A step-by-step guide to your next obsession, Broadway’s ‘Hamilton’

Eloise Rollins-Fife March 4, 2016 3
A step-by-step guide to your next obsession, Broadway’s ‘Hamilton’
The Columbus Circle subway station showcases Hamilton's posters. Hamilton, a new musical, has gained immense publicity and become a cultural phenomenon. Photo courtesy of the official Hamilton Instagram.

As an avid follower of musical theater, I didn’t initially know what to make of Broadway sensation “Hamilton.”

When I first learned that “In the Heights” writer and star Lin-Manuel Miranda was writing a rap musical about America’s founding fathers, I was more than a little skeptical. But as soon as I heard the first notes of the show’s opening number — “Alexander Hamilton”— streaming on NPR, I knew the show was something special.

I’m not alone in that conclusion. The musical follows the personal and political life of Alexander Hamilton, and is currently the hottest ticket on Broadway — not to mention the hardest to secure —with prices reaching almost $800 on some occasions. The show’s website advertises the next available performance as “November 1, 2016, Tue 7:00 p.m.

That’s right — it’s sold out until November.

Many celebrities and public figures have seen the show, including the Obama family, Beyoncé, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West and pretty much everyone else.

The show most recently won the Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album on Monday, Feb. 15. After the cast’s performance at the Grammys, tickets will likely be even more difficult to come by.

So what is it about this musical that’s caught the nation’s attention? And how can you get in on the obsession? Here’s a step-by-step guide to show you.

The music: listen to it.

The first thing any burgeoning “Hamilton” fan needs to do is listen to the official soundtrack. The show is operatic in that it’s performed almost entirely in song — there is hardly any dialogue. Because of this, the story is easy to understand just from listening to the music, so long as you can recognize and identify each actor’s voice.

After listening to it a gazillion times, trust me, you will.

Plus, the music is fantastic. It pays homage to rap history as well as American history and incorporates so many musical styles into one album you won’t even know how to classify it. It’s basically impossible to pick a favorite song.

Listen to the album here:

The history: learn it.

Though it may seem drab at first, the history behind “Hamilton” is actually really fascinating. “Hamilton” follows the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton from his childhood to the Revolutionary War, and finally through the founding and early years of our American democracy.

While not every bit is historically accurate, the vast majority is. You’re guaranteed to learn something you never knew about America’s beginnings just from investigating the musical. For instance, did you know that James Madison began his career as a Federalist and ended up championing the Democratic-Republican Party? Or that Martha Washington named her feral tomcat after Hamilton himself?

A good place to start is the show’s Wikipedia page, which contains links to articles on all the historical events and people within the play. If you’re feeling really ambitious, read Ron Chernow’s 2004 biography of Alexander Hamilton that inspired the show. You can also check out the Genius annotations, which link up lyrics from the show with their historical roots.

The fandom: join it.

Two of the most important aspects of the musical are its cast and fans. Once you’ve listened to the songs and learned the story, it’s time to get to know the cast and immerse yourself in the show.

The whole cast, including Miranda, is on Twitter, and can be found rather easily. Another simple way to obsess over “Hamilton” is to follow its Tumblr tag, which fans constantly update with the latest “Hamilton” news and content. It’s also a great place to learn more about the show’s behind-the-scenes action and history.

In addition, the cast and crew put on mini-performances for their lottery events, nicknamed “Ham4Ham”  Videos of these productions can all be found on Youtube.

The live show: see it (or just watch the videos of it).

As previously mentioned, the show is sold out for almost a year, and average ticket prices are skyrocketing. Plus, the theater is in a city all the way across the country. Therefore, it may not be feasible for most Archer girls to see the show live.

However, if you can, you should absolutely take the opportunity. I was fortunate enough to see it over winter break and it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. There’s nothing that can compare to watching the incredible performances live. In Aug. 2017, the show comes to the Pantages theater in Hollywood. So if you can, hold out until then.

There are some amazing videos out there that can satisfy your Hamilton cravings in the meantime. This montage from the show’s official Youtube page is a good place to start, but there are many more. 60 Minutes released an episode about the musical, and PBS is set to release a “Hamilton” documentary in the fall.

Ultimately, it’s up to you how invested you want to get in a rap musical about America’s founding fathers. But personally, I recommend fully embracing its brilliance.

3 Comments »

  1. Stephen Fife March 6, 2016 at 11:11 PM -

    Brilliant! (And I’m completely unbiased.)

  2. Stephen Fife March 6, 2016 at 11:13 PM -

    Thanks for the information!

  3. Christine Lavin March 7, 2016 at 3:48 PM -

    I guest-hosted a three hour radio program on March 6 at Fordham U, WFUV, 90.7 FM, wfuv.org, and played “Satisfied” and “It’s Quiet Uptown,” two songs that I love (I haven’t seen the show yet) — but Eloise is right — all the songs are terrific. The show I was guest-hosting is not a theater music show — but in my opinion, this music crosses all genres.

    As an update, the lottery is now done online because when 800 people showed up one day for the lottery, the crowd blocked traffic and the producers knew there had to be a better way. Below is a link to instructions for the lottery — you have to be in NYC for this to work — the 21 winners are drawn just after 4 PM and you have 60 minutes to pay your $10 online (YES, $!0 — because Hamilton is on the $10 bill). I enter every day, haven’t won yet, and I know by telling you about it, I lessen my chances even more. But when you love a show, you put that love for the show above your own selfish needs and desires. Am I right?

    https://hamiltonlottery.broadwaydirect.com