With the American election rapidly approaching, the whole world is raked with anxiety about this year’s candidates. And surprisingly enough, this year’s campaign has been captured in ‘Hamilton’: the phenomena surging America and the world with a newfound love of Musical Theatre.
“Hamilton: An American Musical” written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, is based on the life of a founding father, an 18th century immigrant named Alexander Hamilton. The musical follows Hamilton’s rise from an illegitimate birth into poverty to the reputable title of George Washington’s aid-de-camp and the first secretary of the treasury, who is ultimately killed by Aaron Burr, a result of a political campaign gone wrong. His favour with the cabinet is maintained to this day as the current president of America Barack Obama also holds Alexander Hamilton in good faith, stating Hamilton as a “a striving immigrant who escaped poverty, made his way to the New World, climbed to the top by sheer force of will and pluck and determination” Entangled within the play is a balance of classical American history and modern popular culture, amounting in a narrative that appeals to both the modern viewer and heavy historian. The whole production is a theatrical masterpiece, winning 11 Tony awards, including best original score. The music itself entirely consists of the hip-hop genre, in contrast with the historical content and time period. One poignant example of this is when the cabinet debates are presented as rap-battles, encouraging an audience interest into mundane topics – such as the national debt.
“It’s such a nice escape from all the craziness in the world right now. It’s about two famous New York politicians, locked in a dirty, ugly mudslinging political campaign. Escapism.” – Lin-Manuel Miranda, on his recent appearance on SNL.
Hamilton has revolutionised modern Theatre, into an art form that is inclusive, political and diverse. The modern day viewer is able to see its influences everywhere from “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” to articles in “The Observer.” Unfortunately, these comparisons might not get a chance to be made by many Brits as the production is based solely in New York. Even with an expensive plane ticket to the big apple- it is near impossible to get tickets for the production, with prices going up to $10,000. Luckily for us the play is opening in the West End in October next year, where the tickets will be more affordable, the basic top ticket costing £85.
With the undeniable political ties, it is no wonder that the presidential family have seen the show several times. Barak and Michelle Obama, often bringing it up in political speeches, and discussing issues with Lin-Manuel Miranda. When the First Lady, was talking about how much she loved Hamilton; on the other side of America, a Trump rally was going on, ranting about a wall to keep out immigrants.
Sadly in today’s society, the lessons and tensions latent within Hamilton are just as prevalent. In many ways as the play recalls historical tension against immigrants, its relevance today grants it almost as a social commentary, showing history repeating itself. The culture gap could have never seemed so wide. The liberals on one side spoke for inclusivity, and on the other, thousands of angry, frustrated and defeated Americans, putting their faith in a businessman with a flashy show of promising to make America great again. Last year The New Yorker published an essay: Why Donald Trump and Jeb Bush should see “Hamilton”. “With its youthful, almost entirely non-Caucasian cast, and its celebration of the possibilities inherent in building a new nation, the poetry of Hamilton is a reminder of the gleaming sense of hope that the election of 2008 engendered,” the essay read. The essay highlighted two lines from the show, which mirror this crazy election season. “Ya best g’wan run back where ya come from” This is said to Hamilton, however is refuted with “Immigrants, we get the job done.” This line is very empowering, it is sung with such pride and truth in a time – reflective of now – where immigrants were shunned and shooed away. This exclusion is not bound just within America. Even in the UK, with the recent Brexit vote, hate crime has soared by 41%. Obama remarked about the writing of Hamilton from Miranda “Lin-Manuel saw something of his own family, and every immigrant family” The perpetrator of this exclusion in today’s society is running for Presidency himself, Donald Trump. His racism, bigotry and sexism, comes through clearly in most of his speeches. One of the most worrying policies of his is the wall that is to be built across the border of Mexico to keep out immigrants. When Trump was rallying people with hate; back at the White House, Miranda performed a freestyle rap with the first black president in the Rose garden. It could not have been a more vivid symbol of a modern, diverse, inclusive, creative and idealistic America.
“Trump’s ability to stir emotions around the wall and Mexicans is the opposite of Hamilton, which has this hopeful message that immigrants can do anything,” said Amy Austin, president of Theatre Washington. “That’s what America is. Hamilton is so aspirational. Trump doesn’t have anything aspirational for the whole country.” When Obama was elected, there was optimism, and hope for change and progress forward. However, Trump’s candidacy has depleted that hope. Its amazing the amount of support Hamilton gathers and how it still parallels America’s political scene. Hamilton opens up a dialogue between theatre, politics and history. It’s creator, Lin, has achieved so much, and I for one cannot wait to see what he comes up with next.
Hamilton is holding open auditions right now for its West End run, which opens in November 2017. Priority tickets go on sale in January.