finance system, but also the story of how a young man rose above the odds he faced at every step – something every person can find themselves relating to or inspired by. As the musical pays homage to the Founding Father, it does not shy away from discussing faults and misdeeds, just as it provides a humane perspective to the antihero of the story, Burr, who shot Hamilton. It contains within itself little moments of beauty that one would need a second watch for and they are credited to the artistry of the director Thomas Kail, who makes them fit seamlessly within the narrative Miranda has set for us.
Performances of a cast with varied ethnicities stand out like shining stars, with Daveed Diggs as the Frenchman Lafayette as well as a quirky Jefferson, Anthony Ramos as loyal John Laurens, Chris Jackson as the astute George Washington, Phillipa Soo as the kind Eliza Hamilton, Leslie Odom Jr. as the calculated yet prideful Aaron Burr, and many more. The magic of this stunning work of art lies in the infectious energy and exceptional charm that the cast brings to the stage, armed with passion that can move mountains.
The filmed version of the musical could not have come at a better time and here’s why. Although it is a story of a historical figure, it touches upon themes that are contemporary. The idea of the American dream, ambition, the struggles to rise up and find your place in the world, finding your own ideals of liberty and freedom: these are things that exist to this day in one form or the other. It speaks to every person out there who finds themselves to be just as Alexander was back then – young, scrappy and hungry.
In this age, when inequality, wars, prejudice and a pandemic continue to divide us, Hamilton proves to be a reminder, not just for Americans but for all of the world, to stay true to oneself and be kind. Aaron Burr, after shooting Hamilton, realises that there was enough room in the world for Hamilton and him if only they had kept aside their pride. Celebrating diversity, Hamilton urges us to keep our differences aside and look at each other with compassion. That is why, although the world has changed since it was first written, the text continues to be relevant to this day and I suspect it will continue to be so for years to come.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.